Bernie Sanders: Presidential Candidate, and… Recording Star?

Candidate recorded album of protest songs in 1987

Long before Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, declared his intention to seek nomination for the White House as a Democrat, he recorded an album of folksy protest songs like "This Land is Your Land."

"We caught a moment in time here," recalled Todd Lockwood, the producer of the 1987 record. "I'm so glad we did it."

In the 1980s, Sanders served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city. Lockwood said he went to Sanders with the idea for an album of iconic American songs and the then-mayor was receptive.

Sanders was intrigued by the potential music had to rouse energy in people to rally for causes they believed in, Lockwood said.

"A lot of the protest music from the early 60s is probably coming around again, and will probably enjoy popularity again, because people will realize it's telling a story that needs to be told again," Lockwood told New England Cable News.

This week, after a lengthy period of consideration, Sanders announced he’s seeking the Oval Office. As he did in the 1980s, Sanders is pushing an economic revolution, including a goal of overcoming wealth inequality in the United States.

"There are enormous issues facing this country," Sanders said Thursday. "The American middle class is disappearing."

With the nation paying more attention to Sanders, Lockwood recently had his old audio tapes re-mastered. The result is "Bernie: We Shall Overcome." It is a CD of five of those 1980s recordings, with 30 singers backing up Sanders.

Digital recordings of each track on the album are available for download for $.99 here.

The original tape was a "modest" hit for a locally-recorded album, Lockwood said, selling around 1,000 copies by his recollection.

Lockwood said in the days leading up to Sanders' announcement, and after he made his run official, sales of the album have increased.

"Oh yeah," Lockwood said. "We're not talking hundreds of thousands yet, but I'm seeing it pick up, for sure."

The record producer acknowledged Sanders was never a natural musician.

"He can't tap his foot to a beat," Lockwood said, laughing. "He has no sense of rhythm. He doesn't really have a musical bone in him. There are few people, in fact, who are less musical than Bernie is."

Lockwood said Sanders made up for his lack of musical skill with passion.

Regarding "This Land Is Your Land," Lockwood said the spirit of the song is taking on fresh meaning now that Sanders, an admitted underdog given the strength Hillary Clinton has a candidate, begins his campaign. That campaign will see Sanders trying to convince all the other underdogs in America to join him in making this land their land, Lockwood noted.

"That has the makings of a cult hit," Lockwood said. "I wouldn't be surprised if Bernie ended up using it as a campaign song."

WPTZ-TV contributed to this report.

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