Politics and Rock ‘n’ Roll

When a musician you like takes a stand on a political, environmental, human rights, or other issue, does it cause you to reevaluate your decision to listen to and/or continue to enjoy their music?

The most recent example is country singer Tim McGraw who will headline a benefit concert for Sandy Hook Promise, a group advocating common sense gun laws, organized following the 2012 elementary school shooting that left 26 dead.

The concert is scheduled for July 17th in Hartford, Connecticut, and is the result of a friendship between one of McGraw’s band members and the father of one of the children who died during the 2012 shooting rampage.

In a statement to the press, McGraw said: ““Out of this tragedy a group was formed that made a promise to honor the lives lost and turn it into a moment of transformation. Sandy Hook Promise teaches that we can do something to protect our children from gun violence. I want to be a part of that promise – as a father and as a friend.”

There are conservatives who are outraged that a country singer, coming from a musical genre usually associated with traditional values would perform at a concert they consider anti-gun.

On the opposite end of the gun control debate is Ted Nugent, another example of a musician using the power of the performance stage to express his views, only this time in favor of gun ownership and the NRA.Nugent

At the National Rifle Association’s annual convention, which included appearances by several Republican presidential candidates, Nugent called Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid a “lying prick” and said, if the opportunity arose, he’d “shoot him.” How does this make you feel if you’re a Democrat and anti-gun advocate, but you just happen to like Nugent’s music?

Now, let’s look at former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. During the campaign in 2012, it came out that in 1983, Seamus, the Romney’s Irish setter got sick while spending 12 hours riding on the roof of the station wagon they were traveling in for a family vacation. Late-night host David Letterman spoke about Seamus frequently, “Dogs Aren’t Luggage” T-shirts were sold, and Facebook groups like “Dogs Against Romney” protested outside the Westminster dog show.
Remember the Akron, Ohio group “Devo”?

They had a song called ‘Whip It’ that peaked at #14 in the fall of 1980? Band members were knows to wear some “creative” costumes, like the yellow jumpsuits and flower pot hats.

In the summer of 2012, the band released a single called “Don’t Roof Rack Me, Bro (Seamus Unleashed)“, dedicated to Romney’s former pet dog Seamus.

seamus-revengeWas Devo making a political statement to discredit Romney during the election or simply taking advantage of the story to get some publicity?

It’s been said that the impetus for forming Devo followed the Kent State Shootings on May 4, 1970 when four unarmed college students were killed and nine others wounded by the Ohio National Guard during a protest of the Cambodian Campaign, announced by President Richard Nixon during a television address four days earlier.
In reaction to the Kent State shootings, Neil Young composed the song “Ohio” which was recorded and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the summer of 1970.


Speaking of Nixon…
On December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley met with President Richard M. Nixon at the White House to request a special badge.
Elvis had a collection of police badges, and decided that he wanted one from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

According to Priscilla Presley in her memoir, Elvis and Me, “with the federal narcotics badge, he [believed he] could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”

The meeting was captured with the photograph, Elvis and President Nixon. It became one of the most requested photographs in the National Archives history. It’s now available at the Archives gift shop in the form of T-shirts, coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets and snow globes.

If you happened to be an anti-war protester and didn’t care for President Nixon in 1970, but were a big fan of Elvis, did this photograph have any impact on your viewpoint? Did the appearance of Elvis with the president make Nixon a little more acceptable? Did you feel betrayed by Presley’s (presumed) acceptance of Nixon, or didn’t it matter to you?

With the presidential election coming up next year, we’ll see an increasing number of candidates teaming up with celebrities to reflect credibility by association. In today’s world of social media, image is everything!
Clinton Sax
Remember this gem from Bill Clinton on The Arsenio Hall Show in June 1992?

Animal Cruelty and Dirty Little Words in Rock n Roll

Anyone who knows me is well aware that I cannot stand by and do nothing when I hear a story about animal abuse. As a result, I’m using the power of this blog to seek the public’s help in finding the person who (according to reports from a local television station), “tied a male dog by the neck onto the bed of a white pickup truck and drove along the 300 block of Maple Street in Columbia. While en route, the dog fell from the truck and was dragged down the street. They say the woman stopped the vehicle, cut off the rope and drove off.”

DogAbused What kind of person could do something so evil to a dog? Columbia Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the driver of the pickup truck.
If you can help, please call the Police Department at 717-684-7735.


When I first heard this story, I became so angry that the first song that came to mind was ‘Hair of the Dog’ by the Scottish band ‘Nazareth’. It’s interesting to note that the words Hair of the Dog never appear in the song itself.

The album ‘Hair of the Dog’ was released on April 15, 1975. According to an interview with original Nazareth lead vocalist Dan McCafferty on the website, www.classicrockmusicwriter.com, the band picked the name of their band from a song by the group ‘The Band’ called ‘The Weight’. The song opens with the line: “I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin’ about half past dead.”







The only song by Nazareth to hit the Top 40 on the Billboard Music Charts was ‘Love Hurts’, which peaked at #8 in 1976. Love Hurts appears on the album ‘Hair of the Dog’. The song was originally recorded by The Everly Brothers (in 1960) and Roy Orbison (1961).

However, back to Hair of the Dog…McCafferty said they wanted to call it ‘Son of a Bitch’ (which is the main line in the chorus of the song) but the record label (A&M) said “oh no, you can’t do that, they won’t sell it.” So they called the album (and title track) ‘Heir of the Dog’ which basically means ‘Son of a Bitch’ anyway, but the title eventually became ‘Hair of the Dog’ on the album.


Considering how conservative radio stations were in 1975, not to mention today, it’s a wonder the song ever got airplay to begin with. And for the sake of the poor dog that was abused in Columbia, my thoughts went immediately to canine vengeance in the key line in the song “Now you’re messing with a son of a bitch!”

Other songs that received radio airplay even though the lyrics were questionable include:
“Bitch” by The Rolling Stones from their 1971 album Sticky Fingers.
Here’s an early video of The Rolling Stones doing ‘Bitch’ (live) in Texas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N0A2b7nbdM








And ‘The Bitch is Back’ by Elton John. It was the second single released from his 1974 album Caribou. My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Elton John in Reading, PA on February 28, 2015, and of course he played ‘The Bitch is Back’.



Here’s a photo of Elton John that I took at the concert.



Here’s a link to a MUCH YOUNGER Elton doing ‘The Bitch is Back’ (live). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rig3tgyYiAM

WhoAreYouThere are many other examples of profanity in rock music that made it to the airwaves, but the one that surprises me most in the way it has evolved over the years is the song ‘Who Are You’ by The Who. For many years the line ‘Who the F*** are you’ slipped by the censors and made it onto the airwaves.

Today however, because of increased enforcement by the FCC, the “F” word is edited out by most radio stations.

Here’s The Who doing an uncensored version of ‘Who Are You?’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdLIerfXuZ4

When I discussed the subject of this blog with my wife, she said “you’ve got to tone it down and not let your emotions put such a negative twist on the dog abuse story”. So I decided to balance the story out with an uplifting song by a young man named Brendan Biondi from the Baltimore area, proclaiming the love he has for his dog.


When I first heard the song about a year ago, I reached out to Brendan to tell him how much I enjoyed not only his song, but the excellent video he produced to go along with ‘Song My Dog Wrote’.

I don’t believe the song ever received any radio airplay, but it’s one of my favorites, and is certainly worth checking out. In fact, I suggest bookmarking Brendan’s YouTube website to play the song any time you’re feeling down and need a pick-me-up! https://www.youtube.com/user/brendanb007

Although there are some cruel people in the world, life is good, and a companion pet makes it awesome! Love your pet, report animal abusers, and support your local animal shelter.

Hug your dog as you enjoy Brendan’s song together.

Maggie, our Spirit in the Sky!

There are songs that have a tendency to live on forever, constantly evolving to fit the times, the audience and the situation. I happened to be thinking about one song in particular over the weekend while reminiscing about our Irish Setter, Maggie. For about eight years I was the regular host of a weekly television show called “Meet the Pets” that aired first on White Rose Community television, then Comcast, and currently WGCB, Family 49 in Red Lion. I still occasionally fill-in on the show. Meet the Pets spotlights pets available for adoption from the York County SPCA.

I was hosting Meet the Pets on January 20, 2004 from the York County SPCA when it was still located in Thomasville, when in came a young Irish Setter bouncing off the walls and couldn’t sit still for a second. I have always been a fan of Afghan Hounds, had several and still have one, but there was something extraordinary about this particular red-haired dog! I fell in love with her immediately. Her name was Maggie and although devilish, she had the innocence and charm of a child. After taping the show segment (which included Maggie), I decided I had to take her home with me.

When we got home and Maggie met Taj (my Afghan Hound), they went crazy (in a fun way), chasing each other around the house, barking incessantly. After a few hours of this, I felt I couldn’t handle the confusion and called Donna (the Executive Director of the York County SPCA at the time) and said “I’ve got to bring this dog back, she’s driving me crazy!” Donna said, that’s fine, but it’s after hours and the gates are locked. Fortunately, one of the employees, Marilyn, lived in a second-floor apartment at the shelter. Donna said, let me call Marilyn and see if she’s there to let you in. Donna added, I’ll call you back shortly. I hung up the telephone feeling relieved, but guilty.

I sat down on the sofa and the next thing I knew, Maggie jumped up beside me. She leaned her body up tightly against mine, gazing into my eyes and turning on the charm. Maggie then leaned over and began licking my face. About an hour later, the telephone rang. It was Donna calling back to say, Marilyn is at the shelter and I could take Maggie back. By this time Maggie’s sucking up had worked and I responded, “well, let me give it another day or two to see how things work out.” Well, it sure did work out! Maggie turned out to be the best dog I ever had (and I’ve had many). She accompanied me in parades in York, Harrisburg, Millersville, and appearances at nearly every event I had the pleasure of hosting (where I could bring my dog).

Maggie2012ParadeLife with Maggie was not perfect, but then again, what in life without challenges is worth the effort? When I first took Maggie home, I lived in Northern York County. I had a fenced-in backyard. The fence was 5’ high to keep my Afghan Hound Taj from jumping over it. No problem for an Irish Setter…or, so I thought. Maggie quickly began digging holes UNDER the fence and running off. If you have ever seen the dog in the movie “Funny Farm” starring Chevy Chase, you’ll understand the dilemma I was facing. I came up with a plan; I ran a cable from my house to a pole at the end of the yard and attached a second cable to that one, attaching Maggie to it. Problem solved? Nooooo, not a chance! The next time I looked out the back door, there was my dream dog sitting OUTSIDE the fence, having dug underneath….STILL ATTACHED TO THE CABLE!

Maggie and Santa Dec 2007Fast forward 10 years later, and I still had the little trouble-maker! My wife Debra and I occasionally take our dogs to nursing homes and a day treatment facility for people with severe brain trauma for Pet Therapy visits, and Maggie was a favorite of everyone she met. However, during the spring of 2014 Maggie’s left front leg starting swelling up. We took her to the vet only to discover she had cancer in her leg joint. We had very few options. Removing her leg was not guaranteed to extend her life because it was feared the cancer had spread throughout her body, so we decided to medicate her to reduce the pain and keep the quality of her life as positive as possible. That crazy Irish Setter flourished in spite of her cancer. She learned to hop around on three legs and continued to bring joy into our hearts for another 6-7 months, then one day I went to take her for a walk and found she could not get up. The cancer had finally taken its evil toll on our beloved Maggie.

Maggie2I prayed for a miracle, but it was no use, the time had come to say goodbye. Our hearts were broken, and remain so to this day! She was so alive in her heart and from the neck up, but her body could not overcome the disease. On October 27, 2014 we had to say goodbye to Maggie forever. I took pictures of her just a few hours before she was gone. The ringtone on my cell phone is Maggie barking. She was such a teaser that she would look at me and bark until she got my attention. By the way, Marilyn is STILL a valuable and dedicated employee of the York County SPCA. Thank goodness she was not at home the day I tried to take Maggie back!

(Above Link:  Maggie’s bark)

The song I am featuring this week, in memory of Maggie, is “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum. I play the song on our Internet Radio Station, Pet Guardians Radio, and whenever I hear it, my thoughts and heart go out to Maggie. Ironically, I heard the song this past weekend and today when I opened up the newspaper, I found an article about Norman Greenbaum being involved in an auto accident in California.

Spirit in the Sky was a hit for Greenbaum in 1969/1970. It was his only song to chart in the Top 40 in the U.S., stayed on the charts for 14 weeks and peaked at #3 as a gold single. The song hit #1 on the charts in the UK, Australia, and Canada.

(Above Link:  Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky)

According to an article in the New York Times (in 2006) “Spirit in the Sky” has been featured in 32 movies and more than a dozen national television ads for products. The article goes on to point out that “the song is a shout out to Jesus, written and performed by a nice Jewish boy from Massachusetts.” Greenbaum wrote the song in 1969 in 15 minutes after watching Porter Wagoner sing a gospel song on television.

Greenbaum early         Norman Greenbaum (then)

Greenbaum today        Norman Greenbaum (today)

Maggie, this one’s for you girl!