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THE MUSIC OF WAR

In their own words

July 02, 2006|Melissa Pamer

BARRY McGUIRE'S 1965 hit protest song "Eve of Destruction" -- written by P.F. Sloan -- became an early rallying cry for antiwar sentiment. But today's fragmented pop music scene presents a less unified front in its wartime stance. From an old-school punk rocker to a Texan folksinger, contemporary musicians here offer thoughts on whether their music can still wield power over

public opinion.

-- Melissa Pamer

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P.F. Sloan

Singer-songwriter

"Nero fiddled while Rome burned -- a good example of a musician shirking his responsibilities.... I believe the musician -- by his very creative nature -- has an obligation to voice his conscience to uphold morality in society. The politician may have the bully pulpit, the musician has only the individual ear of the heart and soul of America.... Perhaps it is possible in times of war or peace to make positive and important changes through the power of our music."

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Michael Franti

Singer-songwriter, Spearhead

"Music does help us tap into feelings that get stuffed away in times of great turmoil. Anger, frustration, fear, hope, tenacity, positivity and love are all emotions that inspire people to get off their backsides and fuel movements.... Music is at its best when it helps us see things not just the way they are but as they could be.... Wars take a long time to start and an even longer time to finish. Sometimes it is just the confidence of the voice of an artist standing up in the crowd or whispering to us as we try in vain to fall asleep that lets us know we are not alone in the struggle."

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Todd Snider

Singer-songwriter

"When it comes to politics I think people generally make up their own minds and then, once they do, there is a whole menu of activities waiting to support them -- music being just one. Most of my songs are flaming liberal, but I don't think it's my job to sway opinions or make the world better.... I don't want to be a campaigner; I want to be a singer. So if somebody gets their mind changed at my show it's their own fault."

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Lillian Berlin

Singer-guitarist, Living Things

"We use musical terms to describe the world.... We talk about a 'symphony' of nature to describe how all things, living and nonliving, are reciprocally connected. Our lives are in 'harmony' when things are in balance and beautiful. Music is the primal scream binding all of mankind together. It is the miraculous howl of the heavens over the tormented beat of the underworld, that has the ability to heal Africa, combat global warming and deliver solidarity to Iraq."

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Fat Mike (Mike Burkett)

Singer-bassist, NOFX

"Songs can influence people to some extent, but 99% of our audience already hates the Bush administration and is against the war in Iraq. We aren't changing a lot of minds, but we are getting kids more active in politics. I think artists such as Pink and the Dixie Chicks are making a bigger difference than we are right now. The important thing to remember is that the more bands speak out, the more socially acceptable dissent will become. "

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James McMurtry

Singer-songwriter

"Toby Keith didn't start the war in Iraq, and I'm not likely to end it. Songs don't so much influence public opinion as illuminate it. Sometimes one can write a song that puts words to thoughts that a lot of people are already thinking."

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