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The Artist as a Catalyst


I have been a fan of Billy Brag ever since hearing “New England” and “Sexuality” for the first time. He has the soul of a folk singer and the fire of a punk rocker. Not many musicians that I can think of embody the focus, smarts, talent and sheer fortitude that Billy Bragg does. When I realized that he happened to be the guest on WTF, the podcast that is led by Marc Maron, I was really excited to listen.

Regardless of your politics, it is hard not to listen to him and respect his point of views and the down-to-earth approach that he has built over the years to support them. In part of the interview, he was talking about one of the first experiences he had as a younger man (he is 55 now) where her realized that he was going to have a role not only as a musician, but also as an activist. It was during the mining strikes in England in opposition to the full force of Margaret Thatcher and what ultimately resulted in a minimization of power of the collective labor at that time.

When discussing it, Billy said something to the effect that he learned that music, musicians, artists cannot necessarily change the world but they are the ones that bring things to the forefront so those individuals in the audience, listening etc can advocate for and ultimately drive change.

I thought this was so spot on. I think the type of artist that draws me in is the one that really challenges my beliefs, makes me think and ultimately may change the way I might approach others around me – in my personal life, at work, or even strangers I meet. Musicians, comedians, painters, writers – they all have the ability to deliver messages subtly (or not so subtly) in a way that creates a new way of interpreting the world. This is incredibly empowering. 

I am not sure comedy does this with a well placed fart joke but I do think there are some really prolific comedians who provide a unique take on the world and continue to make us rethink the world and catalyze us to ultimately move toward transformation – of ourselves and our world. That being said,sometimes, a fart joke is just a fart joke.

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