People have the power – Patti Smith

A song consciously wrote to inspire people. To inspire people to come together.

People have the power, is probably one of the most famous and powerful protest songs of all time. It was written by Patti Smith and her late husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, and released as a lead single from the 1988’s album Dream of Life.

Notably, we could say that this is the most “universal” and “optimistic” protest song written ever: it could easily adapt to any cause and eventually inspires optimism in those who sing the song,  clearly stating that we have the individual power to realize our dreams of a better society by standing together.

In an interview released at NME, Patti explained how she and her late husband tried to infuse the spirit of the ’60s into a modern protest song:

“We had both protested the Vietnam War when we were young. We had been part of the ’60s, where our cultural voice was really strong, and we were trying to write a song that would reintroduce that kind of energy. It’s sad for me but quite beautiful. It was really Fred’s song – even though I wrote the words, he wrote the music; the concept was his, and he wanted it to be a song that people sang all over the world to inspire them for different causes. And he didn’t live to see that happen, but I have. I’ve seen people. I’ve walked in marches all over the world where people spontaneously started singing it, you know, whether it’s been in Paris or with the Palestinians or, you know, in Spain or New York City, Washington D.C. – and it’s so moving for me to see his dream realized.”

Patti recalled the moment Fred burst into their kitchen with the idea for this song:

“It was around 1986. I was in the kitchen. My late husband was writing music, and he was a great songwriter, Fred “Sonic” Smith, and we were writing some songs together. And I was peeling potatoes, and I remember I was in a bad mood because I had, you know, I was making dinner and washing the clothes and peeling potatoes. And in the middle of it, Fred came in and said, ‘Tricia, people have the power, write it.’ And I was standing there with a potato peeler thinking I’d like to have the power to make him peel these potatoes, that’s what I’d like… but I kept him.”

And continued:

“So for the next few nights, I really contemplated – because Fred was very political, and we talked about it, what we wanted to do with this line, which was Fred’s. And what we wanted to do was remind the listener of their individual power but also of the collective power of the people, how we can do anything. That’s why at the end it goes, ‘I believe everything we dream can come to pass, through our union we can turn the world around, we can turn the earth’s revolution.’ We wrote it consciously together to inspire people, to inspire people to come together.”

Basically, it is an anthem for dreamers and to love. Even if this is not the highest point reached by Patti Smith’s music, the musical composition is simple, repetitive but truly effective and powerful. It has been covered by artists such as Bruce Springsteen (her writing partner in 1978’s “Because The Night”) and U2. Recently, in December 2015, to close their show at Accorhotels Arena, U2 invited The Eagles of Death Metal to sing this song, for their first public live performance after the slaughter which occurred during their show at the Bataclan in Paris on November 13, 2015.

 

I was dreaming in my dreaming
Of an aspect bright and fair
And my sleeping it was broken
But my dream it lingered near
In the form of shining valleys
Where the pure air recognized
And my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry
That the people have the power
To redeem the work of fools
From the meek the graces shower
It’s decreed the people rule

People have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

Vengeful aspects became suspect
And bending low as if to hear
And the armies ceased advancing
Because the people had their ear
And the shepherds and the soldiers
And they lay among the stars
Exchanging visions
And laying arms
To waste in the dust
In the form of shining valleys
Where the pure air recognized
And my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry

People have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

Where there were deserts
I saw fountains
Like cream the waters rise
And we strolled there together
With none to laugh or criticize
And the leopard
And the lamb
Lay together truly bound
I was hoping in my hoping
To recall what I had found
I was dreaming in my dreaming
God knows a purer view
As I lay down to my sleeping
I commit my dream to you

People have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

The power to dream to rule
To wrestle the earth from fools
It’s decreed the people rule
It’s decreed the people rule
I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth’s revolution
We have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

The power to dream to rule
To wrestle the earth from fools
It’s decreed the people rule
It’s decreed the people rule

We have the power
We have the power
The people have the power
We have the power

People have the power – Patti Smith
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Marco Principia

Born in Rome, his beloved city. Graduated with honors in Political Science and International Relations at Università degli Studi "Roma Tre". Expert of current affairs and United Nations. Recently attended a course in Humanitarian Emergency at INTERSOS. Currently employed at CIES - ONLUS in the Coordination and Organization Office for Interpreting and Translation Service for Territorial Commissions for the Recognition of International Protection. Huge fan of A.S. Roma.
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