The artist’s public political neutrality Mr Greenwood? Not this time!
As America gears up to swear in Trump as the 45th president I’ve been watching the brouhaha from across the pond. I voted from Italy, which is where I currently reside, and it is monumentally frustrating yet oddly comforting to watch events unfold from afar. The distance certainly affords me a bit of objectivity. I am sure that U.S. television is bombarding it’s citizens with rhetoric from both sides of the fence in an unending stream. Here in Italy we are only hearing snippets as the earthquake and subsequent avalanche which buried the hotel Rigopiano in Abruzzo are currently the headlining item. The hope instilled by the discovery of eight people found alive after 48 hours buoying this nation in the midst of tragedy.
Think of all the songwriters out there scratching their heads and trying to put the state of the country; the unrest, the unease to music. There are tens of thousands of songs born from this turmoil that we will never hear, but which so many are compelled to write nonetheless. So I was researching for another of my very own thinly veiled anti Trump songs when I came across an interview by Country singer Lee Greenwood that served as the impetus for this blog. In an interview with Fox news, ( yeah Fox news- know your enemy ;). ) Mr. Greenwood criticises artists that have come out against Trump or who have refused to sing at his inauguration. He says; “An entertainer should never use their stage as a pulpit to talk about politics or their personal agenda. You’ve been hired to sing and do the best you can to entertain your audience…” My immediate thought was wait, but as a songwriter isn’t it part of our job to reflect through the prism of our own experiences and realities what we see happening around us? Does that mean we should shut a blind eye to the current President elect’s many and varied failings in the name of unity?
So, okay, admittedly I get not taking sides publicly. I think Bob Dylan is probably the master at that. Refusing to explain his lyrics, and not playing the game on any level (who doesn’t pick up their Nobel?!) has created an air of mystery around what exactly his political and even religious beliefs are. He, as I think a songwriter ought, seems to be looking at the much larger picture. However that doesn’t include selling oneself at any cost. His thoughts are there in his lyrics and he IS picking sides and he IS talking about politics. Mr. Greenwood, despite his claims to keep his politics out of his music, is speaking through his actions as to where his allegiance lies by choosing to sing at the inaugurations of Reagan, George HW Bush, George W Bush and now Trump.
My feelings are that President elect Trump’s, in just a few short hours, gallingly, President Trump’s, behaviour forces us to supersede this idea of the artist’s public political neutrality. Trump himself through his words and deeds leaves us with little choice. Vote yes, be engaged in the process sure, Americans united certainly, however patriotism to my mind does not include blindly following such a self serving bully of a man who makes and breaks promises as if they are of no worth, who himself does not honour every person that resides within the country he proposes to run as a corporation, whose man of the people discourse speaks more to his ignorance than to an effort to speak the language of the people. Politics are a dirty business, many a greater man than Trump began with idealism and was ground down by the constant compromise necessary. Nothing I have seen so far convinces me that Trump will rise to the occasion. So I will use my stage, such as it is… I will raise my voice in admiration of those artists who have taken a stand against the incoming. If there were a time for neutrality this is not it.