Sanders' 1987 Recording Of Protest Songs Back In Circulation

May 7, 2015
Originally published on May 5, 2015 10:24 am

A 1987 recording made by then Burlington mayor Bernie Sanders is finding a new audience thanks to Sen. Sanders’ presidential aspirations.   

28 years ago, Burlington studio owner and producer Todd Lockwood posted a letter to Sanders at city hall proposing the album.

Lockwood says originally he thought the mayor would sing.

“I didn’t know what his capabilities were until we got him in the studio to do some rehearsal stuff,” he recalls. “In the first half an hour it became quite clear that Bernie is not going to be singing.”

Lockwood assembled a crew of Vermont musicians to back him as Sanders spoke the lyrics to five classic movement songs – and added his own commentary.

Lockwood says the recording, titled We Shall Overcome, was released on cassette and sold about 1,000 copies before sales ground to a halt after a few months.  

Then late last year, the weekly newspaper Seven Days wrote a blog piece about the recording. It came at a time when Sanders profile was heightened by talk of a possible candidacy.  

Lockwood arranged to have CDs made of the recording and made it available for downloading. 

Then came the official announcement that Sanders would seek the presidency.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook here since he announced. Once the networks realized this recording existed it had the makings of a great story for them,” says Lockwood.

ABC News used the recording in an interview with Sanders last week.

Lockwood says it’s too early to tell if the media attention will translate into major sales, but 28 years after its release, the recording is moving faster than ever; an estimated several dozen CDs and downloads daily.

Sanders receives a royalty for each sale.

Lockwood knows the recording could be used to mock the Vermont senator, but he doesn’t think most people will see it that way. “Anyone with half a heart listening to this thing, even if they don’t agree with Bernie’s politics, they would have to say that this is from the heart, this is a real guy singing what he believes,” he says.

That may be true, but so far Sanders has declined all requests for impromptu performances.

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