Son premier texte, où il se pose des questions sur la possibilité de résister en tant que musicien :
My grandparents lost brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles in the Holocaust, and I’ve toured and have friends in Russia and Turkey: we recognize Trump, and it’s no mystery where we will wind up if we don’t push back.
Its not that things before Trump were any picnic: the many victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and war under earlier presidents – some of them Democrats—are not forgotten; and even among the politicians for whom I voted, few were willing to address the structural causes of these problems.
But even the most pissed off of my activist friends knew right away that Trumpism was seriously wrong, and that resistance—not just protest, which by definition acknowledges the legitimacy of the power to which it appeals—had to be planned.
I’m a musician, so I began my practice of resistance with music.
Normally, I practice by studying the past (“Ancient to the Future!” as the Art Ensemble of Chicago put it—and as Hannah Arendt might have if she’d been a jazz musician), and then blowing on or reconstructing or simply misreading those changes until they become useful in the present.
So, I went back to archives of political music known for years and listened again—trying to find what was useful now. I found songs from the World War II anti-Fascist Italian partisans (“Bella Ciao,” “Fischia il Vento”), the U.S. civil rights movement (“We’ll Never Turn Back,” “We Are Soldiers in the Army”), a political song originally recorded by Mexican artist Paquita la del Barrio, had disguised as a romantic ballad (“Rata de Dos Patas”).
I also wrote songs: things I heard at demonstrations, and newspaper and television stories that I couldn’t process any other way wound up as lyrics. I changed these found texts as little as possible: much of “Srinivas” is a metered version of news articles on Srinivas Kuchibhotla a Sikh immigrant murdered in February 2017 by a racist who mistook him for a Muslim. And “John Brown” really did “kill... five slaveholders at the Pottawatomie creek”).
By March 2017, I had the material for Goodbye Beautiful/Songs of Resistance.
I make no claims of historical “authenticity” about the arrangements of archival songs on the record— although I hope they work on more than one level, the arrangements and composition songs on this CD were written and performed, without apology, as agitprop. I borrowed from, referenced, and quoted public domain song as much as I could, wanting to harness the power of our rich traditions to the needs of the current struggle wherever possible. For the same reason, I altered texts and arrangements freely, as political song makers have always done.
The underlying politics of this recording is that of the Popular Front: the idea that those of us with democratic values need to put aside our differences long enough to defeat those who threaten them.
Although this approach has its frustrations, it worked last time around (1942-45).
Coordinating a multi-artist recording like this wasn’t easy: although the artists involved were without exception enthusiastic and helpful.
But the madness of the past year kept us moving when things got bogged down: we recorded Justin Vivian Bond’s “We’ll Never Turn Back” literally while Donald Trump was delivering a friendly speech to anti-gay hate groups in Washington DC. Tom Waits’ “Bella Ciao” was recorded near Santa Rosa, in the haze of smoke from 1,500 homes destroyed by wildfires attributed partly to global warming.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact that we’re living through what may be the last years of possibility to lessen the degree of catastrophic climate change which will be experienced by our kids.
And what I think is that thinking isn’t enough.
The same can be said of singing.
Profits from this CD will be donated to The Indivisible Project, a 501c4 organization creating a political response to Trump. They now have chapters in EVERY congressional district, and work to build the local and national networks we need. I have a lot of friends who think that ANY kind of politics isn’t cool. I appreciate the sentiment, but: we need to get over it, roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty if we’re going to survive this thing.
I want to thank all the Artists and musicians who sang or played on this cd, not only for their time and great performances, but for their critiques and insights, musical and political, that shaped this recording at every stage.
Although my intention in organizing this recording has been to express solidarity with everyone victimized by the current regime, finding a way to express that solidarity without repeating old patterns of oppression is not easy. I hope the dialogue and spirit of solidarity begun among the performers on this recording will continue with its listeners and spread even further...
The question of ‘the good fight’—how to fight an enemy without becoming it—hangs over “political” art (as the question of truthfulness hang over art claiming to have transcended the political). Indeed, Left and Fascist song do share musical commonalities. (Armies fighting for causes good and bad all need songs to march to).
This recording won’t resolve that question.
But I’ve noted a difference between the marching songs of fascism and those of the partisan and civil rights movements: a willingness to acknowledge sadness:
“We are soldiers in the army...
We have to fight, we also have to cry.”
“And if I die a partisan,
Goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful, goodbye beautiful,
Please bury me on that mountain, in the shadow of a flower.”
“I am a pilgrim of sorrow, walking through this world alone.
I have no hope for tomorrow, but I’m starting to make it my home.”
“...a thousand mill lofts grey
are touched by all the beauty
a sudden sun exposes
Yes it is bread we fight for, but we also fight for roses.”
These songs’ acknowledgement of human frailty, of the fact that “we have to cry” even as “we have to fight”, is for me a sign of enormous strength. Their vision of a beauty beyond victory is for me a sign of hope, a reminder that we at least have something worth fighting for.