Inspirational musicians

That’s ‘inspirational’ due to their work ever-so-slightly beyond the realms of their most successful musical output; for example, in raising awareness of social and political causes, campaigning for charity, lending their voices – for singing or speaking – to help bolster major, televised, worldwide benefits and what not.

The obvious one has to be Saint/Sir (delete as you see fit) Bob Geldof, whose birthday is today. The Live Aid legend is now better known in some parts for his no-nonsense style of campaigning rather than for his music.

But there are so many others. There’s David Crosby and Graham Nash, Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel, Roger Daltrey, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt (whose website has a broad section covering her activist leanings and lists innumerable noble causes), Bono, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Yusuf Islam (better known as Cat Stevens), Elton John… They’ve defended the rights of humans and animals, they’ve set up their own foundations to assist orphans, veterans, sufferers of AIDS and cancer. They’ve dramatically pinned their colours to rival masts at election time.

How do you feel about celebrities sharing their beliefs, not necessarily exclusively through their music, and making you aware of which causes they endorse?

David, obviously, has supported his fair share down the years, but in the genteel manner that we have come to expect of him. His recent support of Gary McKinnon, I know, has ruffled the odd feather in certain quarters.

Paul McCartney singing (with Wings) about giving Ireland back to the Irish, which his record company didn’t want to release and was promptly blacklisted, is another controversial example. And what of the controversy surrounding Cat Stevens’ religious conversion? A prejudiced, selfish over-reaction if ever there was one.

I’m thinking also of the backlash to Neil Young’s Living With War album and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s 2006 Freedom of Speech tour (as documented in the Déjà Vu film). Is such a determined focus at all off-putting? Could you, or have you, turned your back on a musician’s work because his beliefs conflicted unforgivably with your own? Or is it just music, just an opinion; something for the musician to get out of his or her system and the listener to get over?

I’d like to hear your views and which moments stand out as being most effective or memorable, maybe even embarrassing. And do tell us something we might not know about the musicians you enjoy, but the rest of us perhaps know little about. Which causes are closest to their hearts and how have they used their privileged position to advance them? Which have you cheered and which have you cursed?

Favourite Protest Songs coming soon, so please keep them in mind ready for a future post. That should be a good one…

Lastly, thank you very much for the kind birthday greetings; I had a lovely day… or three, as it turned out.