Accessibility links

Musicians, Rockers Get Involved in US Politics - 2004-08-19


As the 2004 election approaches, groups everywhere are springing into action to get the word out about their candidate. But one group is already in the spotlight: musicians and rockers who come out to support the party.

John Kerry sailed across Boston Harbor for the Democratic Convention last month to the sound of Bruce Springsteen's No Surrender. Stepping onto the dock, he said the Boss had it right.

"No retreat. No surrender," he said. "We are taking this fight to the country, and we are going to win back our democracy and our future."

Music and musicians will be a part of America's future, no matter who wins the White House in November. Both parties have big name music acts supporting them and putting their performances where their politics are.

Bluegrass great Ricky Skaggs played for the crowd at a Bush campaign stop in Florida. Delegates to the Republican Convention in New York later this month will be entertained by country legends the Gatlin Brothers and newcomer Sara Evans. Christian music stars like Michael W. Smith will also perform.

The stars were out at the Democratic Convention, too - Wyclef Jean, Patti LaBelle, John Mellencamp. Some of the artists supporting the challengers are taking their message on the road. Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Yes and Bruce Springsteen will be joining more than a dozen other groups for a "Vote for Change tour." Sponsored by the liberal grassroots organizations MoveOn and America Coming Together, the tour will stop in nine 'battleground' states in October and the change is getting President Bush out of the White House.

A benefit album for America Coming Together will feature a re-make of "Wake Up Everybody," used during the 1976 election to mobilize black voters to back Democrat Jimmy Carter. Rap and R&B stars Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliot and Eve are recording the song.

Scott Goodstein works with Punkvoter.com, which sponsors a "Rock Against Bush" tour and two "Rock Against Bush" albums. He says the CDs come with political material, as well as music.

"Both of the albums were made with informational booklets, as well as documentary materials and comedy, all in the goal of getting kids, in a fun way, a ton of information, as well as some great new songs," he said. More and more, liberal musicians have begun to speak out on stage and off. Linda Ronstadt has been dedicating a song to filmmaker Michael Moore at each performance of her summer tour last month, it got her booed and kicked off the stage at a concert in Las Vegas. The Dixie Chicks, one of the groups on the "Vote for Change Tour," criticized President Bush in an interview last year, and as a result, many radio stations refused to play their songs for a while. Bruce Springsteen recently expressed his political views in a New York Times editorial titled 'Chords for Change.'

Dave Matthews says such political action is the bedrock of American democracy, whether it's done by a rock star or a private citizen.

"I don't feel like we necessarily need to justify speaking our minds in a country that is based, in a very profound way, in people talking, and people voting," he said.

Punkvoter.com's Scott Goodstein says musicians, reacting to a number of President Bush's policies, have become more politically involved than they have been in years.

"I think that there's a whole host of things that are causing people to care about not just the war but personal liberties, the environment, choice issues, to say, 'Wow, there's so many fronts that things have gotten bad that now we need to actually speak up,'" he said.

But not all rock musicians are speaking up for the Democrats. An avid punk rocker sporting a Bush-Cheney button might be the last thing you'd expect to see, but Nick Rizzuto is just that. He has founded Conservative Punk magazine, a publication intended to change the stereotype that all punk rockers are way out in 'left field'.

"Conservative Punk magazine, its purpose is to inform punks on the issues of the day, kind of from a conservative side," he said. "Generally speaking, punks are thought to be all liberal, but there is a small percentage of us that are more on the conservative side."

While Nick Rizutto says he would like to persuade more punks to vote for Republican candidates, he is happy to just get them interested in politics while providing a forum for right-wing thought.

"Voting in general is important," he said. "As much as I'd like everyone to think the same way as me, I realize they don't, and in general, it's important that kids get out there and vote."

And with the presidential race statistically still a dead heat, those young voters could be the ones who determine whether Bruce Springsteen or Ricky Skaggs is rocking in the White House come January.

XS
SM
MD
LG