Spanish Civil War songs

Record review

Spain in My Heart: Songs of the Spanish Civil War Multiple artists, Appleseed Recordings, 2003

The songs of the Spanish Civil War are a red thread connecting the left of the 1930s to those of us who came later. I remember hearing songs like “The Peat Bog Soldiers” and “Los Quatro Generales” when I was younger, long before I ever met any of the veterans of the Lincoln Brigade.

Later when I moved to New York I began attending the annual gatherings of the “vets” and the tributes to their heroism, sacrifice, and continuing activism in progressive struggles.

These songs represented a moment of greatness which those of us on the left could look to for inspiration and ideals.

Yet for years one could only hear these songs either on the original, now scratchy 78 RPMs, issued by Asch Records, Songs of the Lincoln Brigade and Six Songs for Democracy, or on more recent recordings of singers from that era such as Pete Seeger or Ronnie Gilbert.

Now, when the ideals of anti-fascist unity, of unity in the workers’ movement are again necessary and current, this CD brings us these songs. PWW readers may recognize some songs; others will be new.

The CD begins with Pete Seeger telling the story of the original recording of Songs of the Lincoln Brigade issued in 1942 and singing “Jarama Valley” with Arlo Guthrie.

What follows are some songs from the older collections sung by contemporary singers, such as “Viva la Quince Brigada” sung by Shay Black and Aoife Clancy (a Clancy Brother’s daughter).

There are also songs which are new to me, especially the songs in Spanish such as “Noche Nochera” sung by the Nicaraguan duet Guardabarranco.

The importance of the struggle for Spain for the left can be seen in the fact 60 years later, and after democracy has been finally restored to Spain, the conservatives still want to attack the Lincoln Brigade and the rest of the Internationalists.

We can connect or reconnect to this part of our cultural tradition as it is carried on by younger artists. It can inspire us for the “good fights” still being fought.

– Louis Shipman