Socialist Worker

David Rovics: in the service of the movement

by Guy Smallman
Issue No. 1977

On the one side is the fighter jet; on the other is the stone,
One the one side is the slave, one the other is the throne.
Caterpillars maul streets, destroy whole city blocks,
While children swallow shrapnel, for the crime of throwing rocks.

These words, from the song Occupation, are probably not what you would expect to hear from a Jewish American from Republican Connecticut. But David Rovics is no ordinary folk artist.

Banned by most mainstream US radio stations, David has carved out a niche in the folk scene since the mid-1990s.

Most of his material is based on stripped down acoustic guitar plus searing vocals.

I would challenge anyone to find a more talented or hard hitting lyricist.

Writing a song from the perspective of a 9/11 hijacker takes serious balls in a country where you can be arrested for wearing an anti Bush T-shirt.

Those who travelled to Scotland for the G8 may remember his gigs at the G8 Alternatives conference and demonstrations.

Rovics has made it his mission to play at every major summit mobilisation since Seattle. Yet for someone who spends most of his life on the road he is a very prolific recording artist.

His latest single New Orleans was recorded just days after the catastrophe.

As well as casting his critical eye over current affairs, Rovics is a master at drawing attention to great struggles throughout history. The Battle of Blair Mountain tells the story of the bitter fight between miners and bosses in 1920s West Virginia. Hiroshima, Pinochet and the Korean war also get the Rovics treatment.

He is also not afraid to take the piss out of the movement or himself if it makes a good song.

David Rovics is presently touring Britain and will be appearing at the climate change protest on 3 December.

For tour news or to listen to and download his music for free go to

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Article information

Sat 19 Nov 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1977
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