Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Dixie Chicks And Leftist Politics

The Dixie Chicks have managed to embroil themselves in some more controversy with some antiwar statements, but compared to some of the politics represented in music, especially in the 1960's and 70's, their political statements seem pretty tame. It is perhaps only because they choose to market themselves in a country music styling that their political comments seem to overshadow their music for some fans, and create a buyer backlash among some. But then again for the conservative country western market, that only years ago made Lee Greenwood's, "God Bless The USA" a major hit, and with solid sales in the South, the strongest homebase of George Bushism, it almost seems as though The Dixie Chicks may be bitting the hand that feeds them.

Of course there is no monolithic single political identity for all musical performers with country music or any type of music for that matter. But for the conservative country western market, some of the antiwar comments of The Dixie Chicks are a bit too much to take. But in the rock music world, those left leaning comments seem really tame.

During the 1970's, the Communist Party USA's official newspaper, THE PEOPLE'S WORLD, did a record review of the new Isley Brothers album, GO FOR YOUR GUNS, and praised it as a "class conscious" work. The radical band, Elephant's Memory which recorded some material with John Lennon in N.Y., was known for radical pieces such as the single, "POWER". John Lennon released, "POWER TO THE PEOPLE", one of the most revolutionary singles ever to get popular airplay. Jim Morrison of The Doors, penned some radical songs such as the prorevolutionary single, "TELL ALL THE PEOPLE", and the radical anthem, "FIVE TO ONE", which includes the lines, "They've got the guns, but we got the numbers. Gonna win, yeah, we're taking over". Country Joe McDonald was famous for the sharply antiwar, "I FEEL LIKE I'M FIXIN' TO DIE RAG", which included the lyrics, "Be the first one on your block to have your son come home in a box. I don't give a damn, next stop is Vietnam". During the Woodstock concert, he did a more outrageous version of the "FISH CHEER", substituting another "F" word for "F-I-S-H" in the original studio album version. Country Joe later added the sharply antiNixon song, "TRICKY DICKY" to an album. Despite all his sharply antiwar and leftist leanings, Country Joe McDonald is himself a Navy Vet. Even Jimi Hendrix who did his controversial version of "THE NATIONAL ANTHEM", was a former Army paratrooper who injured his back in 1963 and was in constant pain, contributing to later drug abuse problems to control the pain.

The blues rock oriented group of the 1960s, Canned Heat performed many antipolice and leftist leaning songs. "Sic 'Em Pigs", was a sharp assault on police. Lyrics in another song are "Police in Denver don't want no longhairs hanging around". "ELECTION BLUES" was an antiNixon piece. And the album FUTURE BLUES, Featured the group stranded on the moon in space suits with the American flag upside down.

John Kay of Steppenwolf penned some some strong thoughts in the song, "MONSTER". And in "JUSTICE DON"T BE SLOW", on the 1974 SLOW FLUX album, a strong antiNixon message recommended that Nixon be jailed for his crimes.

Folk music has seen some of the strongest protest songs, including some sharply written lyrics by Bob Dylan. Woody Guthrie, the lifelong socialist, penned the people's power, "THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND". Guthrie like many socialists and Communists during WWII, was one of the first to join the military. Many Communists were the first to fight Hitler and fascism by fighting as private soldiers during the Spanish War just before WWII, in which the Catholic Church gave some approval to both Franco and Hitler, and the German Luffewaffe began bombing the people of Spain into submission. World Communists volunteered to fight on behalf of the Spanish people to resist the axis of the Catholic Church, Hitler and Franco long before the U.S. officially entered the war against Fascism that overrun nations and murdered six million Jews and others in extermination camps. Joan Baez is another big name in protest folk music, and still appears at major protests and performs.

Some conservatives have been circulating a "50 top conservative songs" list recently on some blogs. It includes Bruce Springsteen's, "BORN IN THE USA", Paul Anka's, "HAVING MY BABY", The Beatles, "Taxman" and Alvin Lee of Ten Years After, who penned, "I'D LOVE TO CHANGE THE WORLD", which seemed nearly as concerned about Gays as taxes. Many British performers left England during the 1970's made a tax exodus to the U.S. or other places because British taxes could run up to 99% of a high income.

The Dixie Chicks seem to be drawing many arrows in the back right now for their antiwar or antiBush comments. But likely it is only because of the narrow and constrained music form of country music as well as the conservative buyers of this market that such barbs are being drawn by fans. In other music forms, sheer radicalism once flourished and still could, depending on how much social conditions degenerate because of war or poverty. Some of Woody Guthrie's best works were penned in the poverty of The Great Depression. Frustration and having your back against the wall because of problems that you feel powerless to control seems to inspire protest music every few years when major events act as a catalyst.

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