Thursday, October 12, 2006

Music and Politics

Earlier this week, I got an e-mail from a armed services veteran in a folk music group who took issue with the MySpace profile pic that I'm currently using, which I've also posted here, along with protest photos. The link is there if you want to get deeper into it, but the bottom line is: we agree to disagree.

One of the statements he made was that "a musician should be defined by his music, and not his politics." Sort of a broad statement, depending on how you look at it. There's a time and a place for everything. And much like the sixties when Vietnam was raging and the public was voicing their displeasure with a very unpopular war, I believe that the time is now for musicians who feel the call to step up to the plate and address the issue. There are plenty of artists who will avoid this and that's just fine. I just don't happen to be one of those artists.

Music for me is not a business, it's not something that I methodically plot out to gain dollars and attention. When called upon to entertain, that's something that I do. When I have the opportunity to express opinions in a situation where it may do some good as opposed to harm, then I exercise that right. If I'm invited to a church to perform bluegrass music, then that's what I do. If I'm scheduled to perform at a songwriter's festival with a variety of musical styles represented, then I'll break out songs that I feel will speak to the folks that come to hear me play. I don't bank on them liking what I do; that's a risk that you have to take and that's where working the balance between full-out protest singer and entertainer comes into play.

In any case - I play festivals where it's clear that anti-war songs would get me booed off the stage - does not playing them mean that I'm selling out my convictions to remain involved? I don't think so. When I'm at a birthday party for my daughter, and I know that in my heart, my concern for policies of the Bush administration is seething, it's still not the right time to say, "happy birthday dear - and while I have your attention, what do you think of Bush's desire to get rid of an all-volunteer army?" There's a time and a place for everything.

This blog is a place where I'm free to post what I want. It's representative of the whole enchilada, though I keep it mainly music-focused and within that sub-area, usually dulcimer-centric. I have a completely socio-political blog that folks can peruse if they're interested in my activism. Do I worry about the lines blurring? Not really. They're both part and parcel of the same individual in different modes. If someone at some festival decides that I can't be trusted to stick to the theme and I'm not invited to play, then that's a decision I'll have to live with. It hasn't happened yet - but it very well could, and I'm aware of that.

Fortunately, many folks in the dulcimer community are not so narrow-minded, nor are they necessarily full-fledged supporters of war OR the Bush administration. After all, many folkies and Americana afficionados are old hippies and we pretty much know where they stand about things.

I guess I'm posting this because I wanted to address the issue before it ever became an issue. Songs like "Casualties of Faith" and "Dear Mr. Bush" aren't the first political/theological songs I've written and they won't be the last. I do know when and when not to break them out, and that's what makes an entertainer; the knowledge of when to lay your cards on the table and when to keep them close to your chest. However - when you come to this blog - rest assured that they'll be face up so that you can get a good look at them. When I'm home, I'm as see-through as the Pope-mobile.

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