Protest music in the Trump era has varied in quality and genre for the past few years. Some are subtle and some are a slap in the face. So it’s worth noting that Tom Waits’ first new song in two years is an anti-fascist ballad complete with a distinct anti-Trump video, singing in Italian, no less.
Waits covers “Bella Ciao” (“Goodnight Beautiful”) in a collaboration with guitarist Marc Ribot for a new compilation titled “Songs of Resistance 1942-2018.” The ballad is a traditional folk song that was adopted by fascism resistance fighters in Italy during World War II.
In an accompanying music video directed by Jem Cohen are Orwellian images of soldiers in city streets, fences and security guards, shortly before the money shot of a flag with Donald Trump’s likeness flapping in the wind. The video is rounded out by footage of anti-Trump protests and a man on the street holding a cardboard sign with the simple message “Screw Donald Trump.”
This is not the first overt protest music from the normally politically ambivalent songwriter. His 2004 album “Real Gone” is generally considered a reaction against George W. Bush and the Iraq War. On 2009’s “Bad As Me,” Waits released “Hell Broke Luce,” a scathing, frothing-at-the-mouth anti-war song that remains one of the most hard-hitting protest songs in existence.
In comparison, Waits’ version of “Bella Ciao” is quieter and somehow more ragged. The exhaustion from the constant controversies in each news cycle is reflected in a simple message for those who consider themselves freedom fighters against fascism: the fight is long but don’t give up, things are just getting started.
“Songs of Resistance 1948-2018” is due to be released Sept. 14 on the ANTI- record label. It will also feature other guest vocalists such as Steve Earle, Justin Vivian Bond, and Sam Amidon. Listen to Tom Waits on “Bella Ciao” at the top of the article.