In the 1960s, music was a powerful tool against the Vietnam War and racial discrimination. Songwriters like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger rallied a generation of people to act. Jerry Springer wants to light that fire again. For nearly two years, his Tales, Tunes and Tomfoolery podcast has mixed liberal politics with songs from local and visiting musicians.
Now, Springer is going one step further. With the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota threatened by the Dakota Access pipeline, he and podcast co-hosts Jene Galvin and Megan Hils recently announced the Standing Rock Songwriting Contest. Though pipeline construction temporarily was halted in December, Standing Rock leaders fear that decision might be reversed under the Trump administration as backers of the pipeline seek to push the project ahead.
"What gets me about this issue is that it is America's original sin," says Springer. "It's often written that slavery is our original sin, and yes, it's pretty hard to get more horrific than that."
"But our original sin was when Europeans grabbed land from Native Americans," he says. "To this day, when an issue comes up that affects Native Americans, we don't treat it seriously."
"That's why we put out a call to songwriters around the country to send us songs about Standing Rock," says podcast co-host Jene Galvin. "We can help build awareness."
Local artist Jean Dowell was the first composer to submit a song. Her contribution and other contenders are on Springer's web site, along with an entry form and rules. The contest winner will perform his or her music at an upcoming podcast. Springer hopes the songs reach more than his listeners. "We want singers around the country, wherever they are performing, to talk about Standing Rock," he says.
Besides the contest, Tales, Tunes and Tomfoolery also seeks musicians weekly to perform original folk and roots music on the podcast.
"There's a cry for socially-conscious music right now," says Casey Campbell, the podcast's music coordinator. "There's a lot of substance missing in popular music. People are waiting for it."
This may be especially true as Trump takes office.
"We can rattle off from our lifetime causes that were won -- pushing against the winds, pushing against Republican administrations -- because numbers fixed it," says Galvin. "The fact that progressives do not control the presidency, House and Senate does not mean thousands of people cannot fight back."
Information about the Standing Rock Music Contest is at jerryspringer.com. Springer's podcast is recorded weekly in front of an audience at the Folk School Coffee Parlor, 312 Elm Street, Ludlow KY on Tuesday evenings. To reserve an audience seat, visit folkschoolcoffeeparlor.com. Admission is free.