We Don't Need No Thought Control

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We Don't Need No Thought Control

I've written before about the intersection of music and politics, the artists who use their stage to voice concern for social issues that affect us all. There are certainly folks doing just that, and some of them have been at it for a good long while.

Roger Waters has never been one to bite his tongue when it comes to speaking out politically, and that holds true of late. On his last concert tour, he recreated Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Videos during the performance linked George W. Bush to Stalin. At the end of his 2008 Coachella show, Waters sent an inflatable pig flying over the crowd. The message "Don't be led to the slaughter" was on the pig's side accompanied by a cartoon of a bloody cleaver-wielding Uncle Sam.

His 1987 Radio K.A.O.S. record covered all sorts of political ground from globalization to nuclear threats, rampant militarism to over-consumption. He even stepped into the environmental ring, replete with statistics and well before the eco chic movement was fully underway.

In the midst of all we currently face, no doubt Waters' upcoming tour of The Wall will be equally outspoken and controversial. As for the themes present in the record, Waters "realized that the story in The Wall — of a young man who is alienated and defensive, because he's fearful — could be an allegory for a more universal story. We're all frightened of each other, and that makes us behave in ways that are sadly inhumane, like engaging in wars. I wanted to make this show more political."

Waters isn't alone in the 'old guy causing a ruckus' category. Neil Young is still out there touring after 50 years of making music. So is Bob Dylan, although he's veered off on some strange tangents what with his Victoria's Secret ad and Christmas album.

The resurgence of interest in Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is also an intriguing thing. The Nigerian musician who died of AIDS in 1997 was known as a political agitator back in his day, drawing the attention of legends like Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. He was beaten and jailed over 200 times for his activism; his mother killed when she was thrown from a window.

Mos Def, the Roots, Missy Elliot, Common, and other hip hop artists have sampled his recordings in their songs. Still, it has taken a Broadway play — Fela! — to really shine a spotlight on him. When the musical tested well and was headed to the Great White Way, Jay-Z, along with Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith, stepped in to produce the show giving it an extra pound or two of exposure. Alongside that, Fela's CDs are now being re-released and a film is in the works for 2011.

There are certainly plenty of issues to be outraged by these days. Wars, genocides, poverty, natural disasters, environmental destruction, political corruption, financial swindling... the list goes on and on, each one just another brick in the wall.



Comments [5]

Lake's picture

Here's my protest song......

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8cHxydDb7o

 

Love the Queen!!!

Lake

Conlite's picture

I am so out of date - thought

I am so out of date - thought you were talking about another Queen altogether.  Love this song!

Conlite's picture

My first favourite political

My first favourite political song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5JkHBC5lDs

Tex's picture

Nice! Dire Straits!

first that had an impact on me....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9BA6fFGMjI

Twitter Time @kdhales

Tex's picture

Pink Floyd......Part II