Should music be politicized? Do musicians have a duty to get engaged in the current political nightmare and terrible mess we are going through? I was thinking about this after Bob Weir’s concert last night, a show that was not political at all, but some people in the crowd were talking about their experience at Desert Trip, where Roger Waters didn’t take any detour, and openly trashed Donald Trump during his set. He used a slide show of Trump caricatures and the words ‘CHARADE’, ‘JOKER’ as well as a few of his more deplorable quotes, and he also paraded an enormous inflatable pig on which you could read ‘DIVIDED WE FALL’, ‘FUCK TRUMP AND HIS WALL’ and ‘ARROGANT, LYING, RACIST, SEXIST PIG.’ He even shared his controversial and pro-Palestinian opinion: ‘I encourage the government in Israel to end the occupation.’
Several people attending Bob Weir’s concert said it was not the place to get political, they were there to have a good time and didn’t care for Waters’ views on US politics… really? Should we go to a Bob Weir concert, very good by any means, and get comfortable nursing a beer, a joint and plenty of nostalgia while avoiding any political view,… or should we go to a Roger Waters’ show and cheer to his ‘Fuck Trump’ pig balloons? Should art be political, always political?
I once interviewed a young artist who was fronting a very politically engaged band, and I told him that many of my favorite singer-songwriters were not political, to what he answered, ‘but art is always political’, ‘every time you put something of yourself in this world, you make a political statement’. This made me think.
Of course art can be more or less political, you rarely look for politics in a simple love song, but we have to consider the larger meaning of political, meaning that, as long as you transmit an opinion, shake up others’ ideas, and hopefully shock an entire crowd/epoch/era, you are making good art, political art,… following the idea that art should disturb the comfortable, according to the famous Cesar A. Cruz quote. Art can be considered political any time it does not comfortably align with the current status quo:
So were these people wrong to be shocked by Roger Waters’ display of politics at Desert Trip? Sure, there was about zero subtlety in what he presented during his show, ‘FUCK TRUMP AND HIS WALL’ was as direct as you can go, and it may have been this presentation which shocked people? But the thing is that Pink Floyd has always been political, have you ever listened to ‘Animals’, ‘The Wall’, ‘The Final Cut’? Waters is very active politically, has always been, he has been very outspoken during Bush’s reign and in these crazy times it was completely expected that Trump would become his target. His art has always been about politics, and may be we need more Roger Waters right now.
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So Roger Waters’ was harshing their day, was he? Not surprised. John Lennon and his wife were so political they were targeted by the US government. Paul McCartney hated the political. In country rock, you can be political. But only the right way. If you are the Dixie Chicks, you lose your career. If you are for the neo-Confederacy, true blue American, that’s good stuff.
General rule of thumb: If you’re a nobody on an undercard and you’re obviously political, you’ll be ignored or told to knock it off if you want to get anyway. You will as the annoying nail to be hammered down. If you’re Bob Dylan, then you’re the bard, the old font of knowledge and opinion for the ages.
The very question itself is ridiculous… Music is Art, Art is life, life is Political. It is the apathy that is the dangerous part, and this very question shows you the level of apathy that is in general acceptance today.
Music is a powerful tool that helped to stop the Vietnam war, and if the points you are making are true, which Roger Waters is, then the act is truly self sacrificial and brave in today’s world.
I respect people with strong views, and I respect artists who have empathy for others, and dedicate their art to their beliefs.
We need more Roger Waters and Bruce Springsteen’s, not more Beibers and Booty’s