Billy Bragg and Politics

by justindburton on September 8, 2011

Many of you have probably already seen this, but I’ll post it here again. Billy Bragg wrote last week (this link takes you to the full piece at his site) about the need for political music, not for politics’ sake or because of the search for some kind of authenticity in music through meaningful content, but because he thinks it’s the best way for a generation to speak up for itself.

What really struck me is his secondary pitch. Bragg points out that if speaking for oneself isn’t enough, then maybe fame and fortune will do the trick.

The disturbances of the past weeks have stirred up a shit storm of opinion in the mainstream media, much of it from people who have no real experience of the pressures faced by this generation, the first in a century that are likely to grow up worse off than their parents. Though this situation has been building for some years, the disturbances have created an opportunity for young people to provide an alternative commentary.

I know things are different now, not least in the music industry. Back in 1976, we only had one medium – pop music – through which to speak one another and the world. The internet has changed that. Now, if you have an opinion about something, you can blog, tweet, and post your thoughts for everyone to see. It makes you feel like you’re making a contribution, but are you really?

Nobody ever got rich writing snarky remarks in the comment section nor got to tour the world performing to thousands of people on the back of writing a blog. Sure, you may get a lot of ‘likes’ on your comments, but nothing beats the thrill of making an audience of 50 people cheer a line in a song that you’ve just written that hits on something that they feel strongly about.

It’s interesting to see Bragg using a capitalist argument to try to encourage a political message from a generation who will undoubtedly trace many of the “pressures” they face right back to capitalism…

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