Music and politics

A post yesterday about U2 prompted me to listen to them today. And one comment from yesterday got me to thinking. The author wrote dismissively that they should "keep their politics to themselves." (Those may or may not have been the exact words, but that gets to the point.) As I've been listening this afternoon, I've thought: I'm neither a born-again Christian nor a political leftie, but I do love this band. And then I thought further: If I listened only to bands or singer-songwriters whose politics were like mine, I surely wouldn't spin a whole lot of recordings. (For the record, I consider myself a radically pragmatic centrist with occasional libertarian leanings. Got any bands who'd fill that bill?) I care about the music, and not about what the people making that music happen to believe. Am I alone in this? Do others dismiss certain artists because of their politics -- or religion or the kind of car they drive or whatever else?
music mixed with religion and politics goes back to the beginning of time. i suppose those offended by any art, try to stop it.....that also goes back to the beginning. I think arguing about politics on this site just upsets everyone, and distracts from the big picture...acting like kids.
I could care less about an artists politics or religious beliefs, but I do care if that artist feels compelled to constantly remind me of their beliefs on stage or in their music. It's just a turn off for me.
I agree with Cruz123. I get very, very tired of being hit over the head with some artists' political viewpoints. (And, why is it almost always the left leaning musicians who do this?)

One other thing that I have found (IMHO, anyway), is that when an artist starts putting lots of political spin in their music, it is because their talent level has dropped to such a point that they have no talent left, or anything else to write about, and figure (rightly so), that the left leaning music lovers will just drool all over themselves when their music comes out. (The Grammy's and the Oscar's awards do seem to prove my point.)

I don't mind an artist having a political viewpoint, (hey, we all do), but they should just keep it to themselves, and don't use their stage act as a bully pit. I don't pay good money to listen to their political rants.

Several artists, including the aforementioned U2, have permanently turned me off their music with their ranting and raving like lunatics.

My two cents worth anyway.
U2 has been leaning to the left for almost thirty years. If you're just noticing it now you haven't been paying attention.
If one wishes to avoid music with political statements (or any other personally
offensive statements), then perhaps one is better off restricting their
selections to instrumentals.

Even then, there's no guarantee.

In fact, avoid the Arts altogether.
Whoa! Artists getting political because they lost their talent????

You mean all those no talent bums like Bob dylan, woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, neil Young, and a hundred others? Many of their best songs are political.

If you don't agree with what they're saying, don't listen, but writing about something you believe in is something that many great artists have in common.
I attended a Roger Waters show which was excellent until he took 10 minutes mid-show to bash Bush, Blair, & Iraq to lead into "Bring the Boys Back Home". It was really off putting and took much of the savor from the show. Many artists do this kind of thing.

You pay your money to hear the music and see the performance of an artist. If politics are included in the music you know going in what to expect. But to have artists use the crowd assembled for a performance to espouse a political bent or speak from a political agenda on the stage is to me unprofessional regardless of whether the crowd agrees or not.

If I paid money to hear James Carvell or Karl Rove speak at an event then I expect a political agenda and it what I want to hear. I would be disappointed if they sang and did not talk politics.
Musicians who use concerts as political platforms are well known: U2, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Toby Keith, Dixie Chicks, and the list goes on. Anyone who attends a concert and is surprised by this is woefully out of touch.

The solution is simple. Don't attend.
I'm complainin' to the 'american federation of musicians'....oh shit!..a union? and all those country music guys are in it? thing you know they'll be singin' to babies and teens...tryin' to sell 'em the stuff...and puttin' it on TV. thank god for disney...what? s.a.g.,and others are in on this too? oh noooooo...
I think there is a significant difference between putting politics into your music, and taking time out during a concert to preach politics. The former doesn't bother me at all. The latter I find annoying.

With respect to putting politics into the music, it's no different than the artist putting any other sort of message into his/her music. It's what they want to say. I once read that Neil Young regards "Ohio", which is certainly political, as the best song he ever wrote while with CSN&Y.

I also once read an interview with U2 members. Even though their music can be political, the other members of the group find it annoying when Bono goes on one of his speeches during their concerts. They tolerate it but they don't really like it. If he goes on too long, they have some signals for him to put a lid on it and get back to the concert.
Tvad is right we know what they believe, so the choice is ours. I don't agree with a lot of musicians religious or political views. But if I like the way they tell it and the the way the band helps them say it, I am buying the CD or LP. The beauty of the music is we choose who we want to listen to. It keeps the mind open and at the same time you get nice bass lines, or great guitar riffs, etc. Let 'em speak, at the end of the day, no one changed my point of view. Maybe they gave me food for thought and some tunes to enjoy. And I get to decide who's music, that sometimes conflicts with my point of view tolerable. In reality, when two people think exactly a like, one of them isn't needed.
I am no politcially correct person, but I agree with both sides a bit. I took a relative to a Barbara Streisand concert in 1994 (before she was way over the top politically - or so I thought) at a price of $300 a ticket. Then, in the middle of the show, she does a 30 minute video tribute to Bill Clinton. I paid to hear her SING - and yes, if she had political lyrics in her songs I should have been aware of that - but this was riduculous - espeically at the price of admission. Many of the artists I listen to have lyrics and songs that contain views I don't agree with - but I have that choice we are talking about to listen or not or to buy ot not.

That said, I'll tell you what REALLY makes me mad on a related topic. Back in 1988, I actually waited in line to get front row tickets for a then favorite atrist of mine. He was black - I am white and that has never entered the picture for me. Back then, I lived in Arizona and the then governor, Evan Mecham, had vetoed a bill to make Martin Luther King Day a paid holiday for state employees. Then, the day before this concert, this artist cancelled because he was protesting Evan Mecham's decision.

Needless to say, I never went to hear this artist again or even listened to his music again I was so pissed! WE, his fans, are the people who made him famous, who stood in line for his tickets, who respected his craft and bought his music. Why were WE the ones punished and to made pay the price for a governor's veto? BULLSHIT! He can go vote, he can use the money he got from our concert to stage his own protest or rally - fine. But this one had me seething that we, his loyal fans, paid for a politican's act.
This was my response to a similar post back in '06, but even this needs to be modified as the political influence at live shows has gotten even worse.

"Musicians that have this need to stop during portions of their shows and shove their own political or ethical views down thier audiences throats is a huge turnoff to me and probably the vast majority of folks that paid their money to hear a show, not an infomercial- with Springsteen and U2 being the largest big ticket offenders.
Maybe these worldly problem solvers should tear a page out of the Grateful Dead playbook, for 30 years, just shutup and let the music deliver their message, then let the people do with it what they want, or don't want".

Since then, I've put CSNY on a lifelong ban, the last show I saw of theirs a few summers back was worse than a Michael Moore movie(and incidentaly, the music couldn't shine the shoes of the 2000 and 2001 tours). Never a huge Springsteen fan, I would still go to see him occasionally as I respect his longevity and raw output- I've also shelved him as his wrath of politics is to much to tolerate, and lastly, The Dead have turned the corner towards politics after 40 years also.

What gives here?
It's really dissapointing. I could care less what anybodies political views are. There are times and places to express them, but I have a fundamental issue with having them forced upon anybody after they have paid big bucks to see and hear the music.
i wish i had time to comment on this thread, but i volunteered to go paint drapes over some michelangelo nudes before the big beatle record burning.
Agree or disagree with their messages - the one thing you can say about pop stars is that they're egos are so big that they all think because they happen to be holding a mic, for some reason you should care about what they think of politics.
Shut up and sing.

Thank you very much.
I agree with markphd when he says: "I think there is a significant difference between putting politics into your music, and taking time out during a concert to preach politics. The former doesn't bother me at all. The latter I find annoying."

I have a question for those who would defend the concert preachers. Would you feel the same if you payed to see a performer and got a 30 minute anti-abortion diatribe?
I listen to music to be entertained.
Any musician that thinks I give a rats behind as to what their political views are has seen my last dollar.
Most of them are hypocrites that create more polution and consume more resouces than a small nation.
Last year Paul McCartney was bragging about a hybrid Lexus that he had purchased. You didn't hear that it was delivered by a charter 737 from Japan to England that consumed more fuel than 100 Escalades would circling the planet.

These idiots are so out of touch, surrounded by psychofants, that they actually think they make a difference.

Most of them are liberal- redistribute the wealth as long as they have a license to print the stuff.
I have a question for those who would defend the concert preachers. Would you feel the same if you payed to see a performer and got a 30 minute anti-abortion diatribe?
Minkwelder (Answers)

Yes, because I support their First Amendment rights.

If you don't like to hear politics at concerts, then don't attend the ones with politically vocal performers.

It's pretty simple.
most artists are progressive to begin with,whether they are writers,poets,singers etc.etc.those performers that have their roots from the 60's or 70's ,they are even more so.politics has always been intertwined with song since forever.
like the poster previously said..don't go,listen or buy.listen to the lawrence welk reruns and new age music.
I LOVE POLITICALLY SLANTED MUSIC. The world would be poorer without the varied songs like Big Bill Broonzy's "This Train", Bruce Springsteen's "Youngstown", The Clash's "Washington Bullets", The Beatles "Revolution", Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man", Green Day's "American Idiot", and U2's "Pride" in our daily lifes. You would have to live in a cave not to give these artists their fare shaking in reshaping popular culture. Why sit back in silence? I see no reason that they not share their views openly in public as an extention of their celebrity.
I personally hate it when foriegn bands critisize the US politically - they just need to "Shut Up and Sing" just like Audiofeil said.

Did you drop $100 on the concert ticket to hear an artist perform or speak to their politics?
Tvad, I respect your opinion and usually agree with most of what you have posted here on Agon. I STAUNCHLY defend our First Amendment rights, no problem with that. But the issue I see here is difference between artists playing their ususal repertoire - political lyrics and all - versus taking advantage of a paying audience and, in essence, doing the old "bait & switch" and digressing off into using the stage as a political soapbox to further their own personal agenda.

I am sure most of the audience already knows the artist's political views - so why do they need to hijack the concert? If you hire me to fix your plumbing or represent you in court, you don't want to hear (nor have you paid to hear) me go off on my own political agenda. Yes, you may listen to me and decide to engage me, but that is YOUR option and decision. I would venture to guess that the majority of the paying public, and that would include many of the fans that are politically aligned with any group or musician, would prefer to hear the songs and music they paid to hear rather than a sermon they didn't. Just my $.02
we'd all be listening to pat boone and watching daniel boone on tv today had censorship won out(live..and on record) in the 1960's......thats right, even pat boone speaks out.
Fmpnd, do you believe kvetching about it here is going to stop artists from speaking their mind when they have a platform at a performance?

I don't.

Don't attend. Simple.
It's apparent that many people don't want artists making art, but instead expect bought and paid for minstrels. Real artists challenge their audiences. Is it that difficult to not reduce music and concerts to mere commodities?
They (the musicians) have the freedom to say what they want to say and we have the freedom to listen or not. I like it this way.

There are places where the musicians are told what they can and can't say and listeners are told what they can and can't listen to.

In the case of the Taliban music just isn't allowed at all. Music and audio shops are attacked and burned as are girls schools. A HUGE and definite NO THANKS!
How and the hell did you last few posters devolve into thinking we want censorship? Unbelievable how off base some of you get. Last I checked, the government wasn't telling me what CDs to buy, who to listen to or who's concerts to attend. Serves me right for trying to have a logical dialogue in this place. Stupid me, and to think, all this time I could have been listening to all those artist you think I want censored. FMPND out.
How does an artist that does only instrumental music challenge his audience to political thought with his music?Does that make them just a minstrel?

What classical artists stop during a symphony to launch a political diatribe?

What if any movie you went to had a 10 minute segment of the director's polictics in the middle of the movie?

Artists are asking us to pay to see them perform - musicians, actors and athletes alike, but only musicians it seems get to stop in the middle of a paid performance to espouse their political views.
I don't believe most posters here advocate censorship.

IMO, most folks attend concerts to hear music based, loosely or otherwise, on the artists' recordings. Much of that music contains political and/or sociological inferences which is not new. One can go back to the slavery era and find songs laden with oppression, protestation, and discrimination.

Those concepts are what draw many of us to the music and the concerts. I go to hear the music not the artist rant and rave about his/her latest cause many of which are totally hypocritical. Case in point are the artists supporting greeen this and green that while flying from city to city in private jets. Or the animal rights activists with their steak dinners and/or fur coats.

Not a right wing nut or liberal weenie, just a casual observation.

Then again, I could be wrong.
Real artists challenge their audiences.
I didn't say that the challenge has to be political. As a matter of fact I didn't characterize the challenge at all.

Nor did I advocate censorship. I don't see how my comments could be read so.

Few people like being preached to, well at least outside of religious establishments. Good artist disguise their messages, great artists nearly make the message invisible. But it's their right out in the open for those who want to look. I once went to see a gangster film and instead saw a Marxist inspired analysis of how capitalism destroys family ties. Most people didn't mind the message -- the film won a Best Picture Academy Award.

What I find odd in so many of the posts is the attitude that I paid for a concert and somehow I didn't get what I wanted/expected. I got no sympathy for that attitude. A concert experience isn't like buying a tube of toothpaste. If you only want what you know you're going to get, then go to a prostitute. If you want the frequently unexpected and challenging, then get a wife.

Fmpnd, how dare that black man act upon his principles and inconvenience me!

Without coming within a mile of this debate, I only want to point out that instrumental music can very definitely be political. Any art that challenges conventional notions of beauty (from rock 'n' roll to Rite of Spring) can be seen as subversive and has often divided its audience politically. Politically charged lyrics and lectures are not necessary, though they can certainly help piss off those who remained indifferent to the music.

Indeed, some would argue that politics define art and that without politics all art is merely craft. I wouldn't necessarily support that statement, but I get the point.


Point taken. I was referring to actions within the confines of a paid performance that have nothing to do with the performance itself.

Political viewpoints in lyrics, outrageous performances (Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson) or instrumental music that challenges the conventional is part of the art and something that I accept.
First,let me say that I respect anyones thoughts or beliefs on politics.This is a free country(for the most part)one can choose to voice their opinion any way they want.Second,you do not have to listen to anyone's views, you can always turn off the media or not buy tickets or recordings.Most of the artists that include this type of behavior are well known so, don't support them if you this bothers you. Personally, I do not care for the political banter at a concert so I do not attend shows by artists that do this,my choice. I got blindsided by this at a Jackson Browne show several years ago.I felt totally ripped off,he will never see any of my money again,also my choice.Remember,everyone has a right to convey their message and everyone has a right to not listen to it.
USSR used to have problems with some purely instrumental stuff. Oh those subversive violins and oboes, always causing problems and stirring things up! Or was it the violas? Sort them out in the Gulag!
Ah yes Onhhwy61, you really are something. You have NO idea who you are talking to or what you are saying. You can try that sensationalist, race-bating crap all you want with someone else but it isn't gonna fly with me. I lived, ate, cried and breathed music as a former professional musician with my bandmates who were my best friends and like family - three of whom were Hispanic, one of whom was Albanian and two of whom were black and we saw it all in the 60s and 70s.

The "black" man that you childishly, naively and erroneously insinuate inconvenienced me by acting upon his principles also chose to ply his craft for me and all his other disgusting white fans (as YOU would characterize them) who made him a multi-millionaire. We had NO problem with him acting upon his principles - but suppose in your all-knowing wisdom you can explain to me how cancelling a concert for all of his loyal fans, who did NOT necessarily vote for the bill the artist protested or did nothing other than happen to live in a state where ONE governor did something the artist didn't like, was the "right" thing to do to those fans? With that logic, I am sure you are the type of person that would punish an innocent son if the other son lied to you and then somehow justify it. And don't give me some lame excuse that he brought the issue to our attention that way. An artist that popular, unlike you or me, has plenty of clout and a massive public platform available with the media and his attendant publicity to get his point across in ways other than cancelling a concert.

Get over yourself. If this artist were white, would you have made the same unsubstantiated comment? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, IMHO, ANY artist, white, black or otherwise that takes our his/her private feelings over a public act to the sole detriment of his/her loyal fans is a hypocrite in my book and always will be.
Rhetorically speaking, are foriegn bands/singers protected by our First Amendment? Should they be?

I used to roadie for The Clash in 1982. I would expect nothing less from seeing that band in their day using onstage banter to explain their political positions adjacent to a song. That is what made that music so inspiring and relevant to me. And "Washington Bullets" and "Straight to Hell" still seems fresh and relevant to me today as it was 27 years ago.

I respect current politically motivated artists like Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Bright Eyes, Rancid and Green Day (and a cast of other bands) who choose to use the stage to FREELY express their total views on subjects they believe in. I have no problem paying $100 for a total experience, songs and banter. In the end, music works the best when it invokes a black and white reaction around an issue--anything grey is boring and is the color of so much disposable music made today. I will take bands of conviction any day. People in Tehran will not be playing Lady Gaga's Pokerface at their revolution, but I am sure Sam Cooke's "A change is gonna come" and Bob Dylan's "The Times are a changing" would not be out of place or time in context to today's events. A lot of this music will hold up against the test of time.
great art generally has a 'point of view'. you don't 'have to' buy a ticket to 'anything'. even cal thomas and toby keith dig jimmy webb. i loved merle haggard and david allen coe, and didn't agree with anything they ever said.

The key as you stated "as long as its in the music". A separate political rant does not have to be part of the performance I paid to see.

If you freely express your views on a street corner I can walk away or argue on even terms but in a concert venue where I paid for a seat and entertainment I have very limited recourse. Leave and lose my money or shout my opinion without a PA system. Where is my equal freedom of expression?

If they will perform for free I will listen to their political viewpoints because I lose nothing walking away.
the arrogance of you liberals to have all of the decent musicians is quite shocking. you ought to just shut your quiche-holes, too, every name of a famous lefty artist that you throw out there just makes you sound more and more intolerant of country music.

and so, as i'm reading this thread, i am for the first time feeling the pain of the conservative music fans who have no decent musicians to whom they can give their money in good conscience (i'm assuming, of course, they've already acquired l'oeuvre complet de ted nugent).

but then i remembered a little gem that you can find online by doing a web search for the phrase "youtube young con anthem", i'm sure these guys would put any money you send them to good use....
Fmpnd, got your e-mail. It really wasn't necessary on your part, but it is a testament to your high character. I would have directly answered you, but I just completed moving and I have a new internet provider. I can receive e-mails but not send them out. I need to reset something, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Anyway, keep fighting the good fight.
That guy should have posted 25 years ago. Maybe he was too young or just woke up. U2 has always been about politics and social issues. They just expanded their viewpoint from Ireland to the world.
Beethoven for more conservative right winger. Brahms, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, et al. for everybody else.
I not care much about a musicians politics. I might not listen to their music if I thought is sent out a negative message to society, however.
I have an idea.
The Musicians who want to rant about there political views with the captive audience in concert should make an announcement at the beginning of the show.

That announcement could be like,” After the Concert, the group (Artist) will spend a few moments sharing his / hers political viewpoints."

Watch how many people split after the music is over...

There is a photo on the cover on the new Woodie Guthrie box set that shows him in a coffee shop with a sticker on his guitar that says "This guitar kills facists".

I totally disagree that the audience should dictate the terms that an artist follows. You have it all wrong, IMHO.
What makes this country great is free expression in open forums. You are there to see the artist, and their thoughts are just as important as their music. What holds true for Woodie in 1930s, holds true today.

It will never be only about the music. If you believe that, listen to instrumental bands. If this upsets you: quit going to see politically-minded bands. That is your freedom of choice.
Rock Musicians are in most cases under-educated, over confindent idiot liberals.

Country Musicians are in most cases under-educated, over confident idoit conservatives.

I think I am going to stick to instrumental Jazz and Classical. At least in those instances when I don't agree with one side or the other, I think they have had enough education and real world experience to make a logical arguement.
I find musicians, on the whole, are bright, talented and hard working (all genres). I respect that they can have political opinions too and have something to say.