Friday, April 16, 2010

"Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil

Midnight Oil's 1987 hit Beds Are Burning may be the world's only pop song about aboriginal rights*; whether or not it is, it is certainly one of the most famous. Either way, much of the song's success is due to its singer, birthday boy Peter Garrett, whose snarly vocals can be clearly heard to exhort 'just give it back!' - which, as far as pop songs go, is not merely political but entirely unequivocal on the issue of native title.

The band's consistency regarding this issue was much in evidence as Garrett and his bandmates - Martin Rotsey, Peter Gifford, Robert Hirst, and Jim Moginie - performed the song at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in black clothes emblazoned with the word 'sorry' in white letters. Their protest could be said to be highly visible, since it was seen by billions of viewers around the world who'd tuned in to watch the closing ceremonies of the Games. Not only did Midnight Oil's performance that evening shake up the conservatives who dominate the International Olympic Committee it pretty effectively shamed then-Prime Minister John Howard, who had refused to apologize for the numerous outrages committed against the country's original inhabitants over the previous two centuries, including (but not limited to) the Stolen Generations.

Originally appearing on the band's sixth studio album, Diesel and Dust, Beds Are Burning has been covered several times - most notably in 2006 by Pearl Jam; as for Peter Garrett, since November 2007 he's been making numerous appearances in Canberra - as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Labor Party government.

*Then again, it may not be... We're looking into it.
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