(Art and words by Lindsay Mercer)
This rather rousing tune came out on Phil’s second album, I Ain’t Marching Anymore. The lyrics are direct and specific. Phil is calling you and you have absolutely no excuse not to join him. The movement is already happening, and you will either join them or be trampled along with the other side. There is no uninvolved third party. This idea that the apathetic are the problem and almost more dangerous to the movement is seen throughout Phil and his contemporaries’ work. Love Me I’m a Liberal deals with this idea that those claiming to be liberal are in fact doing nothing to help the movement move forward and in fact are hindering it from doing so. It is the “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” mentality.
Phil’s voice is strong, clear, and confident. This voice resonates as a natural leader, calling the audience to join him and join the movement. This joining does not involve paper work and there are neither stickers nor buttons; when you join this movement you are pledging action. These words are a call for action, “for these are the days of decision.”
The eight verses all end with the tagline “for these are the days of decision.” This structure is straightforward, giving examples of what they are going to do and why it needs to be done; then bringing it back to the familiar title line. This structure brings the audience and the speaker back together at the end of each verse, unifying the group as a whole. As the members of the audience begin to recognize that singular line, they are allowing the phrase to sink down into their minds and become familiar with the idea that these are indeed the days of decision. If the audience remembers anything from this song, it will be this line, this bold statement of their own obligation.
The youthful hopefulness, the confidence that change will happen because of him and because of the movement, is looking to the future. There are few references to the past and the heinous crimes that need to be revenged. Instead, the focus is on the glorious act of free rebellion that will ensue, and in fact are already beginning. This song is not about the past, unlike many of Phil’s other songs. The idea of calling the audience to action is certainly not unique to this song, within Phil’s work alone there are many other examples. But what sets Days of Decision apart is its purity. This song trusts that you, the audience, already understand the direness that is the state of the country and the song is simply calling you to act upon these readily known thoughts and feelings. This song is a song to rally the troops of rebellion. This song is not about anger, but excitement. Unlike I Ain’t Marching Anymore, In The Heat of Summer, Links on the Chain, or Here’s to the State of Mississippi (all of which are on the same album as Days of Decision) the focus of the song is not on the “other” side. The only line directly referencing such an event comes in the second to last verse, when the audience is already well enthused and has already mentally joined the cause. This line “the three bodies buried in the Mississippi mud” comes as a last reminder of exactly why you must join them, to combat the “warning of the bullet and the blood.”
To finish the song, to close this battle cry of the rebellion, Phil sings one of the most articulate calls to arms to come out of the 1960’s. What it took Bob Dylan to say in five verses in The Times They Are a Changin’, Phil says in four simple and direct lines;
“There’s a change in the wind, and a split in the road
You can do what’s right or you can do what you are told
And the prize of the victory will belong to the bold
Yes, these are the days of decision.”
The confidence Phil exhibits in his belief in the movement is seen in his singing and playing. He embodies the youthful hopefulness, and also the naivety of the movement at this time. Unknowing of what is ahead, the only thing that Phil knows for certain is that there is injustice, and he and everyone else must stop it.