Can Rock and Roll Save America?

Our country today is in a nightmare political situation.

The political feelings erupting like a volcano today across the U.S. might best be summed up by these famous lyrics from a 1960’s song by songwriter Stephen Stills:

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware…

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man comes – and takes you away

These verses are from Stills’ 1967 top hit “For What It’s Worth” – popularly known as “Stop, children, what’s that sound?”  It is a classic.

And although most of us have heard this song played for decades, it takes on totally new meaning today.

Many of us are more terrified of individuals inside the United States than by the idea of terrorists who might enter the country from abroad.

Our greatest fear is of U.S. politicians who are totally corrupt – liars at every turn – yet have managed to win top positions in our government.  And in most cases these politicians exist on both sides of the aisle.

What powerful force can free us from government that is today “Of the rich, by the rich, for the rich”?

  • Most Americans agree that power must flow, fast,  from the 1%, back to the people.
  • Yet, because almost all of us are now enslaved by corporations – which have seized control of our government – we must remember:

Rock and roll, ultimately, was born out of slavery:

  • Rock and roll was born out of blues music (as well as gospel, folk, and many other musical forms).
  • Blues music was born out of the horrific oppression of African-Americans that continued fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation – in the 20s, 30s, and 40s – with no end in sight.
  • The often light-hearted rock and roll of the 50s paved the way for the intensely political rock and roll of the 60s, which changed this country forever in extraordinary ways.
  • Because rock and roll emerged from blues and gospel, it is not surprising that for many in this country this music is like a religion.
  • It is therefore logical that in an era when politics is seething and dangerously out of control, those of us who are spiritual and/or religious seekers need to do what such seekers always do:  reconnect with the expressions of the human spirit that we hold most dear.

The name of one of our most amazing bands – Creedence Clearwater Revival – reminds us that this music called rock and roll:

  • Represents for many of us a creed – a deeply held belief system.
  • Represents  for us moreover a creed with a cadence, a rhythm – like the rhythm of life itself, the dance of life.
  • Represents a creed we can turn to for revival: that is, to revive and refresh the life force in us.

We desperately need to motivate everyone who lives in our country:

  • To join political-discussion groups – and political-action groups – in their neighborhoods, now.
  • To keep coming back to those groups for the long term, driving them forward every week or every day.
  • To expand and drive forward the neighborhood meetings, discussions, and action that have always been the locomotive force of democracy.

What our goal in creating Can Rock and Roll Save America? 

Our goal is to create and make available free, short, instantly downloadable guides that will:

  • Help any small group of friends or acquaintances
  • Meeting formally or informally
  • In living rooms, coffee shops, taverns, classrooms, locker rooms, wherever
  • To start discussions of a major political or social-change issues
  • Quickly and easily
  • Using the lyrics and music of amazing songs as springboards to conversation – conversation that:
  • Can inspire the kind of political action that can save our country and planet

Try out our first e-guide! – Five Environmental Songs

See at:  Five Environmental Songs:  1st eGuide.

Or view the PDF:

Guide – 5 Environmental Songs Can Rock & Roll Save America

The songs presented in it are:

  • “Big Yellow Taxi” (“They Paved Paradise”) – Joni Mitchell. She played it at a fundraising concert that helped launch Greenpeace in 1971.
  • “The Last Resort” – The Eagles, an epic song from their monster-hit album Hotel California 
  • “Nature’s Way” – Spirit, written by Randy California, a young friend of Jimi Hendrix, who played guitar in an early Hendrix band.
  • “Burn On” – Randy Newman. A song about a polluted river in Ohio that literally caught fire: “Burn on, big river!”)
  • “After the Gold Rush” – A top hit by Neil Young from his album of the same name.

The astonishing power of small-group discussions:  Margaret Mead, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Steve Jobs!

Conversation has always been at the core of democracy and of political and social movements, just as small groups of citizens have always been a powerhouse for American political action:

Margaret Mead

The renowned American anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Alexis de Tocqueville

In 1840 the French sociologist and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting the United States, was stunned at the American passion for forming groups for any kind of action.  In his famous book Democracy in America, he states:

“Americans group together to … found seminaries, build inns, construct churches, distribute books…” They do the same “if they wish to highlight a truth or develop an opinion…”

Steve Jobs

The American passion for small-group discussions – and their deep understanding of the power of these discussions – was shared by the most celebrated innovator of our time, Steve Jobs.

Jobs understood of exactly what Margaret Mead insisted upon and Alexis de Tocqueville had been startled by in the 1840s.

We learn this in the article “The Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs,” in Harvard Business Review, by Jobs’ amazing biographer Walter Isaacson – whose other books include Benjamin Franklin and Einstein.

In the section of the article entitled “Engage Face to Face,” Isaacson writes:

“Despite being a denizen of the digital world – or maybe because he knew all too well its potential to be isolating – Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings.”  Isaacson then quotes Jobs:

“There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and ichat. That’s crazy.  Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”

Steve Jobs has had a profound impact on me, in part because by chance I attended the same small college he attended, at around the same time he was there – Reed College in Oregon.

Like Jobs, I dropped out of Reed after being enrolled only one semester, and like him I shortly thereafter ended up on a counter-culture organic farm, in that turbulent era of civil rights protests, psychedelic music, and the anti-war movement.  And spontaneous, intense, small-group discussions were a hallmark of that era.

The experience I bring to this project:

The skills I bring to this project have sprung from:

  • My passion for rock and roll growing up in the Deep South.
  • My xperience as a blues and rock-and-roll music writer in Athens, Georgia in the 1980s.
  • My deep involvement in political activism at various times all my life, most recently in the Washington DC area: Arlington, Virginia.
  • My experience as a professional facilitator of discussion groups
    • In entrepreneurial team-building
    • In medical support groups, including groups for cardiac patients, addictions treatment, and HIV prevention
  • My strong connections with hundreds of millennial musicians and music-lovers, who have inspired me in countless ways
  • My experience in the world of innovation and digital startups