Edited by Lyndon C.S. Way
[Journal of Language and Politics 18:4] 2019
► pp. 491–508
Transcending the moment
Ideology and Billy Bragg
Our paper argues that British singer Billy Bragg performs protest songs that cleverly draw upon musical forms underpinning his positioning as a voice of, and for, the ordinary person, ultimately disenfranchised by governmental adherence to neoliberal policies. While political songs are a product of their time, many of them can also transcend that historical moment and have a longer shelf-life in terms of their capacity to inform political thinking and action. Our song(s) of choice in this paper do so not just in terms of the relevance of their ‘literal’ message but also in how they draw upon traditional structures of feeling and generic elements of folk song to underpin this sense of ‘grass-roots’ critique via a modified, acoustic ballad form and a performance style. This serves to authenticate and legitimate the singer and his message and, in turn, allows Bragg to accumulate political and cultural capital.