Thursday, October 11, 2007
I found this picture of Woody Guthrie online the other day. I like Woody Guthrie--I don't listen to his music very often, but I like the IDEA of Woody Guthrie. He was a great songwriter and an overall cool guy. I have watched "The Man in the Sand" and I have loved most of the songs (all except the Natalie Merchant ones) on the Wilco/Billy Bragg Mermaid Avenue series. This picture makes him look like a badass--the I-dare-you facial expression, the cigarette, the hot woman behind him drinking a beer--it feels so bohemian, so important.
Ultimately, I think this picture is an emblem of what rock and roll aspired to be--the idea expressed in graffiti, defacing a guitar to tell us the music it emits is deadly to those who wield power irresponsibly. And, ultimately, this is what has become so ridiculous about rock and roll.
How can we listen to protest songs, be they old (Buffalo Springfield) or new (Pearl Jam) without realizing how powerless they are? I must say, though, that there was a time I believed that music could change the world. But experience teaches us otherwise. "Rocking the Vote" has not given us a utopia. In fact, it couldn't even prevent our current fascist-in-chief.
Music is powerful. It soothes us. It provides us comfort and inspiration, but its power is personal, not political.