Commentary: RATM's Political Legacy

Perhaps the most obvious difference between Rage and the rest of the rock ’n’ roll world took place during the Democratic National Convention. While dozens of rock stars descended on Los Angeles clamoring for a chance to play a Gore fund-raiser and have their pictures taken with politicians dedicated to censoring their art, only Rage stood outside of the Staple Center with the protesters. The band’s performance was the spark that ignited the LAPD’s violent attack on those who dared tarnish the city’s shiny, happy image.

Not Everyone’s a FanOf course, real activism has its cost. Radio disc jockeys have attacked the band’s politics on the air. Police organizations have protested and refused to work at their concerts. And in 1999, the governor of New Jersey took the time to condemn them for organizing an Abu Jamal benefit concert . But Rage didn’t let those concerns, or the fear of lost record sales, stop them from taking a stand.

Even more amazing is the fact that the band has taken those ideas directly to the people, without patronizing them. Rage never assumed that kids who like aggressive rock are too stupid to understand politics.

In the end, those are the things that I’ll miss the most about Rage. There are more than enough imitators out there to try to fill their shoes musically. Rage disciples the Deftones have taken what the band started in a new and nearly as exciting direction. Korn has turned the angst inward to produce something almost as good. And Limp Bizkit consistently manages to rage against something, in a mindless sort of way. But who will force us to think about the tough questions that we’d rather ignore, while rocking harder than nearly anyone else out there?

Both De La Rocha and his former bandmates have vowed to continue the Rage legacy in their future work. But it remains to be seen wether separately they’ll succeed in bringing the message to their audience as successfully as they did as one band.

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