Thursday, August 31
Rockin' Free in Fascist Amerika: “The Music” Refuses to (Completely) Die
In 2003 The Chicks fell afoul of the Thought Police when singer Natalie Maines, on the eve of the US-led invasion of Iraq, told a London audience the band was "ashamed" of sharing Texas as a home state with George W. Bush.
The well-publicized comment garnered death threats from the two of every three mentally-challenged Americans whose primary news source is TV. But the remark also occasioned Academy-Award winning director Barbara Kopple (Harlan County USA and American Dream) to chronicle the Amerikan cultural context of the ensuing controversy in Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, a documentary that premiered in July at the Toronto Film Festival.
Maines' remark not only was politically prophetic but it also seems to have helped the Dixie Chicks commerically. In 2003, The Chicks were country music's top grossing concert band. And by mid-2004 the Washington Post and New York Times were issuing readers backhanded apologizes for not questioning the White House's "fixed" intelligence alleging Iraq possessed nuclear strike-force capabilities and aided the 9/11 al-Qaeda hijackers--which, according to a July Harris poll, 50% of American adults still erroneously believe, yet more evidence of how effective Amerikan TV is to White House propaganda.
Let me put that in context for you: The majority of flag-waving, war-mongering Americans and the collective editorial brain trusts of the country's two most prominent news dailies lacked Ms Maines's insights into the dark character of Crawford, Texas' s #1 citizen, the Howdy Dowdy Kid.
Dixie Chicks concerts and albums continue to sell well, thank you-- even with more recent lyrical snipes at Texas Boy George and their couch potato detractors. The Long Way Home, the Chicks' latest CD featuring the defiant "Not Ready to Make Nice," went platiumn in June four weeks after its release--a point that begs the question why less commerically accomplished country and rock groups aren't lining up to diss the White House. The defiance of authority figures has always played well among America's 15-35 demographic with IQs above room temperature.
On the other hand, a few iconic 60s-era rockers with absolutely nothing left to prove or loose have joined the Chicks in rattling the White House's proverbial cage for its contrived Iraq War and a litany of related criminal, constitutional and human rights abuses.
Let’s look at some audio-visual evidence of these veteran rockers' insistence on lyrical relevancy in post-9/11 Amerika and their willingness to rock in and for a Free America.
Neil Young et al.
Attired in OD green military peace togs and a "Bush" hat, Neil Young appeared in early August on The Colbert Report (below) and conveyed some 60s-era goodwill to the ever-gleeful faux-conservative host. Young also gave Colbert an impromptu guitar lesson.
With longtime fellow troubadours Crosby, Stills and Nash, Young now is on the concert tour providing younger audiences with generous helpings of CSNY's treasure trove of anti-Vietnam War anthems. The group also feature "fresh, furious material" from Young's most recent release "Living with War" that takes on the Iraq War and George Bush.
Although seemingly disappointed with CSNY's "outdated" 60s-era idealism, a Boston Globe (August 18) concert reviewer characterized the veteran group's stage presence and song selection as "stellar," singling out Young's newest Bush-basing material for special mention.
The plain-spoken sentiments in Young's "Let's Impeach the President" and "Shock and Awe" left little room for debate or dissent. Sadly, the extraordinary idealism embodied in the older CSNY material felt still more provocative, and depressingly outdated. "Love is coming to us all," they promised in "Carry On."... Topicality aside, the foursome is a still-formidable musical front line, and the songs (with a few solo-repertoire exceptions) are simply stellar.
Rock on, men. Let the truth and music ring free.
Rhodes scholar and West Point graduate, Kris Kristofferson gave Vietnam War protesters and hippie malcontents the line, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." That, ladies and gentlemen, is a fearless FREEDOM, the only kind, really.
Kristofferson provided Young's "Living with War" CD with one unadorned vocal offering, though the Hall of Famer will be best remembered as a songwriter for such iconic performers as Johnny Cash (“Sunday Morning Coming Down”) and Janis Joplin (“Me and Bobby McGehee”). Although Kristofferson's raspy voice shows all of his years in “In the News,” the video accompaniment ably reinforces his understated lyrics suggesting America's periodic insanity resurfaced ith a vengence in the Bush White House: mamas drowning babies, global warning, ecological degradation, and Bush's “holy war” on terrorists that, in the video, closely resembles infants and children.
Thank you, Kris.
Jackson Browne et al.
Among the most musically active of the 60s rock icons, Jackson Browne just keeps those blusey rock ballads a'coming.
More popular in Japan than the U.S., Browne dodges Amerikan-styled fascism by residing abraod for most of the year.
JB features two music videos on his well-travelled website (www.jacksonbrowne. com) castigating post-9/11 and humankind developments. The slickly edited "Lives in the Balance" (Windows Media or Quicktime) is anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-war profiteering and anti-mainstream TV news. Did we leave anything out?
In contrast, "Casino Nation" (Windows Media or Quicktime) is twice as nuanced and the length of Balance. In the piece, Browne waxes philosophical, questioning the respective post-World War II evolutionary trajectories of technology and human morality of "developed" countries guiding the Bush White House's gamble that is taking America (and the world) to the brink.
Browne also is arguablly the most politically active of the 60s musical icons performing today. August 20 was the most recent example of that brand of activism. Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffin and “and other special guests” joined JB in performing at a
Appreciative of his friends' support of his run at the U.S. House, Hall will need all the help and money he can get: Amerikan politicians have so stacked the system against new candidates that House incumbents are reelected 98% of the time.
“I am honored and deeply grateful to these incredible artists for generously committing their time and talents to my campaign,” said Hall, a renowned singer-songwriter and longtime activist-community leader…. “It's time to challenge the misguided policies of the Bush administration and restore checks and balances to our country.”
Patriotic Americans ask that Hall draft an "Impeach Bush" resolution immediately fafter taking his oath to uphold the constitution as a freshman member of the 110th Congress convening in January '07.
If voters send enough Democrats to congress with Hall in November, Bush White House officials finally could be made to answer those overdue questions about the Iraq War before the House Judiciary Committee that would be chaired by 12-term veteran John Conyers of Michigan. Without question, Conyers will convene hearings on the Iraq War and use his subpoena power to make the guilty war-mongers face the music.
Until that glorious day for democracy, you got to keep on rockin' in Bushwhacked Amerika, ya'll.
Postscript: Some of the best contemporary anti-war/anti-Bush music is not from country music headerliners or 60s rock icons. While the offerings are too numerous (and censored by mainstream radio) to cite here, let me offer two off-the-beaten-path musicians whose work recently attracted my notice.
Eric Schwartz is a musician in search of your funny bone. His "Clinton Got a Blowjob" bashes Commander-in-Thief George Bush with such unmitigated glee and wit that it must be heard then widely circulated. On the other hand, James McMurtry embodies more Heartland angst of the Woody and Arlo Guthrie American populist protest tradition. McMurtry's seven-minute song/video "We Can't Make it Here Anymore" touches all those pressing post-9/11 domestic abuses and neglects needing wider coverage by the self-serving mainstream media and Beltway bandits in congress. Watch it below (or at YouTube here).
15 February 2007 Update: Dixie Chicks took 2006 Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
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