During the pandemic, the silence of the streets has been interrupted only by the sounds of protesters returning from rallies opposing systemic racism, triggered by the murder of George Floyd. As marchers have walked home, their shouts have been replaced, in my mind, by “It’s Over,” a revelatory and anthemic protest song by the devastatingly talented Karyn Kuhl Band.
Some songs just stay with you: From the moment I first heard “It’s Over” in early 2019, I haven’t been able to shake it. It’s an inspiring, affirming and powerful song, and offers an ecstatic release from the anger and despair that many of us feel these days. Now you can hear it in Kuhl’s new video. (see below)
The song was first released in June 2019 on the band’s Hey Kid EP, which was produced, mixed and mastered by Elk City member Ray Ketchem. (He recorded three of the four songs at his Magic Door Recording Studio in Montclair.)
Using friends’ photos and video clips from Black Lives Matter marches along with her own photos from Pride and women’s rights marches, Kuhl, who lives in Hoboken, perfectly matches stirring images of protest and love with her lyrics.
“The unity, beauty and love I experienced at these protests gives me hope that, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’ ” she says.
Kuhl’s commanding voice and sizzling guitar blend dramatically with the contributions of guitarist James Mastro (the Bongos, Ian Hunter’s Rant Band), bassist Larry Heinemann (Blue Man Group, Springhouse), drummer Jonpaul Pantozzi and backing vocalist Alice Genese (Kuhl’s former Gut Bank and Sexpod bandmate). As the video shows images from Hoboken, Jersey City, New York and Washington D.C, we hear Kuhl’s warning and her unflinching demand for justice and equality:
The family tree ain’t what it used to be
And it will never be what it was
We know it’s over and so do you
So three cheers to the new red, white and blue
The end is near and it’s what you fear
Because the future is female, black and queer
You know it’s over … you can’t stop time, you can’t stop evolution
You can’t stop the power of the people’s revolution.
Kuhl, who reminded me of Patti Smith when she sang “It’s Over” at Fox & Crow in Jersey City in January 2019, gives voice to our outrage about bigotry and hate, and her message is welcome now, when our country is on the brink of disaster.
“You will be on the wrong side of history if you do not support or understand the need for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights and (challenging) income inequality,” she says. “It’s not about identity politics. It’s about human rights and nothing is more important.”
She adds, “this song expresses the need for people from marginalized groups to be in leadership positions in at least equal numbers.
“The current administration is happy to take us backward instead of forward, and this song expresses my rage at that. I feel that we’re at a starting point. White people are finally realizing what black and brown people have known all along about the prevalence of racism. We can thank the current president for that.”
Kuhl appreciates the contributions of her bandmates and producer, saying “this song came to fruition with the invaluable help of four guys! It feels great to have allies like that.
“What I said before about white people seeing what black and brown people have known about racism … well, the same goes for men having to face what women have known about sexism & misogyny. And straight people having to face what LGBTQ people already know about being discriminated (against), for sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The rock has been turned over and all the ugliness is in everyone’s face.”
“It’s Over” also can be heard on the digital compilation album, Talk – Action = Zero. Responding to the murder of George Floyd and systemic racism in the U.S. police force, the Karyn Kuhl Band and an eclectic array of artists — including other groups with Hudson County ties such as Long Neck and True Love and nationally known artists like Jesse Malin, Superchunk and Rogue Wave — contributed tracks. Organized by Hoboken resident Lyle Hysen and his company Bank Robber Music, along with Rough Trade Publishing, the compilation of more than 100 songs was released on June 5, and all proceeds will be donated to the Black Visions Collective. For information, visit roughtradepublishing.bandcamp.com/album/talk-action-zero-a-compilation-benefitting-black-lives-matter.
“Having the song on this compilation inspired me to make the video,” Kuhl says.
“The destruction of the environment and the destruction of black lives and those of lesser economic means … it’s all connected and driven by greed, cruelty and abuse of power.”
In a prior NJArts.net interview, Kuhl said “I’ve had it with patriarchal oppression since I was 19 years old, probably even younger. It’s internalized by everyone because we have all been raised under it … the combination of the age I am now and what’s been in our faces, politically, has given voice to some of these feelings.”
For those of you not familiar with Kuhl, this song is a good way to connect with this artist, who moved to Hoboken in the ’80s and has, since then, consistently produced insightful, gut-wrenching songs with a haunting, dreamy sound.
Kuhl unleashes her passion and power in her new video and I can’t wait to see what she does next. “It’s Over” resonates these days when we need to get off the coach and take action by any means available.
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