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Anarchism and Music: Biographies

Joe Hill

Joe Hill was born Joel Haaglund in 1879 in Sweden. He was exposed to music from an early age by his parents. After their death in 1902, Joel and his brother immigrated to New York City, and then relocated to Chicago, where Joel worked in a Machine shop. After he was fired for attempting to organize the workers, Joel Haaglund changed his name to Joe Hill in solidarity with American laborers and joined the IWW in 1910. As Joe Hill he dedicated the next, and last, four years of his life to the labor cause, as a musician and activist. In 1914, Hill was killed by a firing squad in Utah, convicted of a double murder that he did not commit.

John Cage

John Cage was an American avant-garde composer whose music relied on mathematical patterns, randomness, improvisation and chance to create unique sounds and rhythms. He was also one of the developers of modern dance. Cage's pieces are controversial because they are vastly different from mainstream music. For example, his piece 4'33" is four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. All of his compositions were difficult to reproduce and perform, which was an embodiment of his anarchist views. He believed that difficulty would ensure that "a performance would show that the impossible is not impossible" -this being Cage's answer to the notion that solving the world's political and social problems is impossible. Cage considered himself to be an anarchist, and was inspired by the work of Thoreau. In an interview in 1985 John Cage said, "I'm an anarchist. I don't know whether the adjective is pure and simple, or philosophical, or what, but I don't like government! And I don't like institutions! And I don't have any confidence in even good institutions."


Chumbawumba is a British alternative-rock group that formed in 1982. Throughout the band's almost three decades of existence they've experimented in punk rock, pop-influenced music, as well as folk music and world music. The band expresses many anarchist ideals through their lyrics, and are openly feminist, as well as anti-racist, and anti-facist.

In a recent blog post, the band stated that they do not support the UKIP. "Nigel Farage came out at the UKIP conference to our song Tubthumping. If ever there was gross misuse of a band's music this is it. Chumbawamba would like it to go on record that we do not support either David Farrage or UKIP. In fact we would go further and say that Nigel Farrage is an arse, his party is mainly made up of bigots and its policies are racist. Hope that clears up any notion that we in any way approve of use of our song." (posted at, 9/9/11).

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco is an American rapper and producer. Although his song lyrics are not highly political, he maintains strong political opinions in his personal life. In one interview he said, "You should criticize power even if you agree with it." In another CBS interview in 2011 Fiasco said "My fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama and the United States of America. I'm trying to fight the terrorism that's actually causing the other forms of terrorism. You know, the root cause of terrorism is the stuff the U.S. government allows to happen. The foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists." Like a true anarchist, Lupe Fiasco does not vote in U.S. elections nor does he involve himself in U.S. politics as he believes they are "meaningless."

Anarcho-Punk (Sex Pistols)

The Sex Pistols were a British punk rock band that formed in 1975. While the band only lasted until 1978, and they only ever produced one studio album, they were responsible for starting the entire punk rock movement. The Sex Pistols became well known for their politically charged music, as much as for their ceaseless ability to shock fans musically and off stage. While all of their songs achieved recognition, some of their most famous and controversial songs include, "God Save the Queen," "Anarchy in the U.K.," and "EMI," which was written about one of the record companies they signed with early on.

Star Fucking Hipsters

"We are an ANTI-RACIST, ANTI-SEXIST, ANTI-HOMOPHOBIC & ANTI-FASCIST organization. We are pro-choice, but anti-breeding, we are against any wars that are fought for profit or for the power to enslave people or to destroy the cultures of another race, religious or ethnic group. We are against nations and their ill-gotten arbitrary borders. We are against the invasion and colonialism perpetrated by crass, brutish governments such our own. We believe only in fighting to defend your people, culture and resources from being raped by international bullies looking to turn a profit at the expense of innocent people and this very planet that gives us life." --From the band's myspace page.

Citizen Fish

"In a fun loving, all inclusive way, Citizen Fish (and their previous outfits Culture Shock and the legendary Subhumans) have brought working class radical politics to generations of questioning minds. Leaving aside the typical screaming rants of boring political punk bands, the Fish offer a hopeful, danceable alternative. Whereas other bands have fans, admirers, and flavor-of-the-month teenyboppers hoarding to their concerts, Citizen Fish have established an open and always growing family. The idealistic unifying tone of Dick's lyrics, coupled with the catchy driving riffs of the band, allow the Fish to appeal to a wide variety of folks." - Craig O'Hara Author, Philosophy of Punk


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