• Music’s peaceful poet for the ‘new left’
By Katie Emerick
Much can be said about the political scope belonging to David Rovics. He’s a troubadour musician and independent artist, an advocate for free speech, outspoken critic of the military and the government, and has been providing soundtracks to various activist campaigns for a decade now.
Like the forefathers of folk who inspire him, Rovics’ sound is reminiscent of the “working class” ideologies brought to folk music by such artists as Utah Phillips, Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie. His music has been featured on “Democracy Now!,” the BBC and Al-Jazzeera, and he’s written a number of political essays, as well as children’s songs. Armed with his guitar, Rovics isn’t afraid to speak his mind and has traveled the world bringing his message to the people through wit and humor, self-expression and honesty.
Born into a family of classical musicians, Rovics became a fan of populist regimes in his early years, rebelling against the conservative leanings of his hometown. Leaving college early, he spent several years living in Berkeley, Calif., before moving back east to become a professional Busker on the subways of Boston. While Rovics had been making music on the streets, it wasn’t until a close friend was killed that he turned his attention full time to songwriting; initially as a means of dealing with his grief.
Rovics released his debut album, “Make It So,” in 1996. Since then, he’s gone on to release 16 studio and live records, filling them with original songs that address nearly every hot political topic from nuclear proliferation to the environment, to Guantanamo Bay. If simply looking at his album labels is any indication, Rovics is a man with a message.
In 2003, Rovics released “Who Would Jesus Bomb,” and in 2006, “Halliburton Boardroom Massacre.” And while Rovics’ revolution is through music — a tool he feels is the most optimistic form of communication — his capacity to provide anthems to a host of political campaigns is impressive. Perhaps it’s his passion that attracts so many activists to his music, for Rovics is one who lives what he believes, stating in one song, “Every song I’ve ever written has been a love song.”
One element that makes Rovics a poster boy for independent music is the fact that he’s made every one of his songs available for free online. Stating his belief that the music industry is a broken machine — no longer concerned with the quality of what it produces — Rovics has gained a greater fan base through free distribution.
Having spent much time over the past 10 years touring across Europe, Latin America and Asia, he’s gathered an arsenal of material from the experiences and people he’s met along the way. But it’s Rovics’ strong sense of advocacy that is commendable, whether or not you agree with what he says. He sings a number of songs about Palestine and has had tours canceled on him for being “anti-Semitic,” despite his Jewish heritage. Undeterred, however, whenever he’s shut down, Rovics holds strong to his beliefs and has a way with humor that makes his music and his persona approachable. His talent as a musician, with fiery fingers traversing the strings, is equally to his advantage as his humble attitude.
So from concert theatres to union halls, libraries to bars, Rovics has a song for everyone:
Gardening and bicycles? Check. Hugo Chavez and Hugh Thompson? Check. Marijuana and polyamory? Check. Endangered species and pirates? Check.
Filled to the brim with wit and irony, Rovics challenges hypocrisy with an intelligence that’s always refreshing on the political scene.
“Well, plastic forks are fun and paper cups are cool, I like to be on the move when I eat my gruel/ Don’t get me wrong, disposable diapers are fun too/ but my favorite feature of these United States are parking lots and strip malls.”
When: Saturday, April 17, 8 p.m.
Where: Down East Saloon
This is a no-smoking show
Comments are closed