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Rock 'n' Roll remix: Strummin' for political principle ain't new
Politically motivated concert series is not unwelcome or unprecedented

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Date published: 8/15/2004

THE BEST PART about a bunch of well-known rock musicians hitting the road in support of Democratic Sen. John Kerry's bid to unseat Republican President George Bush is that the effort is all about the message and not about the money.

The money raised will merely be the icing on the cake. It will be going to a political action committee, MoveOn .org, which is dedicated to defeating Bush, and it should be a tidy sum considering the high-profile musicians involved, including Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, and the Dixie Chicks. The musicians are not accepting pay for these performances.

But the real goal of the planned series of early October concerts is to motivate a generation of voters that hasn't been heard from since the Vietnam War era.

These musicians are unconcerned about the impact their actions will have on their fan base. Talk about vindication for the Dixie Chicks--the highly publicized comments about Bush that once cost them fans and record sales now look like well-placed criticism. They must also appreciate the vocal support of their peers in the industry.

In announcing the politically motivated tour, Bruce Springsteen put it this way:

"Why is it that the wealthiest nation in the world finds it so hard to keep its promise and faith with its weakest citizens? Why do we continue to find it so difficult to see beyond the veil of race? How do we conduct ourselves during difficult times without killing the things we hold dear? Why does the fulfilment of our promise as a people always seem to be just within grasp yet forever out of reach?"

In the days following the announcement, some observers took issue with this foray by popular music into the political scene, arguing that there ought to be a separation of popular music and politics akin to the separation of church and state. The plan was called unprecedented.

Well, anybody familiar with Springsteen's music knows he's unafraid to leap into the political debate. His song "American Skin (41 Shots)" about the 1999 shooting death of black West African immigrant Amadou Diallo at the hands of white New York City police officers made him the target of attempted boycotts, and of obscene gestures by concertgoers when he played the song.

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