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Now There’s Nothing Like the Sound of Good Bye

I know the common wisdom is that entertainers should keep their political opinions to themselves. Remember the trouble the Dixie Chicks got into over some ill-chosen words in London last year? Hell hath no fury like a Toby Keith fan scorned… Not to mention the ridicule Sean Penn received for his one-man humanitarian tour of Iraq. Or Sheryl Crow’s “no war” guitar strap at the Grammys last year. Hmm…well, maybe the best reason for celebrities to keep their opinions to themselves is that they seem to suck at expressing them. But that’s just style over substance. Entertainers are citizens, too, and if they feel the way I do about the importance of this election then it’s important for them to do what they can to talk to the people who will listen to them. Not just about voting. It’s important to get out the vote – the Indigo Girls do a voting shout-out at every concert – but they don’t tell you who to vote for. Of course, if you’re at an Indigo Girls concert on purpose, it’s probably a safe bet that you’re not voting for Dubya. Still, maybe the Indigo Girls are too big an act to get embroiled in an election year fight. Maybe you have to have a lower national profile in order to exercise your free speech rights, um, freely.

Many of the readers of this blog who are singer-songwriter, contemporary folk fans – you know who you are – will have received the following letter by e-mail. I think I got it from both the Catie Curtis and Holly Near mailing lists. It’s a letter written by Dar Williams and Patty Larkin and it’s worth a read. I like it because it’s direct. And although the undersigned artists may not get as much (or any) attention from the press for supporting this message, they’re all risking something. The Dixie Chicks can afford to lose a couple million in sales and a couple thousand audience members and still come out ok (even in the middle of the controversy their Top of the World tour was record-breaking and consistently sold out). Patty Larkin can’t. Neither can Holly Near. Or Jonatha Brooke. So, even though their audiences probably skew to the left, careers are still vulnerable and you have to respect the decision these artists have made – to speak out because some things are worth the risk.

Click here to read an important Election 2004 letter from Patty Larkin and Dar Williams and many more.

[Patty Larkin lyrics = 1]

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