Sunday, February 20, 2005

Fairfield County Weekly: A World to Win

David Rovics tackles corporate greed through music, reclaiming folk as he goes

David Rovics is the kind of musician that makes you reevaluate what folk music is. Is it somebody strumming a guitar, eking out a couple chords as background for some heartbreak story from their diary pages? Is it safe and smiling, hokey in a good-old-fashioned way? Or is that what's gone wrong with folk music in the last few decades, when, dependably, those stepping up on stage had less and less to actually say? Words take on new meanings with each generation, and ours is one in which folk has become a predictable form that has little if anything to do with its Americana ancestry. Once the medium of the anti-war movement--Bob Dylan, of course, and Utah Phillips, Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie--folk became the medium of the open mic circuit, the easy listening background for the coffee-shop crowd. Nothing wrong with that, except that the need for those messages now couldn't be greater.

Rovics never analyzed the whys and why nots of his musical genre of choice--he calls himself a songwriter if one must split hairs--he's just always felt a natural inclination toward the left. The inclination has become more stubborn and outspoken (or outsung, as the case may be) since his early years in Wilton, where he attended "a little hippie elementary school." In his early 20s Rovics dropped out of college and moved to Berkeley, Calif., where he found like minds, and like voices. His vision of a better society clashed dramatically with the lives he witnessed of immigrant workers, the Central American refugees living in San Francisco's Mission District. And then he lost a friend in a gang shooting, and the whole world began to spin off-kilter. (more)

by Brita Brundage


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