Best Rock n Roll Speeches of the 2000s
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These are the best rock n roll speeches of the century so far.
I state it as categorically as that, because the internet search engines love ridiculously blanket statements of this type.
But really taste in music speeches is as subjective as taste in music itself.
These are merely ones that have been popular on the arts page of Speakola and beyond. Have a listen, a read, and share the list if you see fit.
Speakola podcast’s next episode will be with Melbourne communications specialist Lahra Carey, who delivered the most difficult speech imaginable, her husband’s eulogy after a sudden and tragic death. That episode will be up this week.
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But this newsletter is dedicated to rock n roll speaking, which is not the point of rock n roll, but it is the point of my site.
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The producer, composer, musician can do it all, including speak about what he does. And this speech does it all. What art is, why it is undervalued, why it is important , how we need to change. A knockout One of the great speeches of the 21st century Brian Eno has another great speech on the therapeutic qualities of group singing, that wonderful too.
2. Madonna, ‘There are no rules, if you’re a boy’, Billboard Awards, 2016
It’s starts out very Madonna-ish, with her straddling the mike stand and saying ‘I always feel better with something hard between my legs’ but then it shifts into an emotional, whole of career, monologue about the sexism of the music industry, the perils to surviving in it as a woman, and her pride in having done so.
3. T-Bone Burnett: ‘The mask has become the face’, Americana Music Festival - 2016
One for the digital age. T-Bone draws us in with a story about Michelangelo and the Pope, and then fires some brilliant salvos about the role of art, the value of art and the artist, and the disaster that has been the digital music revolution. This could be the union battle cry for every musician.
4. Bob Dylan: ‘Critics say I can’t carry a tune’. Musicares Person of the Year - 2015
Which Dylan speech to choose? His Nobel Prize speech is excellent, but a little bit hollow for the fact that he didn’t attend in Stockholm himself, and delivered his lecture requirement a year later, in absentia. This Musicsares speech is broad, career spanning, poetic, pugnacious, and musical in many ways, just like Dylan himself. Not all the audio is available online, but the text is an outstanding read.
5. Tom Waits, ‘Songs are just really interesting things to be doing with the air’, Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, 2011
This felt completely ad libbed, and yet was humble, funny, poetic, esoteric, and Tom Watisish. From the opening gag about the trophy, this is all quality.
“I just want to know if there’s a keychain version that I can keep with me just in case I hear someone say, “Pete, take the cuffs off. I think he’s a Hall of Famer.”
8. Halsey: ‘A story like mine’, Women’s March, 2018
The singer/performance poet’s harrowing spoken word dealing with rape and sexual assault, how it impacted her own life, and the job women have to speak up and support one another. One of the many powerful speeches of the #metoo era, delivered at the Women’s March, a year after Trump’s inauguration.
9. Leonard Cohen, ‘How I Got My Song’, Asturias Awards, 2011
Everyone loves an origin story, especially when it comes to a great musician meeting his first instrument. This one is great for the fact that the connection is not immediate. Eventually a mentor helps Leonard Cohen find his voice, and his song. A man who makes words sing in every sense. A must for fans, and inspiring for everyone.
”I inhaled the fragrance of cedar as fresh as the first day that I acquired the guitar. And a voice seemed to say to me, "You are an old man and you have not said thank you; you have not brought your gratitude back to the soil from which this fragrance arose.”
10. Patti Smith, ‘We are all Pinocchio’, Pratt University, 2010.
Funny and just great. The legendary rocker begins with dental advice and it just rolls from there. One of the most underrated commencements. She is a quality writer, in practically every format. And she nails the delivery.
“ Our dentists were the army dentists who came back from World War II and believed that the dental office was a battleground. You have a better chance at dental health.’
14. Jen Cloher, ‘Women in Australian music can no longer be erased from the history books’, IWD Breakfast, 2017
Not as well knows as most of the artists in this list, but a wonderful speech about the challenges of sustaining a musical career, including mid career struggles, the business side of the business, and the curse of judging yourself against other people’s successes.
“An Australian woman became famous around the world for her songwriting. Not her dance moves, or extensive wardrobe, but for writing great songs. She also happened to be the woman I was in love with. “
11. Bruce Springsteen, ‘We live in a post authentic world’, SXSW keynote, 2012
I’m so biased in favour of the Boss he could have been 1,2,3 and 4 on this list. This one is superb, but so is his Musicares speech, his eulogy to Clarence Clemens, his stage banter about Trump and the Women’s March, his Tony Awards snippet from Springsteen on Broadway,. There are no superlatives left, at least none as good as the ones Jon Stewart used.
“Television and Elvis gave us full access to a new language,
17. Iggy Pop, ‘Free music in a capitalist society’, John Peel lecture, 2014
Timely speech about what the digital age is doing to the music industry, and to the livelihood of artists. Interwoven is the road to stardom fans what to hear and philosophical stuff on art, rock and roll and the love we have for rock stars and their music.
“Hi, I'm Iggy Pop. I've held a steady job at BBC 6 Music now for almost a year, which is a long time in my game.”
Pink took the stage at the VMA’s and talked about beauty, the pressures society imposes and a difficult conversation she’d had with her daughter. Not the standard acceptance speech fare, and an important topic for so many fans.
15. Steven Van Zandt, ‘I decided greatness would be my business’, Rutgers University, 2017
This brilliant speech is worth reading multiple times. it tracks the E-Street legend and Sopranos star’s ‘non decision’ to become a guitarist, singer and songwriter, and then his very conscious decision to try to learn more about the world and what is wrong with it. Takes in his anti apartheid campaign in the 1980s, as well as his incredible second career as an actor. Fantastic little moments about chasing greatness.
13, Dave Grohl: eulogy for Lemmy Kilmister 2016
Davie Grohl is naturally hilarious, and his autobiographical Nirvana origin story delivered at SXSW is a ripper too. But this is just so good. Not just a model music speech, but a model eulogy. Funny, packed with stories, and does the job of balancing comedy, loss and love. You don’t need to be a fan of Nirvana or Metallica to love this. A gem.
21. Katy Perry, ‘I prayed the gay away at my Jesus camps’, Hu7man Rights Campaign Gala, 2017
This is the biggest pop star on the planet at the time standing up for LGBTI rights and feminism. She shares autobiographical stories from her Christian childhood, and her awakening to the human rights injustices facing her queer friends.
“When I was growing up, homosexuality was synonymous with the word abomination and hell, a place of gnashing of teeth, continuous burning of skin and probably Mike Pence’s ultimate guest list for a barbecue. “
23. Victor Wooten, ‘We have to remember that the world is a beautiful place’, Rubenstein School, 2016
This commencement is just so so cool. Victor Wooten is cool, His decision to strum a base through the entire delivery is super cool, and totally magnetic, and the stories themselves are compelling. A secret gem of a speech, that not many people talk about.
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