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Columns August 14, 2008  RSS feed

THE O'REILLY FACTOR

Rockin' In The Free World
by Bill O'Reilly

 
The other night I went to see the legendary R&B group Earth, Wind and Fire at Radio City Music Hall. Toward the end of the show, lead singer Philip Bailey startled me and others in the crowd when he said: "I thank God and America for allowing us to have success for 37 years."

Shocking.

Call me cynical, but I am used to hearing performers badmouth their country and promote things like drugs and violence. That is routine these days. People like Nas and Ludacris spit out poison like sesame seeds. That's why it took some guts for Bailey to say what he said. In some precincts, it is cool to run down America from the stage, not to praise it.

Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Chris Martin of Coldplay all have demeaned the United States this summer. These guys say it's about the evil Bush administration, but believe me, their message is clear: America, itself, is one screwed-up place.

Some commentators say performers should just shut up and sing because that's what the folks pay to hear. But artistic license and the First Amendment are on the side of the rock stars. People freely pay to hear them, and in a free society, they can pretty much do what they want.

Throughout history, music has been used to protest injustice. That is a good thing. Protest songs in the 1960s, for example, effectively focused attention on America's societal problems and the awful conflict in Vietnam. There is no doubt about that.

But there is a responsibility that comes along with protest. To run your country down because you don't like a politician or the party in power is simply stupid. America is a huge mosaic; there are great things and there are bad things in this country.

What annoys me about Springsteen, Young and Martin, in particular, is that they never debate the issues. They never show us exactly how deep their political thinking is; how wide their frame of reference is. Instead, they yell out dumb stuff to their zombie followers and revel in the applause. Overseas especially, any knock on America is greeted with rapture.

Country music artists generally do not go in for this kind of stuff because their audience has little tolerance for it, as we saw with the Dixie Chicks debacle. However, it is refreshing to see some rock and pop people singing a different tune. Billy Joel opened his recent Shea Stadium show by playing "The Star- Spangled Banner," and the Beach Boys consistently praise their country.

Add Philip Bailey and Earth, Wind and Fire to the list.

Take that, Bruce Springsteen.

Veteran TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show The O'Reilly Factor and author of the book "Who's Looking Out For You?"