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The politics of country

Country Standard Time Editorial, September 2004

The role of music and politics has come to the fore during the summer thanks to the Bruce Springsteen-led Vote for Change tour with the expressed purpose of defeating President Bush at the polls on Nov. 2. Which, of course, means that they're in favor of Sen. John Kerry.

A slew of musicians will be touring states considered important to the Kerry campaign, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and others during a one-week period in October to raise money for the effort.

From the country side of life, the Dixie Chicks will be participating along with sometimes country flavored singer Sheryl Crow and several roots-oriented acts like My Morning Jacket.

The Chicks, of course, aren't the first group to participate in an election campaign. The Allman Brothers played numerous fundraising concerts for Jimmy Carter in 1976<.P> While the Chicks are giving a few concerts, others are participating in the political process as well. For example, Brooks & Dunn and Sara Evans both were at the Republican convention in New York. Trick Pony is campaigning for the president. Willie Nelson was at the Democratic convention.

Predictably some were not too pleased about the whole idea of musicians trying to influence the election by speaking out and participating in politics. Apparently the thinking was that musicians should sing and play their music and let others do the talking about politics, although we don't recall the Allmans getting any grief for raising money for Carter.

Exactly how political the October concerts will be, of course, is an unknown. One suspects that the focus will be on the music with performers urging concert goers to vote and get involved in the Kerry campaign.

Musicians don't give up their right to speak out just because they are public figures. What it does mean is they ought to use it with a greater sense of responsibility.

Not everyone, for example, may be in love with the political comments of Toby Keith in song or during interviews, but he certainly has the right to do so. At the very least, he forces listeners to think about what they are hearing. And if music makes you think and draws some sort of reaction - good or bad - there's something to be said for that instead of the typical love song.

Those not interested in hearing the Chicks or Trick Ponys of the world on the stump for their candidate should not bother attending a particular event with said group or artist. But neither should there be any boycott of artists either for political beliefs that are so clearly in the mainstream of what America is all about.