Politics and Music

Neil Young
Neil Young
Neil Percival Young, born November 12, 1945 in Toronto, is a Canadian singer-songwriter who is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of his generation. | Neil Young, Singer, Crosby Stills And Nash, Hat, Political,

The love-hate relationship between two passions.

I have a confession to make: I love Neil Young's music. I am a fan of Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty, among a pantheon of other leftist musicians.

Most of the time, it doesn't bother me at all that the music I find so entertaining every day as I listen to it while I work was written and/or performed by some liberal wacko. If I were to boycott every entertainer whose politics I disagree with, I would end up having to lock myself in some sort of self-imposed solitary confinement, where I would most assuredly go completely insane, as I currently tend to go a little crazy if I go just a short time without some good music playing in the background.

And while I don't always agree with the message, I like the music. I enjoy songs like Ohio or Born in the U.S.A, regardless of how much I might disagree with the message. I like good music, and most of the time, I'm willing to look beyond politics, because I want to be entertained.

But at the same time, when I'm looking for good music that entertains me, it bothers me when my entertainment decision is made political. I own a lot of Neil Young's and Bruce Springsteen's albums, but I won't be buying any more ' I made that decision a few years ago when Young released his anti-war album Living With War back in 2006, and again when I heard Springsteen's laughable and cringe-worthy Obama campaign song. As a classic rock addict, I know that I will never give up the music that I grew up with, and am still addicted to today, but at the same time, I don't really care for it when musicians decide to make my entertainment decisions political.

It was just a few years ago when the Dixie Chicks infamously decided to speak out about their dislike for then-president George W. Bush at a concert in London. The backlash was pretty much immediate, with their majority-conservative fan base criticizing the group, radio stations refusing to play their music, and people holding rallies to crush their Dixie Chicks CDs. Over time, the group, which had been massively popular, declined as they doubled-down on Natalie Maines's commentary.

Personally, while I didn't appreciate hearing Maines talk bad about the President of the United States to a foreign audience ' and I, like many others, decided to stop listening to her music after that ' some of the reactions were quite over-the-top. Crushing CDs with bulldozers, sending in hate letters, and even some death didn't take long for the controversy to go over-the-top. The next thing I knew, Tim Robbins was talking about a "chill wind blowing in this nation," accusing the Bush White House of being behind the backlash against leftist entertainers. It was all a bunch of BS, of course, but this seems to be where entertainers go whenever they're forced to deal with the consequences of their words or actions.

But this seems to be the thing that entertainers in America don't seem to understand: unless you have built up a fan-base based on your political views, be ready to lose fans when you espouse views that some people disagree with. The bottom line is this: most people don't want their entertainment choices to be politicized, and if they do, they will seek out those entertainers whose politics they know they will agree with...but it is only in a minority of cases that people will choose a politically driven album or movie that was specifically designed to be a slap-in-the-face to many of their fans' political beliefs.

It is always frustrating when I hear about an artist whose music I love injecting politics into the mix, and this is where I get my love/hate relationship between my passion for politics and my passion for music. I love Pink Floyd (in fact, I'm listening to them as I write this), so I get a little miffed when I hear about Roger Waters making yet another anti-Semitic statement during a performance. And when artists like Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, and Heart go apoplectic over conservatives or Republicans using the chorus from one of their songs as filler at a campaign event, it gives me a headache and often necessitates a switch over to the more conservative world of country music.

In the end, even though I am a massive political junkie, I very much prefer my entertainment decisions to be based in entertainment, not politics. For me, it's very much like the boycotting of certain corporations who support this or that cause that I disagree with. For a while, I tried getting on the boycott bandwagon, but when you start looking at which stores support which causes, and then get into which products at which stores might be manufactured by which corporations that support which causes, it can all-too-easily turn a simple act like grocery shopping into a headache-inducing cacophony of confusion, until I just want to lock myself back into solitary and listen to Dark Side of the Moon until I can think straight again...

Comment on Disqus

Comment on Facebook

Updated Aug 12, 2017 12:08 PM EDT | More details


©2017 AND Magazine, LLC
5 Columbus Circle, 8th Floor
New York, New York 10019 USA

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without express written permission from AND Magazine corporate offices. All rights reserved.