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Are Musicians responsible for this election mess?

By Paul Burton

(Published in Music Revue, Jan., 2001. Copyright Paul Burton. All Rights Reserved.)

Depending on your politics, or your taste in music, you can blame, or credit, the following bands, performers, and songwriters for backing, or not backing, your candidate in the most recent presidential election.

Many of the most liberal/progressive and politically active musicians of the past two decades leant their support to Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader. The legendary consumer advocate, corporation basher and would-be spoiler (who of course asked the salient question, "What's to spoil?") was endorsed by noted anti-nuke rockers Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt, all-American hemp hero Willie Nelson, grunge god Eddie Vedder, former friend of Jerry Brown, Linda Ronstadt, and legendary DJ Casey Kasem. Vedder performed at several of Nader's super rallies, which filled a dozen 10,000 plus arenas, along with punk rock priestess Patti Smith, bluesman Ben Harper and independent righteous babe Ani DiFranco.

Meanwhile Tennessee farm lad Al Gore picked up mega support from other liberal musical icons and Democratic Party backers like geriatric harmony boys Nash, Stills and Crosby, bathhouse diva Bette Midler, lower case chanteuse k.d. lang, aging tunesmith and cultural imperialist Paul Simon, and the raspy throated drummer Don Henley (who also donated to the Nader campaign). Puffy haired rocker Jon Bon Jovi, the always fun-seeking Sheryl Crow, and latter day hippie Lenny Kravitz performed, without irony, the Beatles' classic "Revolution" at a Gore fundraiser, showing that great songs can be misused to sell weak candidates just as they can be used to sell soda pop or cars. Gore and the Democratic National Committee also received hefty financial backing from elite players like David Geffen, Barbara Streisand and Berry Gordy. Second generation musical clowns Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa each threw $1,000 into Gore's treasure chest, despite protestations from the ghost of Frank Z., who shredded second spouse Tipper when she vainly tried to impose her moral authority over rock lyrics in the mid-1980's through the censorious Parents Music Resource Center.

Predictably, recovering alcoholic and execution king G. Dubya Bush won the dixiecrat states for his Republican Party by enlisting the support of such cutting edge country western deep thinkers as longhaired redneck Travis Tritt, ugly American Hank Williams, Jr., patriotic musak maven Lee Hazlewood, Paleolithic swinger Pat Boone and twangy-haired heartthrob Loretta Lynn. Out of shape soul princess Chaka Khan mysteriously lent her voice to the Bush chorus at the Republican Party convention, which featured a get-out-the-vote harangue from the chiseled jaw of the aptly named "wrestler" The Rock. Meanwhile, Brit-rocker Sting stayed neutral until the Bush crowd began playing his hit "Brand New Day" at campaign rallies. Deeply embarrassed, the Sting man threatened to sue the bastards to stop them from misusing his hopeful anthem.

At press time, non-voters and anarchists seem to have won the day as legal wrangling over vote counts in the great Sunshine state have held up declaration of a winner. While many Gore supporters blame Nader for siphoning off their man's votes (as if he was entitled to them) and throwing a monkey wrench into the works with his candidacy, other, saner voices are celebrating the opportunity to expose the chinks in the armor of The System. Some of us recall the prescient words of Jefferson Airplane singer Paul Kantner, who cynically noted back in 1968, "Electoral politics in America is a futile, and feudal, system." One cynic proposed a novel solution to the impasse. Floridians Gloria Estefan, representing Bush, and Jimmy Buffett, for Gore, would down margaritas while singing alternating choruses of "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Who Let The Dogs Out" until one passes out and the other is declared winner.

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