Kravitz, R.E.M., Others Protest War
by Josh Grossberg
Mar 26, 2003, 2:50 PM PT
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Lenny Kravitz wants you to go his way for peace.
The "Let Love Rule" crooner is adding his voice to the growing number of musicians protesting the war in Iraq, releasing a new antiwar song, "We Want Peace," on the Internet.
With media conglomerate Clear Channel and other broadcasters refraining from playing antiwar tracks on their radio stations because public support for the war is still high, even big artists have had to resort to the Internet to make their voices heard.
To that end, Kravitz's tune, whose chorus goes, "There won't be peace if we don't try," is now available for download via the Rock the Vote Website (www.rockthevote.org) and urges the United States to be a peaceful leader in the world.
Joining Kravitz are several guest performers, including Iraqi pop star Kadim Al Sahir, Palestinian musician Simon Shaheen on strings and Lebanese artist Jamey Hadded on percussion.
"I came to Rock the Vote because of its strong stance with young people as defenders of free expression," the 38-year-old rocker said in a statement on the organization's home page. "This song for me is about more than Iraq; it is about our role as people in the world and that we all should cherish freedom and peace."
Meanwhile, R.E.M. is feeling far from fine about the U.S. invasion. After hooking up last month with Musicians Against War, a loose coalition of artists calling for a peaceful resolution to the Iraq crisis, the band has gone a step further and issued their own track of protest, "Last Straw," on their official site, www.remhq.com.
The song poses the question, "Who died and lifted you up to perfection?" and expresses R.E.M.'s reaction to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"Now I don't believe and I never did, that two wrongs make a right/If the world were filled with the likes of you, then I'm putting up a fight," the song goes.
The group was determined to "send something out there now," according to a message from frontman Michael Stipe.
"We are praying and hoping for the lives of all people involved, the troops, the Iraqi civilians, refugees, POWs, families of troops, the innocents--that they are safe and okay," says Stipe.
R.E.M. will also submit the song to a new Website, www.protest-records.com, started by Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore as an offshoot of his new Protest Records label.
The site affords musicians the chance to get their protest songs out to the public by giving them away for free via MP3 download (under a link titled "steal this stuff"). So far, the site has selections from indie artists like the Fugs' Steven Taylor ("Go Down Congress") as well as more mainstream bands, like the Beastie Boys, whose antiwar track "In a World Gone Mad" has been released to several peace-pushing Websites. Moore is also expecting new cuts soon from Mudhoney and former Rage Against the Machine singer Zach de la Rocha.
Meanwhile, John Mellencamp recently made "To Washington," his polemic on the current state of Washington, available via his site.
Across the Pond, British popster Robbie Williams announced he'll be releasing his own antiwar anthem, "Happy Easter (War Is Coming)" as the B-side to his next single, "Come Undone."
The tune remixes John Lennon's 1971 hit "Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)" with Williams' own take on the conflict in the Middle East.
Then there's Madonna. Her camp has been trying to spin her latest single, "American Life," less as an antiwar anthem, than a plea for peace. This after the Drudge Report said the 44-year-old Material Mom was ready to shock and awe the public with images of bloody babies, Iraqi children and limbless victims--all victims of war.
Madonna's rep, Liz Rosenberg, now says the video is being reworked in the wake of the Iraq invasion.
What remains to be seen is how MTV will handle airing such provocative images.
The New York Times, citing a confidential memo circulated around the offices of MTV Europe, reports that videos depicting "war, soldiers, war planes, bombs, missiles, riots and social unrest, executions" and "other obviously sensitive material" should be pulled from rotation in Britain and Europe until further notice.
The memo listed examples of off-limits clips, including the new antiwar video "Boom!" by System of a Down (and directed by rabble-rousing documentarian Michael Moore) and older videos like Radiohead's "Lucky," Billy Idol's "Hot in the City" and even Aerosmith's "Don't Want to Miss a Thing," which includes scenes from Armageddon.
The memo also reportedly stipulated that no videos should be played that contain language even alluding to war or other "sensitive words," including anything by the B-52s and OutKast's "Bombs Over Baghdad."
MTV, which is owned by a media giant Viacom, says the memo was only the view of an executive in MTV Europe and was not company-sanctioned.
"There's absolutely no MTV policy anywhere in the world banning war-related videos. The memo from the U.K. was only a recommendation from a staffer and was not and will not be implemented. It was ludicrous," the music channel says in a statement. "In the U.S. and everywhere, all voices have been and will continue to be heard on MTV.
MTV rep Graham James says the network will continue to air the System of a Down video, as well 3 Doors Down's "When I'm Gone," which was shot on the deck of a Navy aircraft carrier and offers a different view of the military.
"But," James adds, "we're still being sensitive to the situation here [in the U.S.]."
Of course, not every artist is joining the antiwar brigade.
Country singer Toby Keith performed Wednesday for President Bush and military families at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. While other music stars like Kid Rock and Charlie Daniels have come out in support of the war, even going so far as to slam their fellow musicians and celebrities who are against it.