When musicians in the ’60s and ’70s spoke about social issues through song, we listened, and we acted. They didn’t care if it sold records. I’m not going to go all Tilty McGillicuty on today’s vapid, formulaic and gimmicky reality “stars.” That’s not the purpose here. Mostly they will be one-hit wonders, while a few, like, oddly enough, Lady Gaga, have important social messaging in their music that may stand the test of time. Primarily today’s stars are famous for being famous, and writing about fame without achievement seems hardly worth the electrons.
I remain hopeful that the next new song I hear will the best I’ve ever heard. I am neither closed off to the new, nor overly nostalgic for the old. But this short post wishes only to explore how music once moved a generation to political action.
It was before the mass media fragmented into a million out-of-context parts, and before the partisan wars were fought so viciously on the twenty-four hour “news” networks. The music was all we had. It was the sound track to our lives. Our parents had television. We had radio. Our heroes were trying to stop an unprovoked war, an unjust execution or a dangerous and, as Bobby Kennedy liked to say of nuclear power, unnecessarily expensive way to heat water.
Seemingly, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were always in it. Whether it was “For What It’s Worth,” “Long Time Gone,” “Military Madness,” “Ohio,” or “To The Last Whale,” They sang with urgency. While they weren’t necessarily trying to sell records or tickets, guess what? That’s exactly what happened, because when you speak authentically from the soul, people know it and are naturally attracted to it.
Amazingly, they’re still at it. This Sunday (8/7/11) they’re joining back up with their No Nukes cohorts (Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, John Hall, The Doobie Bros., et. al.) in NoCal to sing for the benefit of the people of Japan in a No Nukes / MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) concert.
Here’s a link to Harvey Wasserman’s (leads No Nukes; coined the phrase in the ’70s) excellent blog on safe energy, and on the right, the “video of the week,” which is Crosby, Nash and their all star band singing James Raymond’s (David’s son and keyboard player) “Don’t Dig Here.” You won’t hear a more powerful song (these freakin’ guys are almost seventy!), or watch a more moving video.
All of which goes to show that great performances of great songs move minds and hearts, and cement fan relationships with artists. Authenticity and excellence are the best predictors of longevity and prosperity in the music business.
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