Musical protest comes in many shapes and sizes – Holly Near’s voice alone in a room in front of a live audience or John Lennon sitting at a piano in the seventies, Donovan with an acoustic guitar and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s lyrics in the sixties, or Nina Simone with a Jazz band or perhaps Billie Holiday standing there tearing your heart out in the fifties. In the nineties there was Rap Metal and Rage Against The Machine.
It’s hard to get the image on Rage Against The Machine’s debut album cover out of your head: This from Wikipedia:
“The cover features a photo of the self-immolation of Thích Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, in Saigon in 1963. The monk was protesting President Ngô Dình Diem’s administration for oppressing the Buddhist religion. The photograph drew international attention and persuaded U.S. President John F. Kennedy to withdraw support for Ngô Dình Diem’s government. It was taken by Associated Press correspondent Malcolm Browne; a similar photograph earned the award of World Press Photo of the Year in 1963.
The band’s frontman Zack de la Rocha wrote lyrics with a heavily critical standpoint on the policies of the west but still managed to sell 16 million records, proving that saying what you mean with conviction might serve you and the world better than conforming to a record company looking for hits or an audience that might have already forgotten you by the time you have released your second single.
These short posts singling out people with a serious message can’t possibly do justice to the intensity and importance of band’s like this. If only the US election could inspire us, give us a choice of candidates that were overqualified leaders in waiting, wise, honest servers of justice making the best decisions possible on the world’s behalf. Instead we have no confidence and only feel helpless – how sad for everyone, how frightening and dangerous the world feels right now.
Note that although the lyrics of songs on the album were included in the cover art, the lyrics to Killing In The Name were omitted.