bq. "The wind of change Blows straight into the face of time Like a stormwind that will ring The freedom bell for peace of mind Let your balalaika sing What my guitar wants to say..." - The Scorpions, "Winds of Change" Mike Daley sends this irresistable tidbit along. Apparently, tonight will feature a very special speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Hungary's ambassador to the United States. To quote from the Hall of Fame's official news release:
"Mr. Simonyi will discuss his personal experiences with rock music and the impact that it made in Communist-ruled Hungary and other Soviet Bloc countries. The free flow of American and British rock music – and the revolutionary ideas it represents – over the airwaves in Central and Eastern Europe was instrumental in loosening the Communists' grip on power and contributed to the eventual downfall of dictatorships in that area of the world. Ambassador Simonyi’s speech is entitled “Rocking for the Free World: How Rock Music Helped Bring Down the Iron Curtain.” The Ambassador, an accomplished blues guitarist himself and formerly the member of several Hungarian rock groups, will be introduced by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, former lead guitarist with the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.
As I think back over the last 20 years and remember what the world used to be like, I believe the appropriate expression for occasions like this is "Fuckin' A!" We live in wonderful, dangerous times - and the one does not negate the other. bq. "Not only for me but also for other Hungarians of my generation, this became the stuff that really linked us to the free world," he said. "As I listened to this kind of music, I felt I was part of the free world myself." Back in May of 2002, my blog essay "G-d Gave Rock N' Roll To You..." explained why Rock, Jazz, and other forms of Western music are so inherently dangerous to certain regimes and ideologies, and why that still mattered. From Arab News to McCoy's B-52s, from C.P. Freund to Neal Stephenson, it ties them all together, relates these ideas to present events, and makes the case for giving our bastard cultural children Jazz, Blues and Rock n' Roll their due. For Hungary is not the first society rocked to freedom by this music. America is. The music embraced America long before America embraced its players, and Americans accepted it in their ears before they accepted its true message in their hearts. It was sorrow, and endurance, and joy. It took old lines and boldly crossed them, and its mix shook the world. It dared its listeners to define themselves. It set them free. That's what this music means - and what America means, too, in its best moments. Rock n' Roll America, beacon of freedom. Or, as Lileks puts it, "we're The Axis of Elvis." Amen. The black artists who made jazz, blues and rock possible brought forth a great gift out of a great injustice, and helped define America to the world. Their gift goes on giving, in America and beyond. Here's the full series:
Winds Prologue: The Axis of Elvis | Hall of Fame Speech Part 1: Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter | Part 2: Ambassador Andras Simonyi | Part 3: Baxter & Simonyi Q&A Session
In the words of Ambassador Simonyi's favorite artist, Stevie Winwood:
"Many a mile to freedom, many a smile to tell Ask my bluebird to sing you, from the heart of a wishing well Call all my reindeer to graze here, call all my grain to grow Then together we flow like the river Then together we melt like the snow... ...A few more miles to go Miles to freedom." - Stevie Winwood, "Many a Mile to Freedom"