Oligarchy and Premature Dynamics in Songwriting

People say musicians don’t necessarily have much right to weigh in about politics, at least not just by virtue of being musicians. I beg the question to viva la differ!

I think, firstly: musicians are citizens, and as such have the same right as any other citizens to speak their mind. Ah—but, so goes the argument­—they are handed an extra “megaphone” by virtue of their artistic visibility and influence. They should be careful not to use that extra resonance to actually speak their minds, support and champion their beliefs and values. Say wha’?

The “Shut Up and Sing” humiliation of the Dixie Chicks during the run-up to the Iraq invasion was not just a public shaming of that band alone, but a new brand of intimidation tactics that had the likely desired effect of stifling much other dissent in the country—including, I’m not proud to say, my own efforts, as I’ve described in my memoirette “A Coward’s Confession.”

Meanwhile, today in other news—the Supreme Court continues to re-sew the tatters and shreds of our what was once presumed a democracy into the fool’s motley of a more baldly acknowledged oligarchy—control of the state by wealth. Limits on campaign contributions by individuals are challenged and weakened; limits on contributions by corporations are next in line. Public campaign finance seems a lost cause. The prospect of endless floods of money pouring into an already compromised system of governance seems inevitable, unstoppable.

First off, note the ironic juxtaposition of the points above. Those who gain influence through sheer financial power are left unimpeded. Those who gain influence by virtue of their own artistic abilities are prevented from doing so, not by rule of law but by unabashed thuggery and brutality. (Tactics protected in their own right, by the way, as “free speech.”)

That’s music in politics. How about politics in music?

Continue reading