I Can't Breathe

Album: download only (2015)

Songfacts®:

  • This English language protest song is dedicated to African-American Eric Garner, who was killed in New York in July 2014 after a police officer put him in a chokehold. We hear punk pioneer Richard Hell reading Garner's final words. "'I can't breathe' – these are the last words of Eric Garner," the band told The Guardian. "Those words are his, but we hope they can also stand for us and for many around the world, for all who can't breathe because authorities act with impunity and feel invincible and above the law in using power to humiliate, intimidate, hurt, kill and oppress. We've known, on our own skin, what police brutality feels like and we can't be silent on this issue."
  • The song was recorded in New York in December 2014 by Pussy Riot during the protests there against police brutality. Also contributing are Miike Snow's Andrew Wyatt (beats), Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (piano and bass) and Russian bands Scofferlane (composition) and Jack Wood (vocals). The band said: "The genre of this isn't like other Pussy Riot songs. It's an industrial ballad. Dark and urban. The rhythm and beat of the song is a metaphor of a heartbeat, the beat of a heart before it's about to stop. The absence of our usual aggressive punk vocals in this song is a reaction to this tragedy."
  • Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova were imprisoned for sixteen months in their native Russia in 2012 after performing their punk protest prayer 'Mother of God, Drive Putin Away' inside Moscow's Cathedral of Christ The Saviour. The song's music video was directed by Max Pozdorovkin, who helmed the documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. The one take clip shows the Russian pair being buried alive in Russian riot police uniforms. In the beginning of the visual, a pack of Russian Spring cigarettes is shown. Pussy Riot explained the significance of the cigarettes. "Since last spring we have been living in a condition of war and hatred towards the rest of the world that the Kremlin has called 'the Russian Spring' following the annexation of Crimea."

    "A bloody war in Ukraine fuelled and controlled by Russia, a civilian plane that was shot down by a rocket that killed hundreds of people from around the world – a lot of our plans and artistic conceptions were changed by news from the war zone that was arriving daily," they continued. "We really could not breathe for this whole last year. Our previous ideas did not speak to what was happening in the conflict zone in Ukraine as we were realizing that Russia is burying itself alive in terms of the rest of the world. Committing suicide. Daily."

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