When the Republican National Convention descended on New York last week, rockers came with it. Lynyrd Skynyrd jammed for an audience of Southern Republicans, Kid Rock headlined a party hosted by the Recording Industry Association of America, and ZZ Top and Dickey Betts played to delegates at B.B. King’s Blues Club.
And then there were the dissenters: Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello and System of a Down singer Serj Tankian joined activist Michael Moore on New York radio station K-Rock and later performed at a pro-labor rally with Steve Earle; Lou Reed and Moby played a pro-choice event sponsored by Planned Parenthood at the Beacon Theatre; and hundreds protested a party at Sotheby’s auction house for Tennessee delegates, held in connection with an upcoming Johnny Cash auction. “I didn’t vote for Mr. Bush,” Cash told Rolling Stone in 2002 (the late singer preferred not to align himself with any political party). “Let’s just leave it at that.”
At the Democratic National Convention in Boston earlier this summer, major rock acts including Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Black Eyed Peas, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and Lauryn Hill came out to show their support for Democratic nominee John Kerry. And this fall’s Vote for Change Tour, with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and others, will raise money to motivate Democrats in swing states.
“I will put System of a Down, Audioslave and Bruce Springsteen against Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top and Kid Rock any day,” says Morello. “Let the people decide.”