Anti-establishment protest songs, and music about man’s inhumanity to man, have probably been around ever since a human being first figured out how to sing a melody. “Redemption Day,” from Sheryl Crow’s self-titled 1996 second album, is a combination of the two.
Inspired by Crow’s reaction to events in the 1990s in Bosnia and Rwanda, “Redemption Day” has become a model of sorts for how to communicate emotionally in a not-so-traditional form. Crow wrote the song after a USO tour with Hillary Clinton to war-torn Bosnia, where ethnic cleansing, mass rape and indiscriminate shelling had occurred for several years. How Crow was affected by the trip, and by other crises in the world, is obvious from the lyrics and her performance. As opposed to something that’s written from someone’s imagination, this song about the plight and oppression of the poor and the innocent couldn’t have been written nearly as well by someone who hadn’t physically experienced the postwar atmosphere on some level.
Something else notable about the lyrics is Crow’s extensive use of words that contain the long “a” sound, especially words ending with a syllable that rhymes with “ate.” Numerous lines here end with that rhyme, particularly in the unusually long extension of the second verse that leads into the first two lines of the chorus:
Throw us a bone but save the plate Oh why we waited ‘til so late Was there no oil to excavate
No riches in trade for the fate Of every person who died in hate Throw us a bone, you men of great