NEW YORK—As criticism of China’s underhanded tactics and failed promises mounts during the Beijing Olympics, a song comparing the Beijing Olympics to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany was released on Friday. The song “Feels Like 1936 Again,” sung by the Tracey Chapman-like voice of Courtney Dowe and produced by David Bowie drummer Sterling Campbell is a haunting and heart-stirring anthem of conscience for the modern world.
The song poignantly asks: “Can you hold an international track meet, when you got a labor camp right down the street? Can you sponsor the Olympics in 08, when you still imprison people for their faith?”
China’s Communist regime has used the 2008 Summer Olympics, which run through Aug. 24, as their coming out party—a chance to establish themselves as the next great superpower. By spending over $20 billion, they have spared no expense to make sure that the Olympics display only their strengths. What the regime isn’t letting the world see is their horrendous human rights abuses and freedom squashing that continue to afflict the more than 1 billion people inside China today.
"The people of the world must tell the [Chinese Communist regime] in no uncertain terms that not only do we strongly disagree, we will not give consent to these atrocities by remaining silent as they happen," said Dowe, a Falun Gong practitioner. The peaceful spiritual practice has been banned in China and severely persecuted there since 1999.
When China got the Olympics bid in 2001, the Communist regime promised to improve human rights in China, but international human rights organization have agreed that the promise not only hasn’t been kept, but that preparation for the Games has prompted even worse abuse in China.
“In the run-up to the Olympics, the Chinese authorities have locked up, put under house arrest and forcibly removed individuals they believe may threaten the image of ‘stability’ and ‘harmony’ they want to present to the world,” according to Amnesty International.
“Feels Like 1936 Again” notes that the situation is surprisingly familiar to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which were used by Adolf Hitler to justify his Nazi regime. In 1936, Germany emerged as the winner in the medal count with the United States second, while today China is neck and neck with the United States in the medal count.
And so history repeats itself the song notes: “The Olympic Spirit hangs its head in shame, when police states are allowed to host the games. Like Germany when Hitler reigned supreme, seeking glory for his murderous regime.”
A Dark Subject
The horrors of imprisonment, torture, and murder in a modern communist state are not easy to digest in a pop song, but that’s exactly what Dowe and Campbell set out to do.
Campbell decided to take the original folk song written by Randell Efner in a more mainstream direction, giving it a wider appeal, and more chance to get noticed.
“Just on my part, I had to create an atmosphere, you’ve got to draw people into it. It’s hard these days, cause people listen to the beat first. It was originally a folk song, so people might not pay attention to it,” said Campbell, who has worked with Cyndi Lauper, the B52s, and Duran Duran.
“I also worked with Courtney a lot on the lyrics and how to express it, what should be strong. The instrumentation I just wanted to keep simple and sparse. A guitar strum, organ, drums. It’s got that mood to it—more melancholy,” he said.
The beautifully deep and rich vocals of Dowe drift over a solemn and organic organ, while, the accompanying youtube music video takes viewers on a journey from Berlin to Beijing, juxtaposing Nazi soldiers in the 1930s to modern day Chinese Communist solders.
Dowe said she was inspired by Efner’s lyrics.
“It’s what you’d call ‘urban folk.’ I really have a respect for artists like Bob Dylan… and I would definitely put Randell Efner in that category, that level of song writing and conviction, he doesn’t back down from the subject at hand. I am honored that he allowed me to record his song,” said Dowe, who is currently working on her debut album with Blackout Studios in Baltimore.
The single and video can be found at www.1936again.com .