There are a startling number of covers of this track: Jimmy Cliff’s perfectly enunciated acoustic version, Los Fabulosas Cadillacs’ code-switching live performance , Nouvelle Vague’s dreamy Bossa Nova beat, Arcade Fire’s miserabalist accordion, The Honeydippers’ smooth rockabilly sound, etc.
More to the point, others have noted just how apposite this track is to contemporary events.
It’s important to pay attention to what’s happening in Baltimore. Though the city is not technically under martial law, the situation is about as close as you can get. The National Guard is patrolling the city, there is a curfew, and people are being detained without charge in excess of the legally mandated 24 hours.
The security apparatus (RSA)– courts, cops, feds, etc.– try to learn from every new crisis. Each time there is some kind of mass disruption or social explosion, agents in the field and administrators in the office coordinate with one another in order to assess and streamline their tactics. Surely some of those procedures are directed at individual safety. Still others are formulated in the interests of defending property and maximizing the State’s ability to control its citizens.
Think about image and narrative. A “common sense” of these events is being crafted, one that will likely confirm and challenge existing biases simultaneously. The social meaning of Baltimore is being consolidated. Corporate media in particular seems quite taken with footage of Toya Graham smacking the shit out of her son, a clip that has, as they say, “gone viral”. I find these images particularly interesting because they immediately evoke an ideology of parenting and thus social reproduction based on the principle of tough love. If only we would lovingly beat our children they would know better than to lash out against official violence.