Music Notes – October 2012

David Rovics touring Canada this fall

Indie singer-songwriter David Rovics has criss-crossed North America and Western Europe many times over the past two decades. The roving troubadour has witnessed scores of local struggles against the capitalist system, and he’s documented and celebrated many of them with finely-crafted topical songs. This fall Rovics is touring Canada, with concerts in Quebec (October 12), Ottawa (October 13), Toronto (October 16), Brandon (November 9), Winnipeg (November 10), and Victoria (November 23). Also in the works are shows in Montreal (October 14) and Vancouver (November 24). David’s new album “Meanwhile in Afghanistan” will be released in December. Unlike most of his recordings, this project is rock-oriented. Guest artists include lefty guitar hero Tom Morello. Readers can download an acoustic version of the album by making a donation of any size to David’s publicity fundraising campaign. For more info:

Lollapalooza defies BDS campaign

The cultural boycott of Israel faces a challenge with the announcement that the 2013 Lollapalooza rock festival will be staged in Tel Aviv next August. The three-day festival’s founder and producer, Perry Farrell, lead-singer of rock band Jane’s Addiction, will be joining his hosts in an attempt to portray the apartheid state as a paragon of diversity. The so-called “alternative” music festival, which attracts major musical acts and draws crowds of up to 150,000, is a corporate franchise run by Texas-based Capital Sports Entertainment and the William Morris Agency (run by the brother of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel). Farrell, a fervent supporter of Zionism, raised funds for Israeli soldiers during the Gaza massacre in the winter of 2008-09. While the Lollapalooza announcement is a challenge, the cultural boycott continues to grow. For an update visit:

Common Thread launches kids choir

The motto of Toronto’s Common Thread Community Chorus is “changing the world one song at a time.” The secular 80-voice choir believes that social justice and community can be built through music. Last year it initiated a series of informal rehearsals with children, with the kids performing a few songs at one of their concerts. Now the Common Thread Community Kids Chorus has been officially launched. Weekly rehearsals for children have begun under the baton of former CT assistant conductor Lynn McMurray. The goal is for kids to have fun singing empowering songs that build a sense of belonging, respect for diversity and positive social change. Like its parent, the kids chorus is non-audition, and fees are quite modest. Common Thread is holding its annual fundraising event on November 3rd at St. Simon’s Anglican Church. It’s a “Phil Ochs Song Night,” hosted by the legendary troubadour’s sister Sonny Ochs, and featuring a line-up of talented performers. For info visit

Musicians abandon Obama bandwagon

The U.S. election season is in full swing, and the presidential rivals are hoping that endorsements from famous musicians will give them a competitive edge. While Mitt Romney relies upon a few right-wing rockers like gun-control opponent Ted Nugent and Kiss vocalist Gene Simmons, Barack Obama is endorsed by a host of best-selling contemporary musicians like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Alicia Keys. The President’s list of supporters is impressive, but many 2008 supporters are disappointed in his record and have backed off. Notable defectors include Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Pearl Jam, The Decembrists and Joan Baez. The sense of dread that hangs over the U.S. elections is eloquently captured by Ry Cooder’s latest album “Election Special.” The master guitarist and singer has released a broadside that evokes comparison with depression era icons like Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson. It’s definitely to the left of the spineless Democrats. Asked about his hopes for the election, Cooder quotes a recent statement from Pete Seeger: “I have no hope. But I could be wrong.”

Arlene Mantle: 1939-2012

Singer-songwriter and social activist Arlene Mantle was a prominent voice of the left in Ontario in the eighties and nineties. In a statement released after her death on September 10th, the Ontario Federation of Labour described her as “a sister whose voice was on every picket line, rally or demo.” Arlene was a labour activist who came from the ranks of the poor, a feminist, a single mother, a lesbian, and a staunch member of AFM Local 149 (the Toronto Musicians Association). Many of her songs of resistance and struggle were collaborations with trade unionists and members of grassroots groups. The collective song writing workshop was one of her specialties. Arlene’s ability to listen and empathize allowed her to give voice to marginalized and oppressed peoples. Let’s hope that her recordings will be re-released, especially her memorable 1980’s cassette tape “On the Line” with its delightful accompanying songbook. Arlene Mantle will be deeply missed. Thankfully, a memorial concert is in the works. Her stature must be celebrated. A statement from her family was posted at the OFL’s website:



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