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Music / David Rovics

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David Rovics (born April 10, 1967) is an American indie singer/songwriter and anarchist. His music concerns topical subjects such as the 2003 Iraq war, anti-globalization, and social justice issues.

David Rovics grew up in a family of classical musicians in Wilton, Connecticut, and became a fan of populist regimes early on. By the early 90’s he was a full-time busker in the Boston subways and by the mid-90’s he was travelling the world as a professional flat-picking rabble-rouser. These days David lives in Portland, Oregon and tours regularly on four continents, playing for audiences large and small at cafes, pubs, universities, churches, union halls and protest rallies.


Tropes associated with David Rovics and his music:

  • An Arm and a Leg: "The Face of Victory" is sung from the perspective of a returned veteran who lost both legs to an IED in Iraq.
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: As an anarchist himself, Rovics does not subscribe to this view of anarchy, but the protagonists of at least two of his songs could be viewed this way. "The Face of Victory" ends with the disabled vet protagonists contemplating an Oklahoma City style bombing, and "Halliburton Boardroom Massacre" is about Exactly What It Says on the Tin with a Shell-Shocked Veteran massacring the board of the company he sees as responsible for the war for oil which caused his terminal illness.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The evils of corporate greed is a recurring theme in David's work, including "Henry Ford Was a Fascist":
    Ford built tanks for the Nazis
    And the Nazis used those tanks
    To gun down lots of soldiers
    In the U.S. Army ranks
    Yes, Henry Ford was a fascist
    And a nasty one was he
    He'd build tanks for anyone
    For the proper fee
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  • Horrible History Metal: Rovics has multiple songs about historic events, including "The Battle of Blair Mountain" about The Battle of Blair Mountain: the largest labour uprising in United States history and the largest armed uprising since The American Civil Warnote .
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: "Deadhead in Prison" is based on the true story of a woman who spent 20 years in a Texas prison after being arrested for dealing small amounts of marijuana and LSD to support herself while following The Grateful Dead on tour in her late teens.
  • Killer Cop: In "Butcher for Hire", David expresses this opinion about Real Life police chief John Timoney, who was hired by multiple different cities (and the Republic of Bahrain) to conduct brutal crackdowns on civil disobedience.
    But someday he'll meet his end
    He's already half-way round the bend
    He'll take stock of what he's done
    Stare at the notches on his gun
    He'll look into the mirror and at his poor wife
    And say, "Oh my God — I've been a scumbag my whole life"
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Several of Rovics' songs, such as "Butcher for Hire" and "Henry Ford Was a Fascist", combine very dark subject matter with an upbeat and catchy tune.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Subverted by "Do Not Kill Your Landlord", which lists many other ways of coping with an unreasonable landlord, like a Dartboard of Hate, playing loud music outside their house (specifically about 1848), or organizing a tenant union, but advises against murdering them:
    But do not kill your landlord, it will not end well,
    You'll be living rent-free - inside a prison cell.
  • Pie in the Face: "Song for the BBB" is a musical tribute to the Biotic Baking Brigade: a loosely connected group of activists famous for throwing pies in the faces of such figures as Bill Gates, San Francisco mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom, anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps, economist Milton Friedman, Swedish King Carl Gustaf, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, conservative journalist William F. Buckley, right-wing Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, former WTO head Renato Ruggiero, and Ann Coulter, among others.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: "Song for Cindy Sheehan":
    He wouldn't have to fight
    Cindy hoped this was the case
    And prayed for him every night
    That was before they sent him
    To the desert with a gun
    She is every mother
    And he was every mother's son
  • Suicide by Cop: The end of "Halliburton Boardroom Massacre":
    I'll spare you the details, I did what I had to do
    There's a boardroom blown to hell and soon I will be too
  • Taking You with Me: From "Halliburton Boardroom Massacre":
    I thought of Halliburton and the military brass
    And the things they get away with
    All for their ruling class
    But I'm not a pawn and I can't let it be
    And if I'm gonna die I'm gonna take some of them fuckers with me
  • Teeny Weenie: "The Alligator Song" explains how pollution is causing alligator dicks to shrink and how this could happen to humans:
    I’m not beating around the bush
    I’m making you a promise
    Say goodbye to Long Dong Silver
    Hello to Tiny Thomas
    You can forget about Viagra
    Boys, what I mean is
    It’s all a matter of minutiae
    When you’ve got a half-inch penis
  • That Man Is Dead: From "Halliburton Boardroom Massacre":
    I was supposed to stay a year
    They sent me for four
    By the time I got back home, no one knew me anymore
    Of the man I once was there didn't seem to be a trace
    And when I looked me in the mirror I didn't recognize my face
  • War Is Hell: A common theme in Rovics' work, his songs tell how the horror of war leaves no one untouched: the soldiers (e.g. "When Johnny Came Marching Home"), the non-combatants (e.g. "Baghdad") and those left at home (e.g. "Song for Cindy Sheehan").