Monday, March 13, 2006



As a former radio dj, club dj, music journalist, indie record company founder and corporate label president, it should come as no surprise that I feel there's a lot you can tell about someone by how they relate to music. There's never been any doubt in my mind that knowing where a candidate is culturally can tell you at least as much about him as knowing about what he says his positions are on issues, especially when everything is so... nuanced.

But comparing Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont based on their views of culture is especially useful, particularly because Lieberman has in great part defined himself politically with his reaction to popular culture. Having been in an anti-intellectual atmosphere for so many years, the keeness of mind that Lieberman must have once possessed (at least when he was at Yale) has long been exchanged for an animal instinct, a political animal instinct, for survival. Instead of looking back and seeing how society actually prospered despite dire predictions from the forces of reaction-- that society was coursening and crumbling because of... Frank Sinatra... Elvis Presley... the Beatles, Lieberman failed to extrapolate anything beyond the possibility of a demagogue being able to take advantage of cultural change for his own purposes.

In Lieberman's case that was clearly to establish his bona fides with the Bill Bennetts, Tipper Gores, Lynne Cheneys, Sam Brownbacks of the world and to exploit the rational concerns and fears parents always have for the well-being of their children. Desperate to never be painted as a liberal again-- after his defeat in the one race he ran for the House of Representatives-- Lieberman bent over backwards to cultivate an image as the uptight, stern, holier-than-thou, disapproving patriarch. It worked-- and it went a very long way towardsf turning young people off to the Democratic Party in 2000.

If Clinton was looked at as kind of cool and open by people under 30, Lieberman was seen as a meddlesome scold and a hypocrite. Combining the name "Lieberman" with the name "Gore," in the eyes of many, was a fatal flaw for Al Gore's chances of holding together the Democratic coalition that had given Clinton two terms in the White House. I mean it is hard to imagine someone coming off less cool and less with it than George W. Bush. Lieberman pulled it off.

I don't know Ned Lamont well enough to be able to tell you he's a hipster. I do know him well enough to be able to asure you he's an open-minded and thoughtful parent of a teenage daughter and that he is aware of and sensitive to popular culture-- unlike so many of our lofty salons. (Some Feingold fans were as excited about him saying he liked Brokeback Mountain as they were about him voting against cloture in the Alito confirmation!) It's kind of nice to know that the people who are making the laws that govern our everyday lives are sharing a collective consciousness with the rest of us. And culture is definately a part of that. If Lieberman is the senator-- even more than his buddies at the extreme right of the Republican Party-- who wanted to kill rock'n'roll, we have a right to ask ourselves where Lamont is on this?

I only had a couple of hours to talk with him and listen to his stump speech so I never did get to compare music tastes with him. But today Ned Lamont threw a party in Hartford. It was to make the official announcement of his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, currently held by George Bush's favorite Democrat, Joe Lieberman. Who ever heard of a party without music? Not Ned. His party was rockin'.

So what can you tell about a man from the music he plays at a highly public event like this. Let's take a look at the set list:

The party kicked off with "Stand" by The Kennedys and then went into mostly inspiring iconic songs and classics from when Ned was probably in school (although some are probably from when his daughter was in school too!): "Big Yellow Taxi" (Joni Mitchell), "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (Dylan), "This Land Is Your Land" (Woody Guthrie), "Get Up, Stand Up" (Bob Marley), "Ain't No Liberal" (The Foremen), "American Girl (Tom Petty), "Closer to Free" (The BoDeans), "Rebel Rebel" (Bowie), "Fight the Power" (The Isley Brothers), "Do You Believe in Magic?" (The Lovin Spoonful), "Howling at the Moon" (The Ramones), "It's the End of the World as We Know It (REM), "Volunteers" (Jefferson Airplane), "Start Me Up" (The Rolling Stones), "Stand" (REM).

Ned and his family walked out onto the stage: to the sounds of The Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" and after his inspiring speech, he walked off the stage and into the enthusiastic crowd to "I Won't Back Down by Tom Petty and one of his personal faves, "Rock the Boat by Inner Circle. As the party progresed, on came "A Beautiful Day" (U2), "Peace Train" (10,000 Maniacs), "The Best Day Ever" (Spongebob Squarepants), "Jump, Jive and Wail" (Louis Prima), "Walk of Life" (Dire Straits), "A Mi Manera (My Way)" (Gypsy Kings), "Forever Young" (Alphaville), "Chimes of Freedom" (The Byrds), the coolest remix of the Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac classic "Landslide," "Hard Traveling" (Woody Guthrie), "With a Little Help From My Friends" (Joe Cocker), "Stand By Me" (Ben E. King) and "Accentuate the Positive" (Dr. John).

I don't know about you, but I'd sure as hell rather have someone in the Senate who can groove to Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Sponge Bob and... THE RAMONES than some uptight, out-of-touch, reactionary relic who thinks demonizing young people and pop culture is a way to inspire fear and fear-based support (ala Bush) in parents concerned about cultural trends that have moved faster than they have. Lieberman is too dial-up and culturally, too pre-9-11 for a progressive, educated state like Connecticut. I wish there were Ned Lamonts willing to get involved in politics all over the country!


I forgot to mention that clicking right here will offer you an opportunity to help Ned Lamont finance his courageous campaign to unseat one of the worst Democratic Party legislators in the country, Joe "V-Chip" Lieberman. Join the grassroots movement of people sending in $10 and $20 contributions to offset the lobbyists and reactionaries who are pouring huge sums into Lieberman's campaign warchest so they can continue to count on him to support every cockamamie pro-corporate scheme to rip off consumers that comes down the turnpike-- or at least down Pennsylvania Avenue. And remember, if you like U2, R.E.M., the Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac, SpongeBob, Dylan, Bowie, Ben E. King and Dire Straits music at least you know you have a chance to support someone whose head is in the same century as yours. On the other hand, if you want to kill rock'n'roll and drive the joy out of living, maybe the other guy is the right candidate for you!


Just because Joe Lieberman tried to kill rock'n'roll, it doesn't mean that he doesn't like music. A mutual friend sent me this little video of all the right-wing faves that Lieberman well may be grooving to while he's plotting how to censor musicians and songwriters.


At 6:58 PM, Blogger FaulknA said...

"So what can you tell about a man from the music he plays at a highly public event like this?"

Quite a bit in my experience. Ned wins my vote hands down.

At 9:14 PM, Blogger zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Loserman is coming out against my Senator Russ.

Ned at least name-checks hometown boyt da Bodeans, he's got my dough.

At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you again, for emphasizing the upbeat aspects of the announcement. I couldn't make it to Hartford yesterday, but bloggers who attended --even the skeptical-- said Ned "rocked."
What was predictable, knowing Lieberman, was that the local tv, in an effort to be "fair" and "balanced," placed Joe's staffer's negative spew at the end of the coverage, in an effort to make the Lamont campaign look negative. That's a typical Lieberman moment, where you're not sure you're living even in the same country. Address the facts & Gerstein I, II & III will yell attack.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a music programmer and video producer myself so these kinds of selections are pretty important to me as well. A window into the soul, so to speak.

I seem to remember during one of the Dem. Presidential Primary debates one of the questions to all the candidates was favorite music choice. Kerry's was Bruce Springsteen, Dean's was Wyclef Jean and Lieberman's was, like, Kate Smith or something equally lame and completely out of touch. (Or wait...maybe that was Al Capp fighting with John Lennon). At any rate, they're both scolding and pointless.


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