October 2010 Featured Activist, Lee Ballinger

Six years ago, Rock & Rap Confidential founders, Lee Ballinger and Dave Marsh, published an article in CounterPunch, which encouraged musicians’ involvement in the voting system. Here’s what they had to say at that time. I just recieved the current issue of the publication, # 228, which includes articles entitled, “Music versus Coal,”  “Music Plus Immigration,” “B is for Bono, B is for Bullshit,” “Marching Bands,” “Janelle Monae,” “The Vocoder’s Revenge,” and much more.

You can receive the newsletter at no charge via email subscription to rockrap@aol.com.

“In 1985, Rock & Rap Confidential produced the short film I’ll Vote On. It documented the efforts of the FBI and local authorities in rural Alabama to jail civil rights leaders for getting out the vote. Most charges (for “vote fraud”) were ultimately dropped. But the 2000 Presidential election, marked by the deliberate disenfranchisement of thousands of registered Florida voters, confirmed that the right to vote in America still cannot be taken for granted.”

Lee Ballinger Publishes Rock & Rap Confidential
Lee Ballinger Publishes Rock & Rap Confidential

Today, spurred by the disaster that is the Bush administration, a growing number of musicians are working to get their fans to register to vote. They range from punkvoter.com–started by Fat Mike of NOFX–to the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, which kicked off a nationwide drive to register 4 million voters in 2004 with a star-studded event (P. Diddy, Beyonce, LL Cool J) in Houston during Super Bowl week.

As a tactic, this is fine to the degree that it brings more people into one aspect of the political process, creating a potential common activity for punks and professionals, b-boys and bohemians, headbangers and health care professionals. The problem is that registering to vote is being put forward by musicians as a strategy, as an action that can, by itself, somehow impact our rapidly disintegrating society.

The first fact to be faced is that the majority of Americans who are registered do not vote. As Tom Morello put it after the 2000 election, “If there were a candidate who was running, say, for a six-hour work day at full pay, you might get more people going to the polls.”

Since we lack candidates running on anything remotely like such a platform, we wind up with the strategy put forward by John Mellencamp for 2004: “I’ll support whoever the Democrats put forward.” Ditto for Lou Reed: “We must all unite and work for whomever opposes Bush, regardless of whatever differences we may have. Our motto: Anything but Bush.”

You can read the project’s “secret history” here.  Ballinger’ articles take up the cause of freedom of expression, healthcare, and political activism for musicians. A few years back, he blasted the lamestream media, who had this to say about the 2006 Dixie Chick’s release, Taking the Long Way:

“NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Billboard) — Disappointing airplay for the first two singles from the new album by the Dixie Chicks exposes a deep — and seemingly growing — rift between the trio and the country radio market…”

–CNN.com, May 22, 2006

In characteristic form, Lee tears at the war-mongering media and the false left/right paradigm when he says: “The Chicks began their nationwide 2003 tour just six weeks after the invasion of Iraq. The first show was in Greenville, South Carolina. At this and every subsequent stop–the first several in the heart of the South–they showed a video montage of Malcolm X, the civil rights movement, Gandhi, and the struggle for women’s rights. In Greenville, South Carolina, and every subsequent stop, they were greeted with massive cheering at each show. At some shows there were, at most, a dozen protestors outside. The backlash should be against country radio, the corporate sponsors who dumped the Chicks, and the entire mythical red state/blue state nonsense. America wants peace. Country fans want peace. The South wants peace. Everyone wants artists to be able to speak out for our interests.”

We live in a world of corrupt radio, concert ticket price-gouging, product placement in songs, Wal-Mart censorship—not to mention war, poverty, corporate bailouts and the collapse of our health care system.

Music keeps us going through it all. Music makes us feel good. Music carries us past the stress. Music inspires us. Music makes the connections between people that give us hope for the future. Music insists that a better world is possible and music makes us believe that this can be true.

Rock & Rap Confidential is in the middle of all this, not just reporting but making those connections. We can do this because our musical taste has no boundaries and we have a foot in every camp. We—RRC’s staff and its readers—are on this journey together. Our love for music and our desire for a better world bind us together.

RRC has never accepted advertising. Now we don’t even charge for the publication, which has enabled us to reach a broader and steadily growing audience. Every once in a while, we could use a little help.

Won’t you please contribute what you can to RRC? $25, $50, $100, $250, $1000 (or any amount). You can make your contribution via PayPal.com (send to rockrap@aol.com) or send by regular mail to RRC, P.O. Box 341305, Los Angeles CA 90034.

Thanks for your support. Thanks for our past, our present, our future. We really appreciate it. Lee Ballinger

Keep up the great work, Lee! Thanks for your service.


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