People & Places

Sanders sparks Vermont video boom

Grand Isle singer Julia Kate Davis wrote and performed a tribute song to Bernie Sanders – and wealth redistribution – in a May 19, 2015 You Tube video. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Grand Isle singer Julia Kate Davis wrote and performed a tribute song to Bernie Sanders – and wealth redistribution – in a May 19, 2015, YouTube video. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Since June, tribute songs devoted to Bernie Sanders have proliferated online, and thanks to link-sharing hubs like Reddit and Facebook, some of the musical offerings have generated thousands of downloads and a small fan base.

Surprisingly – if only for the amount of national traction and viewers the videos have received – many of the early contributors to the online YouTube canon are Vermonters.

In a playlist on YouTube called Bernie Sanders Music Videos and Bernie Sanders 2016 Songs, there are as many as 38 videos from across the United States.

One is set to the tune of a Ramones song, the other to “The Ants Go Marching.” New songs are uploaded constantly.

A Washington-based artist named Pat Crawford, for example, last week uploaded a punk song picking up on one of Sanders’ slogans — “Feel the Bern.” It’s for sale on Bandcamp.

And while some songwriters and musicians with only a few hundred views are not exactly on the way to the top 40 greatest hits, others are soaring.

Julia Kate Davis, a 22-year-old musician currently working on a Vermont organic farm, has had 10,307 views on her original song, which she performed on camera in a May 19 post. (Also, 203 “likes” followed, the YouTube approval sign.)

Reached by phone at Blue Heron Farm in Grande Isle, Davis, who came to Vermont in May, was surprised to hear that so many video viewers came from Reddit.

“Cool! I haven’t really been online much, and I don’t really go on Reddit, but it’s neat that it was on there,” she said. “It was a kind of spur of the moment thing, but I’m glad it’s turned out really well.”

“I was just riled up about Bernie and a really good friend of mine was saying all this stuff, like ‘We can’t have an independent’ and all this stuff,” said Davis, who was a political science major. “And I was like ‘Yes we can!’”

Unlike the majority of the Bernie Sanders tribute songs, hers doesn’t start with his slogans or words, or a ballady origin story: She uses a metaphor created by economist and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz, of a birthday cake. (Sanders has said he’d tap Stiglitz to serve in his future administration.)

It looks so good and you just can’t wait for a piece
Time comes to cut it up
And something goes terribly wrong
20 people at the party, 10 don’t have any cake at all

Davis has a standing gig at The Bee’s Knees in Morrisville, and will be playing Aug. 22 for those who want to see her perform in person.

Davis’ video had the largest viewership, as of Wednesday, but a rap video released last Sunday was coming close behind. L.A. rapper named Tony Tig, had more than 7,416 views, and 687 “likes” on the platform.

Stirling Peebles, a Vermont filmmaker, produced the video The Ballad of Bernie in July.
Stirling Peebles, a Vermont filmmaker, produced the video “The Ballad of Bernie” in July.

The video may have been bolstered by the L.A. appearance by Bernie at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where he spoke to an estimated 27,500 fans.

Another rap for Bernie, as music writer Dan Bolles reported in Seven Days, came out last month. Wilfrid Cyrus’ “Bernie Damn Sanders” (which contains prolific swears) was produced with the help of Vermont video producer Bill Simmons and TV Channel 17, using old public access footage of the candidate from his mayoral days.

Beyond that, a proliferation of bluegrass and folksy songs exist, including “The Ballad of Bernie,” a family living-room cover of a 1940 Woody Guthrie union song – complete with tin pipe and drum.

A playlist of the premiere (read = most musically and visually appealing) offerings can be seen in the list below.

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Jess Wisloski

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