I grew up in the 1960s. I was part of the movement for freedom, justice, love, peace and brown rice!
My heroes were social commentators such as Bob Dylan, Tom Lerher, Lenny Bruce, Allan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Joni Mitchell…and many more! While some were smoking dope, I embraced Transcendental Meditation and vegetarianism. I sincerely believed that culture was advancing to an enlightened state. The Kennedy assassination should have been a clue to the naiveté of that dream. I should have known that everything, from high art to low desires, is controlled by economic considerations. As Dylan noted, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”
The fact that we are an oligarchy dressed up as a democracy sickens me. Watching the world plunge greedily into a festering vat of inequality, genocide, prejudice and humidity sends me reeling for a porcelain refuge!
I believe that serious artists have a moral imperative to educate, illuminate and CHANGE the world. When I worked with James Brown he was very passionate about this. But look around. Change is being created by the oligarchs, not by the artists. The majority of contemporary pop and jazz makes no social comment whatsoever. And for all the talk about women’s liberation for the last 60 years, I look around and I see inequality. But worse, I see women everywhere slapping on the make-up, pumping silicone into their breasts and actually wearing underwear with a fake cameltoe! Sorry, but have you really come a long way, baby?
And I do a lot of teaching with young people. Most know no music more than 5 years old. And when I ask them why they want to be in music, most of them say money and fame.
All this is wrong. I can’t and won’t shut up about this. I don’t have a lot of money and the media isn’t giving me a voice. So I do what I can on a small scale – social media – writing songs - playing notes.
Just as I believe jazz music has an artistic imperative to break new artistic ground (and not just play really clean licks), I believe songs should SAY something. Something that provokes thought, attacks the bad guys and promotes… yes, peace, love and brown rice!
So “You Can’t Get There From Here” is my song to the oligarchs, the bankers and corporations. “Live As One” is about the fact that, although some advances have been made, the world is still rife with institutionalized racial prejudice. “This World Is Mine” (sung by the great anti-fracking campaigner Leo Sayer) is about a guy who sees the world as a terrible place and creates his own interior planet – a world the ‘bad guys’ can’t understand and will never enter. “Why Is This World So Strange?” is another song jamming on the same intellectual riff by a guy who hankers for a simpler, gentler, more amusing world as it was “when Groucho smoked cigars”.
Although I don’t expect it, I hope somebody listens.