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SPIGOLON: Politics and music just don’t mix for me
Ted Nugent
Musician Ted Nugent performs at a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Nov. 7, 2016. - photo by The Associated Press

This is an opinion.

Just as many people are turned off by athletes using their visibility to make political statements, the same goes for musicians for some people.

A tradition of speaking out through pop music may have been needed at one time.

Artists like Billie Holliday (“Strange Fruit”) in 1939, about lynchings of Black people during the era; and Sam Cooke (“A Change is Gonna Come”) in 1964 during an era of social unrest, made statements during a period when real change was needed. 

That tradition spread to numerous Black and white artists in the midst of the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War, with younger rock and R&B artists opposing the conflict in statements that often also criticized the U.S. in general; and some older, more traditional artists in country music supporting the war effort.

After a relative lull, politics began seeping back into popular culture in earnest in the early 1990s. A political chasm began opening with the retirement of more tempered leaders like Ronald Reagan and the ascendance of more confrontational politicians like Newt Gingrich and rise of political talk radio in the early 1990s.

The chasm has only grown wider since then and now, it seems, and continues to seep into popular culture as stars’ political views come to define them more than their work.

We see former child actors like Scott Baio, Ricky Schroder and Alyssa Milano make themselves known only as political activists to a new generation. 

Milano routinely tours the country speaking on left-wing causes, while Schroder recently has filmed himself shrieking at Costco employees about his desire not to wear a mask — which also has become its own political statement.

I was reminded of all this when I recently saw that former country music star Lee Greenwood was booked to perform over the Fourth of July holiday in a casino in Coeur D’alene, Idaho, and at Brigham Young University in Utah — two rigidly conservative Republican areas of the country.

At one time in the 1980s, Greenwood’s songs were all over country radio. These days, he’s booked because he’s viewed as a Republican artist whose biggest hit — though he likely doesn’t see it this way — is a political statement.

Yes, he’s signed on the July 4 holiday to perform in St. Louis, Missouri, which is not exactly a bastion of conservatism. But people come to see him nowadays basically for one song that — whether he likes it or not — is considered a Republican rallying cry.

Rock music legend Ted Nugent is no longer known for his work on guitar with his groundbreaking 1960s Detroit band The Amboy Dukes or his solo albums from the 1970s and 1980s. He’s known nowadays for his outspoken views on gun owners’ rights and other conservative causes.

Nugent blames his political stances — which he’s never hidden, by the way — for his exclusion from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

An artist becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame 25 years after their first album is released. If it’s indeed the “Rock and Roll” Hall of Fame, Nugent belongs there before artists like Jay Z, who is not exactly known as a “rock” artist but was inducted this year.

The Hall of Fame also has excluded visibly left-wing political band Rage Against the Machine, whose statements have come under fire as anti-law enforcement in the past.

The Hall needs to look at the artist’s work and not his or her politics, I believe.

But, I also don’t think politics and music of any genre mix well in this era of total outrage at almost anything a political leader of either party says.

I am not saying artists shouldn’t be able to express their rights to free speech, just like anyone else in sports or other areas of the culture.

It would just be nice to return to the lull in political posturing we saw before.

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The News. Reach him at