United States singer David Rovics

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Why Don’t They Play You On The Radio?

David Rovics

A song for Clear Channel and independent artists around the world, but especially in that most oppressive of media environments, the U$A.


It happened again last night, it happens every time I play
When the gig is over someone has to say
A question that appears to be on everybody’s brains
As they’re driving down the highway in the commuter lanes
It sure is not just me, it’s the 99%
Of artists who are wondering about the thousands they just spent
On a CD that will never make it on the air
Now all of us are grownups here, we know life isn’t fair
But the answer to the question is one I’d also like to know
Why don’t they play you on the radio?

Perhaps my songs are too cerebral, they don’t make you dance
My melodies are boring, there’s no Spandex in my pants
Maybe it’s because I don’t use a drum machine
Maybe I’m too red or maybe I’m too green
Maybe folks just don’t want to hear it, they don’t want to analyze
Anything more complex than the space between your thighs
Maybe I should wear more glitter, go to parties in an egg
Perhaps I need to go electric or show a bit more leg
But it’s something I must wonder at the end of every show
Why don’t they play you on the radio?

I’m sure there’s an exception to each and every rule
But perhaps I’m too political, and not a useful tool
To keep the music in the background and the commercials in the fore
To keep the shoppers shopping, not protesting the war
To keep the lemmings humming the same three hundred songs
The songs they play throughout the year, each night and all day long
Maybe I just don’t make the grade to be one of the chosen few
Perhaps there was a sign somewhere and I just missed the cue
Or I need to change my name to Bruce or Silvio
Why don’t they play you on the radio?

It could be I just don’t have the talent that’s involved
I’m lacking the commitment, I’m insufficiently resolved
Or maybe there just aren’t a million people who might buy
More records made by some whiny leftwing guy
Or maybe they would, but I’m just out of luck
Because I don’t have a label that can spend a million bucks
Because Sony and Clear Channel have taken over every thing
And you’ve got to pay the piper if you want to make the piper sing
And it’s the king who tells the piper where to go
Why don’t they play you on the radio?

By Jillian Littel:

The radical alternative

Tuesday 07 May 2013

A profile of David Rovics, one of the most progressive singer-songwriters in the US, who’ll be touring these islands with songs of ‘rage and love’ in a few weeks’ time

David Rovics, indie musical activist, makes his living writing and performing what he calls “songs of social significance” – a line that’s truthful and alliterative but which in no way encapsulates the insight, rage and occasional whimsy of the artist’s output.

Rovics produces some of the best music available today but as he notes in his song Why Don’t They Play You On the Radio? he’s “too red or maybe I’m too green” to make it onto the mainstream airwaves.

He’s keen that his music reaches as wide an audience as possible and that’s why he supports file sharing of his work.

“Feel free to download these songs,” he says on his website. “Use them for whatever purpose. Send them to friends, burn them, copy them, play them on the radio, on the internet, wherever.

“Music is the Commons. Ignore the corporate music industry shills who tell you otherwise.”

His songs have an honest, folky sound and his lyrics are far from meek.

In some, there’s a contrast between the harsh words and his calm voice which highlights the difference between the world as it is and the world as it should be.

Concern for the welfare of people and anger at their oppressors come through loud and clear in most of his songs.

“I think inevitably this kind of rage is naturally inextricably intertwined with love,” he says.

Rovics comes from a family of classical musicians but was drawn to populist themes early on.

Today his material reflects rampant social and economic injustice and he tours the world to lends his voice to many movements on the left, recently including Occupy and the Greek resistance to austerity policies.

“I would say that the underlying root cause of pretty much most of the things that I write about can be boiled down to in a really broad way to the conflict between the haves and the have-nots,” he explains.

Rovics has an unusually keen sense of history and the struggles of working people in songs like The Last Lincoln Veteran, Sugihara and St Patrick’s Battalion.

In all of them, he tells the stories of heroic people who chose to do the right thing in spite of the demands made by their governments.

Unfortunately, most today are unaware of these histories.

“I think people need to tell about this history and need to be inspired by it. Often the most inspiring stories and episodes in history are the ones that people don’t really know about,” says Rovics.

According to him, that’s not a coincidence. Even if mega media corporations like Clear Channel don’t recognise his genius, some very big names in the music industry do.

Tom Morello, guitarist for Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, cites one of Rovics’s songs Halliburton Boardroom Massacre as an influence and the two artists recently collaborated on a track London Is Burning about the police violence and systemic racial injustice which sparked the disturbances throughout Britain in 2011.

Rovics expects great things from Morello’s new band Street Sweeper Social Club. He believes their great sound and Tom Morello’s name will give them the rare opportunity to successfully work as leftists in the corporate music environment.

He does a fantastic job of portraying much of what’s wrong with our world. But if injustice is the disease, what’s the remedy?

“What we need is well organised militant mass movements,” Rovics says.

And after the revolution? Apparently he’s planning to learn to play the accordion.

This article first appeared in People’s World. David Rovics is touring England, Ireland and Scotland from May 25-June 21, including a benefit for the Morning Star at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on June 9. Details: www.davidrovics.com.

5 thoughts on “United States singer David Rovics

  1. Will you be going to any of his gigs this current tour? He’s playing at the Ruigoord Poetry Festival tonight if that’s in you neck of the woods, but you probably know that already. If you talk to him, tell him I said “hello”.


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