Most Musicians Are Canceling Arizona Concerts-- But Not Elton John
So, my impressionable friend Irwing is in college and one of his classes gets addressed by a La Raza activist who goes ape-shit on Arizona's racist anti-immigration law, SB-1070, and tells the kids how whitey will never accept them and all. Irwing, who is descended from Mexican immigrants, decides to rediscover some kind of heritage and asks me to come with him to the beautiful Getty Villa in Malibu to see a new exhibition, The Aztec Pantheon and the Art of Empire. We did that yesterday. The Getty Villa is gorgeous-- almost worth the drive-- but the exhibition was kind of mediocre and Irwing didn't look that inspired. I was able to reinterpret the La Raza guy's rant for him in a more classic Marxist way about how the wealthy use the divide and conquer tactic to keep working people at each others' throats so as not to disturb a status quo that guarantees their own economic and social dominance. And we talked about practical steps we can take to undermine the racist politicians in Arizona who are behind SB-1070.
A couple weeks ago I was all excited because Los Lobos canceled their Arizona concert. John Amato at Crooks and Liars and I have been encouraging musicians to do that. The guys even made a statement about why they had made the decision: "We support the boycott of Arizona. The new law will inevitably lead to unfair racial profiling and possible abuse of people who just happen to look Latino. As a result, in good conscience, we could not see ourselves performing in Arizona. We regret the inconvenience this may have caused ... Talking Stick Resort and our fans, but we feel strongly that it is the right thing to do."
Other artists who have joined suit include Cypress Hill, Pitbull, Rage Against the Machine, Kanye West, Sonic Youth, Carlos Santana, Willie Nelson, Joe Satriani, Tenacious D, Shakira, Massive Attack and Hall & Oates (who were supposed to play at a July 2nd Diamondbacks game). Rage's Zack de la Rocha was organized an Arizona sound strike.
“Fans of our music, our stories, our films and our words can be pulled over and harassed every day because they are brown or black, or for the way they speak, or for the music they listen to,” de la Rocha said. “People who are poor like some of us used to be could be forced to live in a constant state of fear while just doing what they can to find work and survive. This law opens the door for them to be shaked down, or even worse, detained and deported while just trying to travel home from school, from home to work, or when they just roll out with their friends.”
The law-- SB 1070-- takes “racial profiling... to a whole new low,” the singer went on. “When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, they arrested her. As a result, people got together and said we are not going to ride the bus until they change the law... What if we got together, signed a collective letter saying, ‘We're not going to ride the bus,’ saying we are not going to comply. We are not going to play in Arizona.”
This week, when Hall and Oates announced the were canceling their show in Phoenix they made it clear they weren't boycotting the Diamondbacks... just Arizona-- and the team said they understood why the band had made the decision.
"In addition to our personal convictions, we are standing in solidarity with the music community in our boycott of performing in Arizona at this time. We would like to emphasize that this has nothing to do with the management of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been professional and cooperative throughout our dealings with them. This is our response to a very specific action of the state."
One artist unlikely to back out of a big payday is Elton John. Many have been urging him to do so but after the openly gay piano player took a million dollars from homophobic bridegroom Rush Limbaugh last week to play his wedding, no one seriously thought John would give up his show on July 21 at Tucson's Convention Center Arena.
Meanwhile, the Mormon chief of police in Salt Lake City joined other police chiefs in coming out strongly against racist laws like SB-1070, including Utah's similar SB-81.