Monday, August 07, 2006

Patti Smith: the last rocker with a social conscience left?

From Jon Pareles' NY Times report on Lollapalooza, in Chicago this past weekend:
It had one stage devoted to music for children, where none other than the punk-rock poet Patti Smith performed on Sunday afternoon. There, in one of the festival’s most blunt political moments, she sang a newly written song about children killed by bombs in Lebanon, with bitterly graphic imagery: “limp little bodies caked in mud.”

Is anyone else in the US pop culture field saying anything that is even a little bit critical about Lebanon?

This sentence from Pareles' report seems to capture the current state of pop music: "The new Lollapalooza happens only in Chicago; it’s also clean-cut, having made peace with corporate sponsorship and Chicago’s civic pride."

And, from another Pareles report:
Lollapalooza, meanwhile, is branded every which way: on stages, on the field, in its advertising. Its main sponsor is AT&T, and I have to wonder if Lollapalooza's new rectangular logo, with a few letters on each line, has been remade in the image of a telephone keypad. (Meanwhile, AT&T is webcasting parts of the festival at Does all the corporate presence make any difference to music that's rarely nonprofit by intention? "Enjoy Capitalism," said one audience member's T-shirt - and Capitalism, of course, looked like a Coca-Cola logo.

As for Patti, here's her recent statement about the Qana massacre, from her website:

The Israeli practice of collective punishment is a war crime under the Geneva Convention. Why are they allowed to do this? Because they have our permission?

We send over four billion dollars in aid and weapons to Israel every year. We are paying for this devastation. The slaughter of children. The country in ruins.We are paying for this. George Bush willfully rejected a truce and now we have the Qana massacre on our head. Thirty seven of the dead were children.

Qana is considered by some as the location of the first miracle of Christ. Turning water into wine. There is no wine flowing in Qana today. Only blood. Only blood.

Consider these lyrics, from "Babelogue" (Easter, 1978): "In heart I am a Moslem; in heart I am an American; in heart I am Moslem, in heart I'm an American artist, and I have no guilt." And check out her lyrics to "Where Duty Calls" (Dream of Life, 1988).

P.S.: John Schaefer (see comments) called my attention to the fact that Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips also had something to say about Lebanon at Lollapalooza. According to the Chicago Tribute, "Coyne prompted the massive crowd to sing along in an effort to 'stop traffic' in the area and to 'stop Israel from bombing Lebanon.'" The Flaming Lips: Who woulda thought? And the Flaming Lips are a band from the heartland: Oklahoma City. (Thanks, John.)

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John Schaefer said...

I heard that also at Lollapalooza, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips made a call from the stage for "Israel to stop bombing Lebanon".

John Schaefer said...

Here's the link:,1,449244.story?coll=mmx-ctmmx