Music Essay Paper on Politics, Commerce, Artistic Expression and The Music Industry

Politics, Commerce, Artistic Expression and The Music Industry

            The weavers were formed in November 1948 by Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellman and Peter Seeger. It composed many songs which were against the United States of America joining the Second World War. It worked with the American peace committee (APC), to promote peace and isolationism during the Second World War. However, in 1941, after Germany had invaded the Soviet Union, The APC group, changed its name to the American Peoples’ Committee, and changed its focus and   began supporting the US entry into the war and commences composing and producing songs that supported the war and urged the United States to fight on the side of the allies.

The group disbanded after the United States of America entered the war. The Weavers comprised offour members (quartet) from the United States who were singing folk songs. They were based in the Greenwich Village in New York. The songs they sang were from around the world though; they equally sang blues, children’s songs, labor songs and American ballads. At the height of their popularity, they sold millions of records and made a lot of money. Their band which was hard driving string band-style, inspired many commercials     The group took its name from a play by Gerhard Haupmann, Die Weber (The Weavers) in 1892.This was a very powerful play about the uprising of the Silesian weavers in 1844.Due to the red Scare that was becoming deep in the early 1950s, the group’s manager who was Peter Cameron, advised them not to sing their political songs that were explicit, and avoid performing at` progressive’ venues and events.

Due to this, some fans were not happy and criticized them for watering down their beliefs and singing styles at the expense of the commercials. They believed that it was important for them to remain on the public limelight, but also to avoid their explicit songs. This, new paradigm shift proved worthwhile because many people made booking to their events, and the demand for the groups recordings increased greatly. During the period of the red scare, peter Seeger and Lee Hays were investigated by the FBI informant Harvey Matusow and identified them as Communist Party members (Peter, 1969).

They were summoned by the house committee on Un-American activities in 1955.Hays took the Fifth amendment however, Seeger refused to answer to the claims  using the Fifth amendment as the defence. In 1950,Seeger was found guilty of contempt and was placed under restrictions by the court awaiting an appeal however, his conviction was struck out on technical grounds. Due to the fact that Seeger was among those blacklisted in the entertainment industry, all the weavers were placed under the surveillance of the FBI and were not allowed to perform on radio or television during the time of McCarthy.            

The contract that the weavers had with Decca records was terminated and their records were deleted from their dialogue in 1953.The records were completely denied airplay both on radio and television, which completely stopped their income from loyalties. The right wing and the groups that were against the Communist Party, protested against their performances and harassed their promoters. Due to this the group suffered a great financial depleted. In 1952, the group was disbanded. However, peter Seeger continued with his solo singing though the effects of blacklisting were big. In 1955, the group came together to play a concert that was sold out at a hall called Carnegie.

The concert was very successful. The independent Vanguard Records, issued a recording of the concert, and this led to the signing of the record label. By 1950s the popularity of the folk songs was surging and McCarthy was slowly leaving the limelight. The media industry during that time was so timid, so it was until the height of the revolutionary of 1960s, that Seeger was able to end his blacklisting by appearing on the distributed American television show (Gilliland, 1969).                                                                                                                                  

Dixie Chicks is an American citizen who has a band which sings country music. He has however crossed over to other genres which include alternative country music. The band comprises of the following members: Martie Erwin Maguire, Laura Lynch and Emily Ewin Robinson and their lead singer by the name Natalie Maines. The band was formed in Dallas Texas in 1989, and it originally had four women members who were performing bluegrass and country music. They had toured blue grass festival circuits and small venues for six years without attracting any major label. Dixie Chicks achieved commercial success after the lead singer and one band mate left and there occurred a small change in the repertoire.  

During a London show On March 10, 2003, which was nine days before Iraq was invaded by the United States of America, the lead singer by the name Maines, told the audience that that he was ashamed that the president of the United States was from Texas (George Bush).He went further to say that they did not want the violence and the war. The audience in Britain reacted positively, however, back in the United States, the reaction was negative. There occurred boycotts, and the remarks were greatly assaulted by the talk show conservatives. Their albums were thrown away during the public protests. Discarded in public protest, Dixie has always been outspoken on issues to do with politics. The singer who is currently a soloist in an interview with a United States magazine the singer who is currently a sloist says he has nothing to regret about. He said that it was his right as an American to speak his mind and question his president have his point of view, his opinion, question what he wants to question and say what he wants to say about his government. He said that he was surprised that people think that we should just follow our leaders. He said if we cannot learn from our history then there is nowhere we can learn from. He still insists that going to the war was a bad decision.

The remarks which he met set off a fire and serious criticism with the country music community with a radio station hosting ‘chicken toss’’ party at which fans were greatly encouraged to discard Dixie Chicks tapes and CDs. The comments at that concert began, what can be called, the biggest concertdraw in country music. They changed from the biggest musicians, to relative obscurity in a matter of weeks in country music. Despite his numerous apologies and clarifications, the pro-bush and pro-American groups, called for a total boycott of his music.                                                           Any radio station that played his music was bombarded with phone calls and emails blasting with threats and warning them of boycotts if they did stop airing the music. Even the DJs and programmers, who sympathized with Dixie’s music, were forced to discard it and those who went ahead and played were immediately fired. Dixie Chicks Cds were all collected in one incident and they were run over by a bulldozer.

Since Dixie would not sell tickets in the United States of America, all his concerts were cancelled and the rival concerts were staged which would take Dixie chicks tickets instead (Boucher, 2004).They also lost their very important sponsor Lipton and the Red Cross denied a million dollar endorsement from the band fearing, that it would draw the ire of the boycott. The Dixie Chicks also received death threats from the incident. The question that has been in the minds of many people is whether Dixie’ comments were right, wrong, poorly timed or misplaced by just being said in foreign land. Willie Nelson was also openly criticizing the war, and took it to another level by bringing the idea that the 9/11 was a government conspiracy idea that was cooked and initiated by the Bush administration so that he would get support to attack Iraq. Merle Haggard, also released an anti-war song in the summer of 2003 called `America first’ which was castigating the American administration and nothing happened to him and there was no backlash. Songs make a very important component in the lives of human beings because of the role they play in entertaining, educating, rebuking and informing the audience. Therefore, any information that musicians put across is taken seriously because the message reaches the majority of the people and music has power to influence the peoples’ decisions. This is one of the reasons as to why, the musicians find themselves in serious problems when they put across messages that are explicitly political. A lot of jitters are created amongst the politicians and their staunch supporters when something negative about them is said my musicians. Since politics is an integral part in the life of a human being and because politicians and their supporters are the ones who buy music records and   attend the musician’s concerts, then there is a connection between, politics commerce, artistic expression and the music industry. If a musician is not in good terms with the politicians, their sales may go down  because the politicians he castigates or their policies, are the same who are customers, and their supporters who may not be happy with the  political statements in the musician’s songs, will not buy his music and therefore, his income will go down(Merle,2003).                                                                                                                                                       When one expresses himself artistically he must weigh his options, on what he says, because that can bring his downfall or rise. Musicians are also the same people who grace occasions by politicians and they are the ones who pay them and without their support, they may suffer financially. Equally, politics is a very sensitive issue that will ignite the emotions of people, hence, musicians use it in order to get a maximum audience, and also it acts as an avenue for them to put their views across. Due to the fact that politicians are the people in power, anything that they think is offensive to them, may not see the light of the day because, using their power, they will make sure that it goes down.                                                                                          


Boucher, Geoff (2004). Once burned, but not shy. Los Angeles Times

David, B. (2000). Dangerously Funny. The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Touchstone.

 Peter Seeger interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969). The New York Times.Full Text of Brokaw’s Interview with Bush, The New York Times, April 25, 2003,  retrieved from March 19, 2011

Gilliland, John (1969). O-S interview index (audio). Pop Chronicles.

Merle Haggard Soun.ds (2003).Off” CBS News.