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The Guardian: Choruses of disapproval at London Film Festival

The Guardian: Choruses of disapproval at London Film Festival

Popular music and politics have shared a long, often turbulent history. “From Strange Fruit,” the anti-lynching song made famous by Billie Holiday, the civil rights hymn “We Shall Overcome,” to the Specials‘ hit “Free Nelson Mandela,” musicians have frequently proved irksome to governments by drawing attention to uncomfortable issues of the day. Two new documentaries, “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing” and “The US. vs John Lennon,” cast light on this combustible relationship. Hannah Patterson reports on the docs playing at the London Film Festival currently underway.

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It is important to understand the difference between John Lennon being harrassed by the state and the Dixie Chicks falling out of favor with the free market. The conduct of the government with regard to Lennon was and is reprehensible. However the backlash to Maine’s statement was an action taked by corporations (and their consumers), who have the same right to an opinion as Maine does.

While the two documentaries are similar in respect to the involvement of “celebrities” in political matters, their connection at the festival and in this article presumes a similarity that does not exist.

The persecution of the Dixie Chicks is doubtless real, but it is not state-sponsored, despite what some would have us believe. Nor is Maine and the band completely without responsibility in this. Lennon was a child of the counter-culture to which he was speaking, and not singular in his viewpoints. Country music audiences have always tended more toward conservative beliefs, and certainly the Dixie Chicks could not have been totally surprised by the reaction to their political statement. That being said, they have every right to it, and every right to be successful if they find a market more congenial to those politics. It will not, I think, be in the country music field.

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