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Rapper's 'Same Love' explores Dylan territory

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Skin deep: Underneath we're all the same.

-- Buddy Guy

We of the baby boom generation have our conceits, and one of our boldest is that we cornered the market on anthemic songs about global issues that really matter.

We have plenty to back our claim: Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio," the Beatles' "Revolution," Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City," Steppenwolf's "Monster," Donovan's "Universal Soldier," Edwin Starr's "War," and the songs of the man we hail as the spokesman of our generation: Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," "Masters of War," "The Times They Are A-Changin'," "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," "Oxford Town."

In general, our generation scoffs collectively as random artists who weren't around for the civil rights or anti-war movements of the '60s and '70s release songs that are hailed for raising the country's modern-day consciousness, indignantly dismissing such works as insignificant when compared to the classics of our era.

I've been guilty of harboring such sentiment myself, laughing off such modern artists' works as poor attempts to shine a light on issues that pale in comparison to those we claim as part of our generational heritage.

That changed recently when I heard -- and really listened to -- rapper Macklemore's latest single "Same Love." Already fighting an uphill battle to be taken seriously because he's a white artist in a genre that rose from urban streets in black neighborhoods, it didn't help his credibility that Macklemore and his cohort Ryan Lewis found their escape from obscurity with the semi-novelty hit "Thrift Shop."

But "Same Love" is a revelation, a song that deserves to take its place alongside some of even Dylan's great works. Without straying from a style that he's refined and made his own, Macklemore (born Ben Haggerty) takes a jarring look at gay rights, including gay marriage, with lyrics that speak directly to a culture -- and, in our case, to a part of the country -- that views some individuals' private relationships as an abomination.

Macklemore's lyrics, with the stunning chorus sung by Mary Lambert, include:

When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay, 'Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight. I told my mom, tears rushing down my face, She's like, "Ben, you've loved girls since before pre-K." Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn't she? Bunch of stereotypes all in my head. ... The right-wing conservatives think it's a decision, And you can be cured with some treatment and religion. Man-made wiring of a predisposition, Playing God, aw nah, here we go, America the brave still fears what we don't know. And "God loves all his children," is somehow forgotten. But we paraphrase a book written 3,500 years ago.

I don't know.

CHORUS

And I can't change, Even if I tried, Even if I wanted to. My love, She keeps me warm.

Macklemore delves deeper into the subject in subsequent verses:

"If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me." ... "'Man, that's gay,' ... We become so numb to what we're saying." ... "It's the same hate that's caused wars from religion, Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment." ... "When I was in church, they taught me something else: If you preach hate at the service, those words aren't anointed. That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned." ... "No freedom 'til we're equal? Damn right I support it."

The rapper added, in a chilling climax: "No law is gonna change us, We have to change us. Whatever God you believe in, We come from the same one. Strip away the fear, Underneath it's all the same love."

Like Dylan, Macklemore boldly challenges the groups most likely to spread anti-gay rhetoric: Right-wing conservatives, religious hypocrites and hip-hop artists, most of whose ancestors, ironically enough, went through the same kind of persecution. And Lambert's singing the stirring lyrics, "My love SHE keeps me warm" and "I can't change even if I tried" adds an element of power to "Same Love" rarely seen outside 1960s Motown and conscious-raising classic rock.

Nobody's proclaiming Macklemore "the new Dylan" yet, especially since the "old Dylan" is still making music that matters. But if "Same Love" is an example of what's inside him, the man certainly is worthy of some of that "spokesman of his generation" love.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.