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empires fall    sound clip

Lightning strikes the highest tree
The biggest hog makes the finest meat
You may come up like the rising sun
But you will fall when your day is done

They may be big
They may be tall
But all empires fall . . .

They can steal the richest prize
They can kill and they can lie
They can stretch across the globe
But they will reap what they have sown

They may be big
They may be tall
But all empires fall . . .

It may be Britain or ancient Persia
May be the Third Reich or Soviet Russia
It may be Rome or the US of A
But it will collapse under its own weight

You may be Caesar, you may be Queen Bess
May be Napoleon, you may be Bush
You may be Hitler or Ghengis Khan
But you are ashes when you are gone

They may be big
They may be tall
But all empires fall . . .

Stand up!


Sam Turton: vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar, acoustic lead guitar (through vintage tube amp)
Jesse Turton: bass guitar
Peter Grimmer: drums, percussion
Drew McIvor: Hammond organ
Melissa M. Anderson, Ludlow Buckley, Jane Lewis, Heather MacRae, Celia F. Neckles, Alicia Patterson, Ken Rootham, Jesse Turton, Jessie Watt: supporting vocals


commentary

This song is a cautionary tale for those who entertain the idea of empire. This song is not a condemnation of the United States, it is a call for all citizens to exercise their democratic rights. I hope that those who live in countries with some semblance of democracy use their votes to create governments that develop international cooperation rather than unilateral coercion.

As history indicates, empires have a temporary surge that ends in collapse and decline. The last great imperial surge saw the nations of Europe—Britain, France, Spain, Holland, and Germany—subjugate and destroy the indigenous cultures of North America, South America, Africa, Australia, Polynesia, Southeast Asia, and India. The empire-building aspirations of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan (which resulted in World War II) further proved the dangers and damage caused by such titantic efforts. The lesson learned was that nations must cooperate to solve problems. The big stick was no longer acceptable.

Until now. Buoyed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, various aggressive, conservative elements in the United States have again entertained the dangerous concept of empire. They see the US as the only global superpower, and self-righteously wish to impose American values and lifestyle on the rest of the world. It's the arrogant concept of "Manifest Destiny" on a global level. "Manifest Destiny" was behind the nineteenth century US invasions of Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico—and the government-sanctioned genocide of the Native American population. Canada is the only country that successfully resisted.

The recent "pre-emptive" invasion of Iraq is the first overt sign of this rekindled drive for empire. The Bush Administration's efforts (in the name of counter-terrorism) are destabilizing to the world and to the American people. I am a Canadian and I support what the US originally stands for—equality, justice, and freedom—not the fascist-style empire that those in power want it to become.

It is time for freedom-loving people to stand up and make their voices heard and their votes count. I repeat: this song is not a condemnation of the United States, it is a call to those with ears to exercise their democratic rights and prevent the United States from becoming a full-fledged empire.

This is a traditional protest song. It starts as an acoustic country blues and shifts to a classic, funk blues. Peter, Jesse, and Drew play this style to perfection.

The lead guitar is influenced by the great Chicago bluesman Albert King. Rather than overwhelming the listener with a flurry of notes (as is common in rock and jazz) the phrases are played as singable counter-melodies. Instead of an electric guitar, I prefer to use my acoustic with a vintage pick-up, through a vintage tube amp. The acoustic is a more robust wooden instrument with heavy strings that encourages a stronger approach.

The crowd of supporting vocalists do a wonderful job joining me as I holler "Stand Up!"