The words exchanged between Sheryl Crow and Karl Rove at the White House Correspondents' Dinner has been widely reported by now and I cannot get Rove's words "I don't work for you, I work for the American people" out of my head. One wonders if he believes musicians are from another stratosphere, especially those who are activists, making them un-American.
We've heard the complaints from others asking what gives musicians or Hollywood types the audacity to think they cannot only form an opinion, but also express it the best way they know how -- by using their celebrity. Sure, they can perform, but what gives them the nerve to be politically active? Well, I'm grateful for those who are willing to risk their careers by caring about something more than the next hit song or movie. If it weren't for some politically motivated musicians starting in the late '60s, it's possible I wouldn't have taken interest in what was going on in our country back then and continue doing so.
I was raised in an extremely small town in the most northeastern corner of New York State, walking distance from the Canadian border. We didn't get a newspaper, but my parents made it their business each night to watch Walter Cronkite. As a kid, I dreaded each evening as seven o'clock approached since it meant what I considered was boring television.
What did I care about wars happening in a far off place?
What I did care about was music and, fortunately, my favorite station coming out of Montreal kept me attuned while Dusty Springfield gave way to Joni Mitchell and Paul Revere and the Raiders rode off into the sunset while Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young appeared on the horizon in a smoke-filled haze. And it was their political lyrics that inspired me and made me begin to pay attention to what was going on beyond my corner of the world. Young people speakin' their minds helped me realize that we could be on the eve of destruction.
Even though I was so far removed, I felt empowered the day I walked into my English class, having forgotten the assignment to have a poem or song lyrics ready for recitation. But CSN&Y saved me when it was my turn to go the front of the room after classmates read Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, Kilmer's Trees and other recognizable classics. Without need to reference a sheet of paper I began, "Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming, we're finally on our own..." By the time I wound down with, "four dead in Ohio," with dramatic flair, I might add, I could tell my teacher was none too pleased. It was then that I felt I belonged to a movement and hungered to know more. Where I lived, though, there was no close proximity to a bookstore or library, and television provided only three stations, but it was the radio that defined an era for me, giving me permission to question political leaders.
Therefore, I have a sense of appreciation toward Crow, Bono, Etheridge and other musicians who do more than just sing, but also raise awareness for causes in which they believe. However, maybe Rove is just tone deaf, which explains his "hesitation" for not wanting to "duet" with Crow. I mean, his appearance on stage with White House correspondent David Gregory a few weeks ago makes it obvious music does not come easy for him. But even though he can't dance, sing, or harmonize, there is one thing he can do extremely well, and that would be spin.