When it comes to head banging for social justice, there’s one band that rises above, or rather against, the rest. Frontman Tim McIlrath, guitarist Zach Blair, bassist Joe Principe and drummer Brandon Barnes of Rise Against have a rep for taking on tough issues in their hard-hitting music and infusing their powerful lyrics with political statements.
Which is why we’re proud to premiere their latest video for “The Ballad of Hollis Brown,” a cranked up Bob Dylan cover from the charity compilation album Chimes of Freedom — which features 75 newly recorded Dylan tracks by over 80 artists (like Miley Cyrus) — honoring Amnesty International’s 50 years of life-saving human rights work.
“As a band that has been plugged in to social justice since our inception, people like Amnesty International were always in our peripheral. It’s kind of like they were the rock stars and we were the ones trying to get noticed,” says Tim.
Unsurprisingly, the Chicago crew decided to apply their signature punk intensity to one of Dylan’s most heart-wrenching and tragic songs. It tells the story of a Dustbowl-era farmer in South Dakota who’s desperate to make ends meet during hard economic times:
“You looked for work and money,
And you walked a rugged mile,
Your children are so hungry,
That they don’t know how to smile.”
McIlrath’s searing vocals give a modern-day voice to this tale of hardship — but the video is what truly delivers a harsh reality check by revealing that Hollis’ troubles ain’t over. Prepare yourself for a visual gut punch that actually makes you stop texting and truly pay attention:
The stark documentary-style footage was appropriately shot in South Dakota, where crippling poverty — it’s home to 3 of the poorest counties in the country — continues to plague the countryside. Instead of drought and the Great Depression, now it’s unsustainable industrial agriculture (we need to go back to the start) and the current financial recession that’s devastating farming communities like these all over the States.
The band uses gritty close-ups of struggling farmers, moving montages of their threatened livelihoods, and startling statistics to send out a S.O.S. on behalf of rural America.
When the hard working men and women who once fed our nation can’t feed themselves, something is seriously effed up — and Rise is raising their voice to make sure we all know about it. Check out more from passionate lead singer Tim McIlrath below — and join him by taking action for Amnesty International and America’s farmers below!
Download Chimes of Freedom
Listen to Rise Against, Miley, Ke$ha and other artists cover Bob Dylan songs. The album honors Amnesty International's 50th Anniversary.
Follow Farm Aid
Help Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and more keep family farmers on their land.