Remember protest songs? With songs like Blowing In The Wind, The Times They Are A Changing, We Shall Be Released, Masters Of War, A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall and so many others, Bob Dylan became the Voice for a restless generation speaking out against Nixon, the Vietnam War, speaking for the Civil Rights Movement and speaking out for freedom in all its many forms. Earlier, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger had done the same, but the timing of Dylan’s arrival was almost a god-send. The world needed his songs to articulate the feelings of a generation too young to know but knew something was happening and how Mr. Jones, didn’t know what it was and where and how it would end.
Later, Dylan disciple John Lennon would quickly evolve from being a Fab to a voice for social consciousness and with a strong ally in Rolling Stone magazine when the publication was relevant and many grew up reading what Chet Flippo, Ben Fong Torres, Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus, Timothy White, Landau and others had to say. And, of course, there was the good Doctor who lived a life like no other and then blew his brains out after his work on this earth was done.
Music and politics made strange bedfellows until around 2008 and which is why they never got into bed together. They came at things from different angles and very different mind sets. It was the establishment versus the anti-establishment. It was Neil Young singing about Ohio, Stephen Stills writing For What It’s Worth and the imagery of Jim Morrison. They were all Riders From The Storm carrying messages of Hope and Change- and even impending danger- long before those two words became as soggy as an old Big Mac.
Much later, in China, Cui Jian became the Voice against the Tiananmen crackdown and was silenced for a decade for his one song. Such was the power and glory of music.
Often it worked though Give Ireland Back To The Irish by McCartney was no Give Peace A Chance. It wasn’t even Jimmy Webb’s understated anti-war song that was Galveston.
I was thinking of all this while watching Obama and Mittwit of Romney yesterday and how the media makes way too much of these debates, showbiz politics and Teflon men. Musicians like will I am and Dave Stewart writing and singing horrible fucking songs to the 2008 version of Barack Obama was no different to the song by the Obama Girl. It was embarrassing stuff from musicians who should have known better but who seemed hoodwinked and eager to be part of something/anything and get into Yes We Can posturing and “slogan-aring” and slobbering over a black man in the White House. As Lennon would have said, “You can count me in- no out.”
It smelt of people jumping on an over-loaded bandwagon and where showbiz and politics and politicians not only got into bed together, they started shagging each other. The lines became blurred and where today songs have become “campaign theme songs” and even Big Bird is in a flap as politics have become a novelty song and as important and impotent as Millie Small singing My Boy Lollipop. At least that ska-track didn’t suck as many thought at the time. In many ways, it was ahead of its time and even had Rod Stewart blowing harp on it as a session muso.
Everywhere today, there are sucking sounds with even David Letterman lobbying soft cock questions to one of the most overrated politicians in the world who is, sadly, the best of the politician kitty litter and a shameless promo man who should have Max Clifford on his team instead of the numbingly dumb David Axelrod. Seriously, Obama, Simon Cowell, Donald Trump- what’s the difference? All are opportunists who know how to use the media which, in turn, works to dupe a very naive public.
Add to this mix the “politibiz” of Fox News, CNN, CNBC and bimbos and himbos like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Megyn Kelly and others who are out there playing roles and which those who don’t know better think is “news”, go all a-twitter about what these actors have to say and blur those lines even more between so-called news anchors and Hollywood actors playing at being politicians and groupies and the White House looking more and more like a White Castle. Its importance, its prestige, its power is flaccid today. It could be a Hollywood set. Same with many politicians and their politics around the world. Carla Bruni was once First Lady of France? Oh, please.
Sure, Grace Kelly became Princess Grace of Monaco and JFK hung out with mobsters and the Rat Pack and got funky with actresses, but it was all kept under wraps and with showbiz and politics only meeting down a dark alley way.
Today, if he were to run for the Presidency, Jay Z would win and Beyonce would be First Lady and with a cabinet made up of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Will Smith and, gawd forbid, Madonna. See how showbiz has mutated into this new version of a Power Play and how entertainers have put their music on the back-burner in exchange for being power brokers?
Sadly, politics and politicians have made the world a more dangerous place than ever.
There is no trust for each other and little trust. Plus everyone wants to topple China when China largely owns the world.
The killing of Bin Laden was not the end of the devil and we live in a violent and disconnected world where it’s impossible to tell who wears the white hats.
It’s all very grey and time for music to find its voice again and stop being a puppet of big business and Big Bird politics.
Hell, I’m even starting to miss the doofus that was George W. Bush.
Apart from what Pussy Riot has gone through and our sticking to their guns and politics in Russia, who else has the balls to speak out against what many either don’t care enough or don’t know enough to call things as they fall? For Pussy Riot, it’s very like that Dylan line, “When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.”
Perhaps too many of us have become tired and bloated and too easily content? You know, become financially stable, or else find someone to provide you with this stability and then just kick-back, close your eyes, watch the world from what you read and watch and think you’re creative and an innovator and making a difference. Or use others to fight your battles for you.
Whatever it might be, music as a power tool to create social awareness and speak out against what we know to be very wrong is either being silenced or has been silent for so long, the words are having a hard time coming out the way they should and once did.