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Miami Herald (03/24/2003), Number one with a bullet? < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

Miami Herald (03/24/2003), Number one with a bullet?

Miami Herald, March 24, 2003
Number one with a bullet?
by Howard Cohen

Even before the first bomb fell in the United States' war in Iraq, musicians had taken up positions on both sides of the issue. Now they are verbally firing at each other from across this musical Maginot Line.

The anti-war movement has already heard from a range of artists -- Madonna, John Mellencamp and the Beastie Boys among them -- who have made statements both in the recording studio and in action. Peacekeeper, the new Fleetwood Mac single, has been appropriated as an anti-war song and this week has broken through to the Billboard Hot 100. Even Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, has entered the fray by recording Angel of War, his first pop song since 1978.

Country artists have retorted with pro-military salvos. Darryl Worley's Have You Forgotten? is already No. 2 on the country charts in near-record time.

The Vietnam War eventually led to classic protest songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe and the Fish. But because that war built up slowly, it didn't spark a gush of songs at once. Operation Desert Storm, a mere 12 years ago, didn't unleash so many songs so rapidly or pit artists against each other to the degree seen now.

Country singer Charlie Daniels says he opposed America's involvement in Vietnam but is courting controversy because of a scathing open letter he sent last week to the Hollywood community lambasting its current anti-war actions. Of the new wave of war-related music, he says, "It's almost a genre now.''


Certain to be among the most controversial of war-related projects, the video for Madonna's forthcoming single, American Life, will reportedly show the singer dressed in military fatigues, tossing grenades while images of fashion models, soldiers and bloody babies flash on screen. Madonna has said her intention is to promote peace.

''Madonna's single, American Life, is not at all anti-war or political in any way shape or form,'' her spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg says. "The video is not really connected to the actual lyric content of American Life -- that [video] may be somewhat political but I haven't seen it yet.''

Other vocal anti-war pop stars such as David Byrne, Sheryl Crow, Jay-Z, Dave Matthews, Missy Elliott and OutKast formed the nonprofit Musicians United to Win Without War. The organization placed high-profile ads in various publications before the war.

Conversely, Daniels' open letter lambasted Hollywood's elite as ''pampered, overpaid, unrealistic children'' for coming out against the president and the war.

Speaking from his tour bus near Nashville, Daniels, 66, says: "This war is one of the most divisive things I've ever seen . . . [people] feel strongly about whatever side they happen to be on. Some have been ranting and raving and calling names and I've seen articulate reasons for not going to war.''

One thing Daniels will not do, he says, is rush release a war-related song.

"My first and foremost thing is to entertain. I won't write a song about a specific subject just to have a song out on the subject.''

Yet the movement to have something out there is so overwhelming it has even caught some stars unaware that they have unintentionally made a political statement.

Even before its official release, Fleetwood Mac's Peacekeeper topped a Drudge Report radio poll of the Top New Anti-War Songs last week, handily beating entries from Mellencamp, the Beastie Boys and George Michael.

However, composer Lindsey Buckingham says that Peacekeeper was written about two years ago. But with lines like, We make all of our suns the same / Everyone will suffer the fire we've made / They all explode just the same / And there's no going back on the plans we've laid, it feels eerily prescient.

''At the time -- or now -- it was a peace song, quite ironically stated,'' Buckingham says. "It's about how we are becoming increasingly more desensitized to things around the world that are brutal and not standing up for human values. And how the actions of the larger bodies affect the family or individual and how that ultimately turns back on the larger body.''

But the attention Peacekeeper has earned has put the artist in an uncomfortable position. ''We are not a political group,'' Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks says. "My mission is not to stand on a political soapbox.''

That isn't stopping many of her peers, however.

Mellencamp and the Beastie Boys each took to the Internet to post anti-war tunes. Mellencamp's To Washington is to be included on a forthcoming spring CD. There are no plans currently to release the Beasties' World Gone Mad commercially.

Mellencamp's song includes the lyrics, [A] new man in the White House /With a familiar name / Said he had some fresh ideas / But it's worse now since he came / From Texas to Washington / And he wants to fight with many, and he says it's not for oil. Mellencamp has said he doesn't expect his provocative song to be a hit.


Instead, the first certified smash of the new era belongs to rising country star Worley and his Have You Forgotten?, a plea that ties the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the need for war against Iraq.

Some say this country's just out looking for a fight / Well after 9/11 man, I'd have to say that's right / Have you forgotten how it felt that day?

Locally, the song has had ''overwhelming listener response'' says WKIS-FM 99.9 Kiss Country program director Bob Barnett.

''Outside of a handful of detractors, it resonates with the core values of country listeners,'' he says.

Clint Black independently released his pro-war song, I Raq and Roll, digitally to radio on March 11 and is offering it for free as a download on

The song trumpets lines like, You won't show us your weapons, we'll show you ours. Kiss Country is airing I Raq and Roll with added snippets from President Bush's televised pre-war speech last week.

For taking the other point of view while in concert in London recently and blasting Bush, the Dixie Chicks incurred the wrath of such peers as Travis Tritt and of radio stations nationwide, some of which immediately yanked the Texas trio's music.

Calmer heads prevailed at South Florida's Kiss Country where the Chicks remain in heavy rotation.

''I don't think censorship is the answer,'' says Barnett. 'Were [Chicks singer Natalie Maines'] comments inappropriate? You bet. But from the radio station's point of view, I hope the answer isn't that people expect radio to censor political beliefs.''

The influx of today's politically vocal entertainers has people polarized.

''As musicians and performers, we're privileged to have this public forum,'' says Fort Lauderdale songwriter Laura Sue Wilansky aka Silver Nightingale who has a new pro-peace tune, Prayer of the Nightingale. "It upsets me when people say musicians shouldn't talk about politics because they aren't informed. The whole basis of our society is having access to information and for all of us to express our opinions.''

Counters Barnett: "At a time when we should be coming together as Americans we're being distracted by ignorant comments from entertainers. Should we put so much stock in the comments of these people who are basically modern day court jesters?''

Thanks to DownOnRodeo for posting this to the Ledge.

Date: 2003-03-24         Number of views: 1510

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