I'd say that 100 percent of music is political, that music either supports the status quo or challenges the status quo, so every artist is political. Now, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez probably don't self-identify as political artists, but their music, while often very entertaining and loved by their fan bases, is the bread and circuses of our times. If you're not questioning authority, you're tacitly submitting to authority. That's not to say that I don't have a long list of booty-shaking jams on my iPod, and there's certainly a place for that, but I'm also conscious of the fact that in my own work, that what you say and what you do matters, that you are a historical agent, and that if you don't have your hands on the steering wheel, somebody else does.
I always want to go and see things for myself. That's why I ended up during the famine in Ethiopia. That's why I ended up in central America during the problems there in El Salvador and even in Nicaragua. I just want to go, I just want to see for myself.
I see things that are very hard to explain. That words, perhaps if I was a better writer, maybe I could just write journalism. But I'm blessed because I'm part of the U2 group and they're really good. They have an ability to express inexpressible thoughts. When I explained to Edge what I've been through in El Salvador, he was able to – with a nod to Jimi Hendrix actually – try and put some of that fear and loathing into his guitar solo.
We strapped my feelings to the [U2] song "Bullet the Blue Sky." I've been there; it was an American movement that were… wonderful people who were offering solace to refugees from the war in El Salvador. I was with one of those groups visiting. It was just a few of us. We went out into the hills and maybe that ...
You know what, 57 years is a long time. And if anything is gonna make life in whatever way better for the Cuban people, then it needs to happen. I happen to think that as long as that government is there, some things may change, but they are still taking repressive measures.
Even the day that President [Obama] landed in Cuba. The Ladies in White, which are these ladies that protest every Sunday very peacefully, walking silently with a flower were beaten and jailed. Gorki [Aguila], one of the top rap artist in Cuba now that is very vocal against the Cuban government but wont leave. He stays in Cuba to be there and to have his message come through. He was arrested that day. There were cameras on them. There were journalists covering it. It was kind of Castro's way of saying: "We don't care if you come here."
As you notice, Raúl Castro did not greet the President at the airport. He was greeted not even by the vice president, but by somebody in the diplomatic mission. [Castro] had very subtle ways of telling [Obama]. And then we saw, obviously, the op-ed that Fidel Castro ...
I don't know if music has the power to change people's minds as far as about political ideas, about issues, things like that. I do think it has the power to unify people who are maybe slightly undecided, maybe slightly feeling a certain way but haven't been able to articulate it. Music does a good job of articulating something and how something feels more than kind of an editorial. It's really good at explaining how it feels and people who haven't had those feelings articulated, that they feel a certain way about something, music will do that. And then they realize that there are other people that music helps do that, that feel the same way they do. So, it creates a kind of group with a kind of like mind. Which isn't really changing anybody's mind, but it's kind of bringing people with like minds together.
What does it take to preserve rock and roll history? Jun Francisco knows.
Since 1999, Francisco has been the Director of Collections Management at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Born half way around the globe in the Philippines, he grew up listening to rock and roll fed to him by a radio station called “the Rock of Manila." His role allows him to be a fan and an in-demand expert.
He received his MA in Museum Studies from the University of Arkansas in Little Rock and a BA in History from Missouri Southern State University. He has worked at museums in Arkansas, Missouri, Michigan, New York and Ohio, and has served on the Boards of the Association of Midwest Museums, Arkansas Museums Association and Michigan Museums Association. He is a past chair of the Asian Pacific Professional Interest Committee of the American Alliance of Museums. He also loves the Clash.
Having just managed collections for the Rock Hall's new 2016 Hall of Fame Inductee exhibit – including a trip to Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen's house – Francisco had a few minutes to tell us about his adventures.
As the Rock Hall's director of collections, what ...
Not even Nirvana's most ardent early advocates could've predicted the near-immediate – much less lasting – impact Nevermind had following its September 1991 release. By the following January, it was already topping charts and the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video was part of MTV's regular rotation. Yet less than a month after their major label debut, the band members – most adamantly frontman Kurt Cobain – were struggling to adapt to attention and adulation.
Meeting a hungover and young group in a New York City hotel on September 29, 1991, journalist Susan Rees interviewed Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl in what became Nirvana's first national magazine cover feature, for the Jan/Feb 1992 issue of Alternative Press magazine.
"Just getting through this interview proved too much for the press-weary band," wrote Rees. "Spread out about as far as three people can spread out in one small New York City hotel room, they tried to be responsive, but Sunday afternoon weighed heavily on them. Novoselic, who did offer a Beck's and some Pepperidge Farm cookies, showed more interest in watching television, drummer David Grohl was polite but didn't have much to say and vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Kurt ...
A fan has left a rose at the entrance of 2400 Fulton Street in San Francisco, where Jefferson Airplane once lived, in acknowledgment of Paul Kantner's death. / photo by Richie Unterberger
I felt like a part of my San Francisco died when I heard the news of Paul Kantner’s passing. For fans like myself who so profoundly identify with certain music and musicians, it feels like we are losing part of ourselves each time one of our heroes passes away.
I discovered Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Jefferson Airplane when I was a senior in high school and a classmate shared a boxset of their music – Jefferson Airplane Loves You. As a teenager, it was perhaps my first taste of psychedelia and the counterculture. I went on to study the history of the Summer of Love as an American Studies major in college. When I was 22, my parents took me to San Francisco, and I actually wore flowers in my hair.
Several years later I found myself with a job at UC Berkeley, and I made regular pilgrimages across the bay to see Richie Unterberger give presentations on rare rock films at the Haight-Ashbury branch ...
It's rare to talk of an artist truly being without equal, but that's exactly who David Bowie was. A remarkable visionary, Bowie was a font of wild creativity, a transformative presence constantly evolving to address and help define our times. His art entertained, challenged and enlightened us all - and that will be an enduring legacy celebrated for many generations to come.
With tributes to the 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee powering in from around the world, we take a look at the stories behind four classic David Bowie songs and fan favorites: "Fame," "Space Oddity," "Changes" and "Ziggy Stardust."
David Bowie and John Lennon Break into "Fame" ... and Lennon Forgets It
Two weeks after finishing the mix on a David Bowie album called The Gouster, one of the producers, Tony Visconti, got a call from the artist: "David phoned to say that he and John Lennon had got together one night and recorded this song called "Fame." I hope you don't mind, Tony, but it was so spontaneous and spur of the moment... He was very apologetic and nice about it, and he said he hoped I wouldn't mind...I said that it ...