The buffoon of the week is Willard Mitt Romney. He earned the honor when he said this at the last debate, “We don’t dictate to nations, we free nations from dictators.” Willard doesn’t know his history as the USA not only help install, but protected and supported with arms, cash and military training, the corrupt dictatorships of General Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Id iAmin of Uganda,Colonel Hugo Banzer of Bolivia, Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, P.W.Botha of South Africa,General Humberto Branco of Brazil. Raoul Cedras of Haiti, Vinicio Cerezo of Guatemala, Kai-Shek Chiang of Taiwan, Roberto Suazo Cordova of Honduras, Alfredo Christiani of El Salvador, Ngo Dihn Diem of Vietnam, General Samuel Doe of Liberia, Francois Duvalier of Haiti, Jean Claude Duvalier of Haiti, King Fahd bin’Abdul-’Aziz of Saudi Arabia, General Francisco Franco of Spain, Il Hassan of Morocco, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Yahya Khan of Pakistan, Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines, General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez of El Salvador, Joseph Mobutu of Congo, General Manuel Noriega of Panama, Turgut Ozal of Turkey, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, George Papadopoulos of Greece, Park Chung Hee of South Korea, General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Pol Pot of Cambodia, General Sitiveni Rabukaof Fiji, General Efrain Rios Montt of Guatemala, Halie Salassie of Ethiopia, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal, Anastasio Jr Somoza Jr of Nicaragua, Anastasio, Somoza Sr of Nicaragua, Ian Smith of Rhodesia, Alfredo Stroessnerof Paraguay, General Suharto of Indonesia, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo of Dominican Republic, General Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina and General Mohammed Zia Ul-Haq of Pakistan.
CD Review of Mike Stout’s, “In Your Face”
by the Elecpencil
I love reading books that are biographies or about history. I especially love the type of history books that deal not with generals but with the soldiers on the front lines. Not too many history books deal with privates in wars or everyday working-class heroes. No one has written better histories about today’s working-class heroes than Alice and Staughton Lynd. That is because what the Lynd’s have done is sit down with their subjects, interviewed them and gotten something unique called, “Oral Histories” right from the horse’s mouth. To see what I mean, check out their book’s “Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers (1973)” and “the New Rank and File (2000).” If I was writing a history book these are the type of books I’d be proud to write. When it comes to the music, I want to hear the kind of songs I’d write if I only had the talent. I remember Paul McCartney singing, “I want to fill the world with silly love songs.” I’d prefer to write songs or books about what is going on in the world. They’d be the kind of songs or books that celebrate everyday heroes who are trying to make this a better world for all our children.
Luckily, I won’t ever have to struggle writing such books or songs. That is because the Lynd’s have the oral histories of working-class hero books covered and Pittsburgh singer/songwriter Mike Stout has the working-class hero songs covered. I mention the books of the Lynd’s and the songs of Mike Stout together because they form a perfect link. This link isn’t just by coincidence. Mike has been friends with the Lynd’s for a number of years. He was actually one of the workers featured in the Lynd’s, “The New Rank and File.” Mike has just released his 13th recording called, “In Your Face.” One of the songs on, “In Your face” is called, “You Old Warrior.” The song is about Staughton Lynd who is not just an author/historian but a working-class hero for the lifetime of social action causes he has been involved in. In the song, “You Old Warrior” Mike rightly calls his friend Staughton, “A beacon light for the rest of us tryin’ to make this world right!” One of Mike’s past recordings, “Heroes of History” featured a song about author/activist Alice Lynd named, “Momma Bear.” Mike like the Lynd’s is an oral historian who gives voice to unsung working-class heroes.
Mike and the Lynd’s are tireless activists for many social justice causes. One of the songs on the new CD is, “We Are Still Alive.” It is about the Braddock, Pa community activist group, Save Our Community Hospital, which was formed to try to stop the closure of the Braddock UPMC Hospital. Mike sings this about the activists, “And the local people rally, every color, age and creed, throwing stones at this Goliath, and its wrecking balls of greed.” Mike is able to play the role of oral historian for these activists because he attended their rallies providing inspiration in the form of music.
In his song, “FRANKIE DOMAGALA” Mike celebrates the life of Frankie Domagala who was a union leader at the Homestead steel plant where Mike was a union grievance man. Like the Homestead steel mill Frankie is now deceased. Mike laments not only the passing of Frankie but the passing of the days when workers joined in solidarity to take on the powers that be to save our industrial base. Mike sings, “Like the others who fought, that history forgot, I‘ll make sure they remember his name.”
Unsung heroes like Frankie have gotten their day in each of Mike’s 13 CD’s. Mike is definitely one of the few Woody Guthries of our day. That is why it is more than fitting that Mike praises Woody’s contribution to our nation in the song, “America’s Favorite Sons.” Mike sings, “Your lyrics still speak for the whole working class” and “The power of your words transcends time and age. Your fascist killing guitar, still strumming with rage.” Mike’s backup band, the Human Union features some of the best musicians in the Pittsburgh area. They provide the sonic sparks that help ignite Mike’s fiery lyrics like in the title song, “In Your Face.” Mike wails, “They poisoned all the rivers and oceans, stole your children’s future away. This holocaust might be in slow motion, but the train wreck is real, until you grab the wheel, I’ll be in your face till then.” Mike urges us to stand up and take our country back from what he calls, “the fossil fuel killers” in the timely Rolling Stones-like anthem rocker, “Stop the Frack Attack.”
While we mourn 3,000 who died in a terrorist attack on 9/11 Mike reminds us in the tune, “We Came to Work, Not to Die” that 5,000-6,000 – two 9/11’s, die every year in workplace accidents. He calls out for justice for these workers. In his song, “Triangle Shirt Waist Fire” he reminds us of the 1911 New York fire that killed 146 garment workers (129 being women). The workers died because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. Mike tells us people in Third World sweatshops still die because their conditions aren’t different from those workers here faced in 1911.
Mike’s celebrates his late brother Roy’s life in, “The Mayor of Cheapside.” Roy lived in Lexington, Kentucky and like Mike was a printer, an activist and a working-class hero. Roy died after being hit by an out of control car but pushed his girlfriend to safety. The song is one of the best eulogies to a loved one I have ever heard. Mike’s chorus is, “He was my friend, my cultural, political bro. A local star under the radar of the status quo. How much I love him, how much I miss him, you will never know.” There are a few more great tunes I haven’t even got to. I’m here to tell you Mike’s lyrics speak for the working class more than any other musician around today. These aren’t songs; these are the spirit, the souls and the blood sweat and tears of working-class heroes. These are the heroes that have come before us to inspire us by walking (more likely marching and demonstrating) the walk. These were all unsung heroes until a Homer of our day like Mike Stout sang their praises. Unlike Homer Mike’s songs don’t need to be interpreted as they are straight ahead rockers and speak for themselves. They are also, “In Your Face.”
Check out Mike’s new tunes: “Stop the Frack Attack “and “In Your Face” here.
“Pop music often tells you everything is OK, while rock music tells you that it’s not OK, but you can change it.” ~ Bono