Why Neil Young Is Wrong
Smith-Said, Stephan, The Progressive
On Sunday, May 14, the San Francisco Chronicle published my open letter to Neil Young, "Hey Neil Young, We Young Singers Are Hog-tied, Too. " I tried to explain how the corporatized music industry has censored protest music in the past several years. The letter went viral on the Internet, and I was flooded with enthusiastic responses from all kinds of people. Even Neil and his team posted it front and center on his blog for the entire week.
Who at prompted my letter ,and the outpouring was Young s comment about why he felt compelled to write his new anti-Bush album, Living with War. "I was waiting for someone to come along, some young singer eighteen-to-twenty-two years old, to write these songs and stand up," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I waited a long time. Then I decided that maybe the generation that has to do this is still the '60s generation. We're still here."
As the first protest singer to rise from the streets of anti-war and WTO protests and get a major worldwide distribution deal, I felt compelled to explain that today's Dylans, Ochses, and Neil Youngs are here, but they're being silenced by an industry that has for years derived its profits from kiddy porn and dreamy boys.
Just two days after my article came out, MTV, which has refused to play anti-war videos even by the biggest stars, published an article addressing the need for political consciousness in mainstream music. In a flourish of Bush-like hubris, one of the country's chief purveyors of military recruitment ads to youth posted the article, "Where Is the Voice of Protest in Today's Music?" The webpage boasted an Army video game in the bottom right corner. (MTV, by the way, refuses to air anti-war ads produced by organizations like Not In Our Name and Win Without War.)
Where's the voice of protest? It's in MTV's trash can.
Where are today's protest singers? They're on the "don't add" list at corporate radio stations, where they've increasingly been placed since FCC deregulation paved the way for the monopolization of the industry.
Just ask Scott Goodstein. He heads the great music/political advocacy group PunkVoter, which, with Fat Wreck Chords, released the Rock Against Bush compilation CDs. Those CDs, which included songs from Anti-Flag and Green Day, sold 650,000 copies combined. When Goodstein approached MTV about getting airtime for Rock Against Bush, they rebuffed him. "They told us, 'Your project's not relevant. Or, it's not mainstreamy enough,'" he says. "And Rolling Stone's no better." Meanwhile, Green Day's current anti-Bush album, American Idiot, has sold five million copies.
Finally waking up, MTV has the nerve to extol Green Day and include Anti-Flag in its story on political bands!
PunkVoter immediately posted a retort titled, "MTV, Still Completely Worthless," stating that political bands "will be there, waiting, when MTV is ready to start covering some protest music. Not that they're gonna."
Pete Seeger told me that the floodgates to freedom of expression were opened in the 1960s when the Broadway and Hollywood monopoly over the music industry was broken by Rock and Roll, Motown, and Nashville.
Now, the subsequent monopoly that Rock and Roll, Motown, and Nashville constructed is being broken by the Internet, where artists and organizations are creating networks that transcend corporate genres. …