Hello Beautiful Peeps
A few weeks ago I sent a note to some music listserves urging artists to consider getting involved in the upcoming election. It was followed by a series of very interesting postings in music world...
Here's my follow up... thoughts about when to get involved & what to consider IMHO.
busy week... i'm finally able to write after reading all of the great thoughts shared privately & publicly...
because i have the honor of both performing & teaching political songwriting, i've really tried to articulate the many aspects of the issue... so many variables imho. (so it's lengthy- so feel free to delete)
1st- the songs... (obviously i'm just choosing a wee microfew)
*those which clearly make a statement about a controversial issue in a serious way:
anti war- phil ochs "i ain't marching anymore"
pete seeger's "bring them home"
*making a statement in a cynical "in your face" manner:
anti bush- my "vote him gone" song (written before our last election)
anne feeney- "teenage immigrant welfare mothers on drugs"
*songs about issues most all people will agree with:
paul kamm & eleanore macdonald's "calling on love"
pat humphries "swimming to the other side"
steve seskin's "don't laugh at me" (anti bullying)
amy carol webb's "i come from women"
*disturbing songs about issues people will agree with, but they may be difficult to hear:
domestic violence- suzanne vega's "my name is luka"
my song "little white lies" (about my own 8 month pregnant grandmother's abuse)
*rallying songs like "we shall overcome"
& there are songs about controversial issues which just put you in another's shoes to think:
andrew mcknights "these shoes" my "vietnam" song which (i'm honored) gets kudos from both those who protested & those who went. i actually performed it at the kennedy center one veterans day.
on & on & on... you get my point... many ways to skin a tofu cat;)
2nd- the mission:
*am i trying to rally the converted to help spread the word? yes- sometimes 1 person speaking out can just push those who were complacent to get more involved... & numbers sure matter!
you can do this by pushing their anger buttons, their sympathy buttons, their solidarity buttons...
when i teach, i do point out- when an artist sings songs on the "in your face- controversial" pile, they make choices. you may totally lose some fans... but you may chose to sacrifice the few to gain other strong supporters. so you may opt either way... i carefully consider that particular audience & venue (see below)
pete seeger's "bring them home" clearly steers some people away, but the passionate fans they win by making those commitments may be worth it to them. my other artist friends paul kamm & eleanore macdonald, rod macdonald, sonia, freebo, elen bukstel, & ronnie cox... (on & on) clearly make committed political statements in their music, conversation & newsletters, but again their strong fans applaud them =0 Afor it & are even more loyal.
*as to the "disturbing song" category. i choose them very prudently, place them carefully in a set when i do sing them & play something more gentle afterwards.
*on the other hand, sometimes i'm just trying to show those who are clearly of different opinion that "folks like me" aren't so bad but we can work together. (i think i finally worked with my parents;) i attempt to make my life & art an example of standing by my principles in hopes that good will come. i also try to deliver the message that if we get involved even if by being honest & kind & trying to find common ground, we may be better able to coexist.
*sometimes i just try to open some eyes by little things i say "i have a really kind/wonderful/talented son who happens to be 1/2 puerto rican... when i wrote this song, i was thinking about him telling me how hurt he was when people crossed the street to avoid him at night."
*since my audiences often cross cultural boundaries, i often say "if we of different backgrounds can sit & share music together in this room, we can in life as well" ( "spirit wing" are wonderful with this!)
*sometimes just coming from healing & comforting (post 9/11) can do more to create dialog that creates change.
last of all & equally as important, as ca rla, jack & chuck pointed out, always consider the venue & audience.
* i choose "songs & mission" from all of my writing above accordingly
*with conservative audiences, i am mindfully respectful. they're coming to hear me, so i prefer to meet them in the places where we probably see eye to eye. (i'm not going to sing "vote him gone".)
i may say & sing something about honoring our diversity or some struggle we all have in life...
i may talk about my visit to pakistan & how 99% of the people i met when i went were are loving kind struggling families just like ours...
*with all audiences i've been known to try to make a difference by things like mentioning "this amazing book i read called 'one heart' which takes the major religions theme by theme (thou shall not kill, honor thy neighbor... yadayada) & lists almost the same the quotes from each religion... see we really all do want the same thing! (& yea, there are those few wacky extremists who really don't represent any of the religions!)
& maybe then i'll joke and sing my song about being brought up catholic (most everyone can relate to "religious guilt" & everyone loves singing "hallelujah, we're going straight to hell"
it's all a delicate & mindful but fun dance if done right.
*with rally audiences (& those who are clearly 99% "the choir") , i d o let go at the risk of offending 1 or 2 people, believing the outcome is worth it. i feel the purpose of a rally is to shake the numbers & people out. hell... if i truly feel our country is going to hell in a backhoe, i personally can't sit back & watch & i'm ok with being labeled as a political artist of a particular side... it's a choice i personally make.
all in all, i truly respect & applaud artists who make mindful choices as to how & when to sing particular songs.
because yes- being too "in your face" at times can do way more damage.
so... for this particular election... i will tread cautiously... but i WILL tread... choosing VERY mindfully from all of the above. i do believe the choices made in this particular election have HUGE HUGE ramifications.
bottom line... (& i guess this applies to my life more than in concert) love it or hate it, it's a blessing & a curse, it's just the way i am... i just can't sit back & keep my mouth shut
& i often call people on their s***
(like tim mason's piece... "man... that joke just ain't funny!!!")
when i hear someone saying something like "i just can't vote for a black man"
i say... "oh you mean like my two brilliant, kind, innocent half black grandchildren... that's SO damn SAD"
or... i'm really equally as obnoxious as they are,20& i say "damn- that's a racist thing to say"
as to mrs palin. feel free to read my song in progress/footer line below;) i also posted what i believe to be the most poignant piece about that situation at the news part of my website