The Raging Grannies Songbook
Contains Photos, Illustrations
Desmond Maley is the music librarian at the J.W. Tate Library,
Huntington College, Laurentian University.
This alternative press publication is addressed to social activists, who
play a small but nonetheless important role in democracy. Illustrated
with photographs and drawings, the book brings together more than 100
satirical songs as well as reminiscences and suggestions for starting
grannie groups and writing protest songs.
The Raging Grannies are a conspicuously successful example of social
action, born in Victoria, B.C., in the winter of 1986–87. Grannie
groups have since been formed as far east as Montreal, although they are
still mostly a West Coast phenomenon. Their send-up of the granny
stereotype has garnered them media attention and focused media attention
on their various causes, which could be broadly described as saving the
world from itself.
Many granny activists were already veterans of street theatre and
demonstrations. Thus, the transition to donning floppy hats and frilly
dresses and kicking up a ruckus as Raging Grannies was perfectly
natural. Others discovered how embracing the clown tradition bolstered
their self-confidence. “The costume changes my whole personality,”
one Granny is quoted as saying, “and I’m no longer afraid to get up
and do something about the world.”
Songs are often written collaboratively after someone gets an idea and
tries it out on the group. The importance of having a clear message with
simple words and a catchy tune is stressed. Many readers will know the
melodies for “Give Me a Home Where the Rivers Don’t Foam” and
“I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas.” Not all of the tunes are so
recognizable, however, and no music is included. The frequent topical
references also preclude many of these songs from performance elsewhere.
Although one wonders how many Raging Grannies there can be before the
novelty wears off, it’s impossible not to have a certain admiration
for these older peaceniks and environmentalists. “Join the Raging
Grannies / In working every day / For peace on Earth, goodwill to all /
And a song for every day” (from “Grannies Against War Toys”).