October 23, 2011

There's no music in the politics... and no politics in the music.

Ziggy Marley bemoans the separation of politics and music.
“In the ’60s and ’70s, there was plenty of music for peaceful revolutions,” Marley said. “Where are these songs now? Who is writing them? From Occupy Wall Street to revolution in Egypt, I wonder where the music is.”...
And as for the music these days:
“I use the analogy of circus with music,” he said. “You have clowns, tightrope walkers, the man that puts his head in the lion’s mouth. But now the circus is all clowns trying to keep us laughing. The tightrope walker is still in the back, but no one’s watching him. People just want entertainment. There’s more to music than entertainment.”
Funny to think of the music without politics as a circus that's all clowns. I tend to think of politics as the clowns. If music came into our politics, it would bring more gravity, not more foolery. That's what I think. I keep seeing commentary saying the Occupy [Your City] movement needs its Bob Dylan, but if you think he would entertain and encourage you — ease you and cool you and cease the pain — you don't know your Bob Dylan. To point out the obvious:
You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you


edwardroyce said...

The reason why there isn't more music in politics today is that musicians expect to get paid.

And the politics today is about -sharing the wealth-.


Tyrone Slothrop said...

I wonder who you have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice.

Jason (the commenter) said...

They have music! There's always those guys with drums!

PETER V. BELLA said...

The music business is a business. It is corporate. It is the 1%. It is all about greed and obscene profit. It is capitalism run amok.

We' be right back after a word from our local stations.

In other news today Harry Reid pushed a new jobs bill. The creation of National Suppository Day...

DADvocate said...

Ziggy is wrong about the level of politics in songs in the 1960s and 1970s. Sure, it was there, but no where to the degree he says. In 1969, the number one song was "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies. Check out the list of the top 100 at the link.

People are tired of being constantly preached to about this and that political/social cause. They want songs, TV shows, movies, comedians, etc to entertain them, not create a burden for them.

bagoh20 said...

Music and love used to be enough rebellion all by itself. Now with those rebellions for freedom safely hung on the wall of honor, we get one with demands for money and slavery. High minded fun ain't what it used to be.

edutcher said...

Reminds me of Robert E Lee's comment about war, "I don't believe we can have an army without music".

"'In the ’60s and ’70s, there was plenty of music for peaceful revolutions', Marley said. 'Where are these songs now?'"

And most of the "political music" of the 60s and 70s was some of the most brain-dead stuff imaginable

ricpic said...

What kind of elitist doesn't appreciate the constant banging of bongos?

bagoh20 said...

"But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao, you ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow."

Christopher said...

As one who went through high school, college, and my first year of law school with Bush as president I have to say that this is complete bullshit.

Were the top songs political? No, but as DADvocate pointed out that's how it was back in the 60's and 70's as well. There was still plenty of music with political messages, most of which can be boiled down to "Bush=Hitler".

Hell, I can remember Green Day yelling "seig heil to the president" on the damned radio (without a single condemnation by leftists btw).

Ann Althouse said...

" In 1969, the number one song was "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies."

Hey, that's totally political. Read the lyrics:

"Like the summer sunshine pour you sweetness over me..."

Think about it.

Jon Burack said...

Amazing how the left continues to delude itself that Dylan is theirs. He is not and never was.

For example, this from “My Back Pages"

A self-ordained professor’s tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
“Equality,” I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Or this from “I Will Be Free, No. 10”

Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
I want ev’rybody to be free
But if you think that I’ll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door and marry my daughter
You must think I’m crazy!
I wouldn’t let him do it for all the farms in Cuba

And then on Israel, for all the pro-Palestinians in the OWS crowd, there are these two stanzas (or any of the others)

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

somefeller said...

"Like the summer sunshine pour you sweetness over me..."

Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me" was much better, and summed up the hopes and aspirations of youth during the Reagan era.

Shouting Thomas said...

Musicians bitching about politics is the epitome of psychological displacement. After a certain age, you've got to be a moron to buy it.

The arts in general, and the music biz in particular, are the most corrupt, disgusting and worthless businesses that you can be involved in.

The level of exploitation in the music business is absurd. The trashing of humans that is common in the music business is just mind boggling.

If musicians want to bitch about politics, then they should turn their attention to carrying out the trash in their own business.

Until they want to do that, I just regard musicians bitching about politics as cowards who are taking the easy route of criticizing the easy target, while ignoring the shit heap in which they live.

Shouting Thomas said...

Or, to put this another way:

The music biz eggs young people on to commit suicide in front of an audience for the sake of selling crap. The biz is largely in the hands of organized crime. I've seen dozens of friends destroy themselves and their families in the vain pursuit of fame and fortune in this biz.

You want to talk about income disparity? It's not uncommon for a musicians who's commanding tens of thousands of dollars a night to pay his sidemen 100 bucks, with no guarantee of employment beyond a single night.

If musicians want to change the world, they might want to consider changing the part in which they live, instead of hatching grandiose dreams of saving the world.

Andrea said...

"In 1969, the number one song was 'Sugar Sugar' by the Archies."

I loved that song when I was a kid. I was a big Archies fan. I actually had their album. Then one day my sister had left it out of its sleeve on her bed, and our dog jumped up on it and scratched it all to hell.

I wonder if it's been released on cd. Or as mp3s.

Real American said...

music, like other forms of entertainment (theater, TV, movies, Sports, etc) are supposed to be an escape from the humdrum of our daily lives. Well, nowaways, the humdrum of our daily lives includes a big government that deems it necessary to insert itself into everything we do. We have politics in everything we do! The left has succeeded in making the personal political. We can't even go the fucking store without being confronted with a political decision.

Pogo said...

All the political music of the 60s and 70s was merely about getting laid or getting high.

The words were just a convenient path; adolescent angst for sex and pot.

chrisnavin said...

Music will save us all! It's universal! It can bring about political change!

Doesn't NPR push this everyday?

Clyde said...

I saw yesterday that Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie had both arrived on scene at OWS New York. There's your music in the politics, even if it is probably a few decades past its shelf life.

EDH said...

Shouting Thomas makes some great points about the music biz. And what a perfect metaphor for OWS.

Until they want to do that, I just regard musicians bitching about politics as cowards who are taking the easy route of criticizing the easy target, while ignoring the shit heap in which they live.

I'm optimistic. I think many young people will learn a valuable lesson from OWS and rise-up out of that shit heap, never to return.

Nothing made me more conservative than following a bunch of leftists around up-close.

Diego de la Vega said...

A certain Todd Rundgren number comes to mind.

E.M. Davis said...

I wonder if it's been released on cd. Or as mp3s.

I suggest you use the Althouse portal.

Tim said...

"If music came into our politics, it would bring more gravity, not more foolery. That's what I think."


Has there been anything more over-the-top absurd than this musician's contribution to our politics? Fools thinking they are lending gravity to politics

Although it has the virtue of confirming that pretty much everyone associated with contempary popular "arts" is politically insane, it's held up about as well as wet toilet paper. Would any normal person really want themselves associated with this momentary lapse of reason that seems to last a lifetime for too many artists?

Tim said...

This, for critical thinkers independent of mass delirium, is probably the best political anthem of our times.

wv: phype - politics with music is almost always phake hype.

FKACato said...

In the early 80s, an interviewer asked David Lee Roth about his political views. He declined to share them, saying that some people might give them more credence than they deserved because they happened to like his music. Being a rock singer didn't give him any special insights into politics.

Thirty years on, I still think that was may be the most responsible statement about "the artist as citizen," to use Barbra Streisand's pompous phrasing, that I've ever read.

Carol said...

The Left has a long history of trying to promote and exploit folk music as the Authentic Voice of the Proletariat. That's how we got pseudo celebrities like the Weavers, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Dylan rode in on that horse but quickly got bored with it and went on to better subject material.

The rest was hype.

gorgo331 said...

As Tom Lehrer once sang:

We are the Folk Song Army
Everyone of us cares
We all hate poverty, war and injustice
unlike the rest of you squares

Those were the days...

rhhardin said...

Shostakovich Quartet 3

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 3 in F major (Op. 73) was composed in 1946 after his Symphony No. 9 was censured by Soviet authorities. It was premiered in Moscow by the Beethoven Quartet, to whom it is dedicated, in December 1946. The work was furiously denounced due to the horrors the music portrays and because it ends on a very ambiguous, inconclusive, fashion. Some critics went as far as accusing Shostakovich of hiding coded subversive messages against Stalin within it wiki

edwardroyce said...

I say let us all contribute to a collective song lyric. I'll start off and then someone else add the next stanza.

If Che had a hammer
He'd hammer nails into your knees
You'd scream in agony
Because you're the bourgeoisie-e!

You are a white guy!
You went to uni-ver-sity!
Your parents are the middle-class!
You are the bourgeoisie-e!

Because I've seen way too many middle-class white college students/graduates wearing the iconic image of a man who would cheerfully attach live wires to private places on people just like them.

J said...

Snow Whitehouse and the 17 dwarfs ...with with a kazooo-Dylan medley!

the ann-surr my phran is a blowin' out yr end

the ann-suurr is a blowin' out yrr end

bagoh20 said...

I hate music- especially when it's all musicy.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Boycott J.

sdferr said...

Shakespeare had an inkling:
Merchant of Venice, Act V., Scene I.:

The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
Which is the hot condition of their blood;
If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
Or any air of music touch their ears,
You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
Their savage eyes turn'd to a modest gaze
By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods;
Since nought so stockish, hard and full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

J said...

That's right bagoh aka Byro acid-boy sockpup--like yr cronies you don't know a cadenza from yr crackpipe, trash. So just STFU.

J said...

boycott you, Byro-Tyrone the plagiarist (yr bogus name itself a copyright violation)

Got that Byro acidhead, bunko boy? And phoenix PD still got yr number, perp. Got that, fraudster?

William said...

There is nothing in the historical record to indicate that there is any overlap between musical talent and political wisdom. Although he later tore up the dedication, Beethoven's Eroica Symphony was inspired by Napoleon. It's considered one of the great works in the classical canon. Beethoven later wrote Opus 91, "Wellington's Victory". I'm one of the few people on earth who has actually heard this piece. I can't decide whether it's a subtle parody of British imperialism or just plain trashy kitsch. In any event, it was Napoleon, not Wellington, who inspired Beethoven's best efforts.....One hundred years from now, I'm certain that someone will be singing Gershwin's
"Summertime". I don't have that certainty about anything written by Dylan. People who go to music for their political insights will come away with the political insights that people with substance abuse problems can offer.

Craig said...


J said...

You don't know jack about Beethoven's 3rd or Bonaparte, either Byro-Tyrone--stick to like yr fave Osmonds medley. How many names you got on here now,dreck? At least 7-8 or so. Buh bye psychotic.

bagoh20 said...

I heard a song yesterday on Sirius radio of Dylan and Johnny Cash. They are both good in their own way, but this tune was absolutely terrible in every conceivable way. I have no talent whatsoever, and I try to write and play songs anyway for fun, but if I created this thing, I would give up.

Maguro said...

The protest music, million dollar fad...

RichardS said...

There has been some political country music in the past decade, not all of it conservative.

And don't forget just how popular "Ballad of the Green Berets" was in the 1960s.

J said...

the Rev. could use a theme like this (seeds-to FZ/mothers--to... Jimi).

J said...

that izz........the leaves

Jay Vogt said...

Ahhh, the protest song. America's gift to "la révolution internationale".

While it's nearly impossible to give credit to anyone associated with modern popular music these days, here we must give credit where credit is due. Contemporary "artists" have rightly concluded that all of the protest music of the 60's and 70s was just dreck. Other than of course the great Marvin Gaye, whose "What's Going On" is simply a masterpiece.

The entire span of it through time and genre never veered outside the boundaries of shrill obviousness (see CSNY) to mawkish pointlessness (see Peter Paul and Mary).

Again, Gaye stands as the lone exception. Proving, I guess, that anything is possible.

Dylan's pieces, while brilliant, are not classically political.

Sorry Ziggy, I've got to give a big hat's off to the music makers of today for knowing that this is true and having the discipline to acknowledge their own limitations.

I don't see any Marvin Gayes out there, do you? But, heck it's hard enough to write a decent love song.

J said...

Hendrix or Zappa vs yr Gaye hero, Marvin?

Sort of like, say, Pynchon vs yr pathetic little brainfarts Byro-Jay-Tyrone-William-Edward the combox queen.

Bryan Townsend said...

I went into some detail on the relationship between music and politics in this post:


My view is that music has often been used for political ends, but mostly suffers as a result.

yashu said...

There was still plenty of music with political messages, most of which can be boiled down to "Bush=Hitler".

Well, that right there's the reason there's less politics in music nowadays: Obama is president. If a Republican wins in 2012, I expect we'll see a resurgence of tiresome political pop songs.

edwardroyce said...

Personally my only issue with Dylan is that he sings like he has a mouthful of marbles.

If it weren't for websites dedicated to lyrics I wouldn't ever be able to understand what the man was actually trying to sing.

ken in sc said...

Plato was in favor of censoring music because he thought it was subversive to orderly government.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I saw Jason Aldean (never heard of him before Thursday when I got invited) at the Pepsi Center Friday and he closed the concert (country by no stretch) with Cowboy by Kid Rock.

Approval was neither delayed nor inhibited; I did my part.

Laika's Last Woof said...

Ziggy Marley is obviously not someone who believes that music is an artform; therefore he is not a real musician and thus has no standing to criticize.

Anyone who would call J. S. Bach and Miles Davis "clowns" is a tasteless, insipid philistine.

bgates said...

In the ’60s and ’70s, there was plenty of music for peaceful revolutions

Well, maybe the musicians of today ought to go back and look for some World Music that was the fruit of those peaceful revolutions. I bet you could get the rights to lots of songs from Southeast Asia from that period for cheap, as I imagine their authors were all murdered by the Khmer Rouge or the Vietnamese once the awful Americans left.

Kirk Parker said...

Real American,

"We can't even go the fucking store..."

Wow, where do you live? We sure don't have any of those stores around here!

kwood said...

The thoughts, be they of politics or entertainment, are not deep in today's music. I am in awe, sometimes, when I listen to something new on the radio, of just how low the bar is.

It's all passion and rage with absolutely nothing behind it.

"Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage"

Who the f*** are you kidding? Not to diss the Punkin's (they have a lot of great work and lyrics), but that's one example that comes to mind. There are others I've heard by bands I don't know and I am just floored by the clueless banality of the lyrics. The songs read like demo's, which is fine if it's a demo, but then they forget to fill in the actual lyrics, but somehow it all gets produces and put on the playlists anyways. No one really seems to care. Another song with a reggae riff, a hip hop beat and mindless lyrics about some bored trust fund hippie trying to get laid. whoohoo! (not)

John Mayer...gag a fuggin' MAGGOT! 100 songs about a bored upper middle class white kid trying to get laid.

I don't blame the artists, I guess, it's just the times we live in.

But, if there's nothing going on in their heads, there's nothing that's going to make it to the page anyways.

Most of pop music is just endlessly regurgitating progressively weaker copies of itself.

Who's doing it right? KT Tunstall comes to mind. An original voice with plenty worth hearing. Political? Not really, thank goodness.

Craig said...

If you don't like his duet with Damian Marley, check out the tune he wrote for CeeLo Green.


John Lynch said...

Musicians know nothing about politics, politicians know nothing about music.

sdferr said...

Like Ignacy Jan Paderewski, for instance? What of the Singing Revolution of Estonia?

Sigivald said...

No politics in the music?

I'm sick of too much - and too trite, too vapid - politics in music.

Maybe Mr. Marley's confused by the way that popular music is presented as being as political as it was in the Hippie Era?

Problem is, that apart from the Hippie Musicians, it wasn't all that political, as far as I can tell.