Once upon a time, there was something called “rock ‘n’ roll.” It was new, radical music that scared the mainstream establishment. Over the course of roughly half a century, it shaped popular culture in America and beyond. Generations of kids grew up with it.
The whole rock ‘n; roll scene was, by nature, rebellious and dangerous. Parents disapproved, which meant teenagers were drawn to it. Those who performed it were seen as counter-cultural revolutionaries. At the very least, rock questioned the status quo, and at the most, completely rejected it.
In 1965, The Animals set the tone when they sang, “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want.” Twenty Years later, Twisted Sister proclaimed, “We’re not gonna take it!” You don’t have to search far to find lyrics in any sub-genre of popular music about doing your own thing, etc. The name of the metal band Corrosion of Conformity seemed to embody the rock ‘n’ roll attitude.
In the 2003 movie “School of Rock,” Jack Black’s character lectures his class, “There used to be a way to stick it to the man; it was called rock ‘n’ roll!” Are those in the modern music scene “sticking it to the man” today?
One doesn’t have to search long to find that “sticking it to the man” today basically just means swearing a lot and being as vulgar as possible (look up the lyrics to any given rap song for evidence). Just when you thought the level of hedonism in popular music couldn’t possibly be outdone, a new rap or pop “artist” proves you wrong. Even Taylor Swift cusses like a sailor in some songs, and the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” uses words typically associated with the locker room, not the stage. But is any of this really going against the status quo? It’s not like this is the America of “Leave it to Beaver”--heck, it’s not even the America of “The Simpsons.”
But today’s musical stars seem to still think they’re rebels. In 2021 the rock band Rise Against sang, “We are the nowhere generation/we are the kids that no one wants/we are a credible threat to the rules you set/a cause to be alarmed.” If you want to see Rise Against in concert, you need to be fully vaccinated, or provide proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours of the show. Wow, they ARE a threat to the rules! Maybe they should change their name to “Bow Down To”...
What about the classic rockers? Are they still sticking it to the man? Recently, 76-year-old Neil Young demanded that the music streaming service Spotify censor someone he doesn’t like (Joe Rogan’s podcast) or else! When they refused (who’s rebelling against whom here?), his music was removed from their platform. Those old hippies can no longer stream his music on Spotify, which I’m sure has them all in a quandary.
Neil Young is well-known for writing the anti-establishment song “Ohio” about the Kent state shootings of war protesters in 1970. He also wrote, “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World,” which as a side note was used by the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. There’s so much I could say about all of this, but I’m sure you’re intelligent enough to appreciate the mountains of irony herein.
But wait, there’s more!
In late 2021, the popular rock band the Foo Fighters refused to play a show in Minneapolis. Why? Those rascals who run it refused to demand that everyone who attended get The Shot (or a negative Covid test). But obviously the Foo Fighters ARE indeed big rebels, because band leader Dave Grohl uses the F-word a LOT. As in basically every sentence he says. SO dangerous, so rebellious!
The self-proclaimed punk rock band The Offspring fired their drummer in 2021. His offense? He didn’t receive the Covid shot. [Note: a vaccine is intended to prevent infection and transmission of an illness, and the Covid shot does neither, hence my terminology]. Why didn’t he get the shot? Did he want to kill people? No, it turns out his doctor told him not to because of a pre-existing medical condition. He also had Covid in 2020, giving him natural immunity.
So obviously the Offspring are big fans of freedom and not letting anyone tell them what to do. I suppose you could say they encouraged rebellion–rebellion against a doctor’s advice! Way to be dangerous, boys. Actually, yes, forcing young people at little risk to Covid (but unusually high risk of adverse reaction to The Shot) to get The Shot is dangerous. So I guess they are being punk rock!
And finally, the coup de grace: The rap-rock band Rage Against the Machine demands all of their concert attendees to get The Shot (or yet again a negative test). One of their lyrics reads, “F— you, I won’t do what you tell me!” Again, so much I could say…
So, the rock ‘n’ rebels have become the very thing they made a lot of money singing against: pro-censorship authoritarians who will not tolerate dissent.
Again I ask: are there any rebels left in rock?
It could be argued that literally every Christian rock band ever has been rebellious, forsaking the popularity that could be theirs if only they wouldn’t sing about such non-rock ‘n’ roll topics as sin and forgiveness.
Then there’s Eric Clapton. The guitar legend is now one part laughingstock, one part public enemy number one. Why? He’s spoken out against The Shot (which he received, by the way). Rolling Stone (wow, people still read that?!) also added the important–and I’m sure totally accurate–word “racist” to what Mr. Clapton’s been saying. I should add that Van Morrison (the guy who wrote “Brown-Eyed Girl”) has joined him in his criticism of The Machine. They even wrote an anti-lockdown song together. Maybe they could start a band called “Criticize the Machine”... At any rate, all of this makes them evil and racist, obviously.
But I think I may have found the greatest rebel of them all. Johnny Rotten, the notorious frontman of the ground-breaking punk band The Sex Pistols, declared in 2020 that Donald Trump was the “only sensible choice” for president. You can’t get any more anti-establishment than that!
So, while most rock bands have proven that they’ll do exactly what the authorities tell them (provided it’s authorities they like), there are still a few rockers who march to the beat of their own drums.
Keep on rockin’ in the…free world?
I've included some old blogs along with the new. Should you ever find yourself suffering from insomnia, this is the place for you! That's as poetic as I get...