In Norway, music drowns out hate – Fridays with Billy.

Our man Billy knows a thing or two about the power of song.

Last week, 40, 000 Norwegians came together to sing a particular song in the square outside the courthouse where Anders Behring Breivik is on trial for killing 77 people in a paroxysm of anti-immigrant rage. It’s a song that Breivik hates: “Children of the Rainbow,” which he has singled out in his various screeds for particular contempt:

A sky full of stars.
Blue sea as far as you can see.
A land where flowers grow.
Could you want more?
Together we will live
every sister and every brother.
Small children of the rainbow
and a flourishing world.

…Say it to all the children!
And tell every father and mother.
We still have a chance
to share our hope for this world.

Now, to be sure, our Billy doesn’t usually sing such soothing stuff — his calls for unity tend to be on the more battered side, often speaking for those who haven’t had a chance yet to hope, much less to share that hope.

But as I say, the man knows a thing or two about the power of song. Here’s what he had to say about that moment in Oslo on the pages of today’s Guardian:

It’s not much of a protest song, to be truthful. The lyrics of Children of the Rainbow sound ideal material for a Sunday school choir. Yet, when sung by 40,000 Norwegians in response to a week of testimony by the rightwing terrorist Anders Breivik, the meaning of those words has been transformed.

The lyrics were written by Lillebjørn Nilsen, a much-loved Norwegian singer-songwriter from the 1970s, who Breivik singled out in his testimony as a “Marxist” who “writes music that is used to brainwash children”. Far from being a call for revolution, the lyrics paint a picture of a society where “Together we will live/Each sister and brother/Small children of the rainbow”.

…Seeking to express their solidarity with the victims of this act of terror as they assembled to give their evidence this week, the people of Oslo chose a song that extols the kind of multicultural society that Breivik despises. By the simple act of singing it together, they have drowned out the voice of hatred emanating from the Oslo courthouse.

Coming together, in the rain and holding roses, all those lovely Norwegians also brought to mind their Prime Minister, speaking in the wake of the attacks last year: “We must – and will – meet terror with more democracy,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said, “not less.”

Some time ago, Billy had opportunity to write a new English version of a song that actually does call for revolution, “The Internationale” (he was asked to do so by Pete Seeger, and as Mr. Bragg says below – you don’t say no to Pete Seeger) — I suspect Breivik hates that song, too. So in honor of Breivik’s victims, and of those gathered in an Oslo city square, here’s Billy version of “The Internationale.”

If we don’t want the Breiviks of the world to win, it’s on us.

Let no one build walls to divide us
Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
Come greet the dawn and stand beside us
We’ll live together or we’ll die alone 

complete lyricsWhat is Fridays with Billy?

Big, big h/t to my girl AsiangrrlMN