'So tomorrow, crank up some Rage and head out and confront injustice'
Tom Morello was the only member of Rage Against the Machine who didn't boycott their Rock Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He delivered an acceptance speech that is one of the ages.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction night usually throws up a good speech or two (George Harrison, ‘it’s what’s left I’m afraid’) , or at the very least, a compelling rock & roll meltdown (Thank you Mike Love, thank you Steve Miller).
But when Tom Morello is on the bill, you know it’s going to be an outstanding speech. His speaking voice is almost as electrifying as his guitar tone, and he’s the owner of some of my favourite music speeches in history. His induction speech for Kiss in 2014 is an absolute gem.
This one was terrific, as usual. He was welcomed to the stage by Ice T, who summed up his own appreciation for Rage as follows:
‘You can't impress me with normal stuff. You gotta impress me with stuff like suing the U.S. State Department for using their music in Guantanamo Bay for torturing. Who does that? Rage Against the Machine does that. Or how about 1993, pulling up at Lollapalooza butt naked with duct tape, protesting against the PRMC [Parents Music Resource Centre]? Who does that? Rage Against the Machine does that. I respect the hell out of this band.’
Three quarters of the band didn’t show up. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony was live-streamed on Disney , and unsurprisingly perhaps, that wasn’t a place Rage Against the Machine were comfortable being. They’ve also cancelled the 2023 tour, and said that the band have retired from future touring, so all might not be smooth sailing in Rage land. That’s touched on in Tom Morello’s opening. But the way he detours to the power of music, their fans, activism and his 100 year old mother, (who bequeaths the closing quote), make this a speech to remember, certainly one of the best at the Rock Hall for many years.
What a conclusion! It makes me want to fight.
So tomorrow, crank up some Rage and head out and confront injustice. Wherever it rears its ugly head, it's time to change the world, brothers and sisters, or at a bare minimum to stir up a shitload of trouble. And finally, a special thanks to my mom, Mary Morello, a retired public high school teacher, a proud Rage Against the Machine fan and a lifelong radical who turned 100 years old a couple of weeks ago. She's watching at home tonight, but she asked me to tell you this: History, like music, is not something that happens. It's something you make. Thank you very much.
Tom Morello: 'History, like music, is not something that happens. It's something you make', RATM Rock Hall of Fame induction - 2023
3 November 2023, Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, New York, USA
My name is Tom Morello, and I am one quarter of Rage Against the Machine. I am deeply grateful for the musical chemistry I've had the good fortune to share with Brad Wilk, Tom Commerford, and Zach de la Rocha. Like most bands, we have differing perspectives on a lot of things, including being inducted into the Rock Hall. My perspective is that tonight is a great opportunity to celebrate the music and the mission of the band—to celebrate the fifth member of the band, which is Rage Against the Machine's incredible fans. The only reason we are here and the best way to celebrate this music is for you to carry on that mission and that message.
The lesson I learn from Rage fans is that music can change the world. Daily, I hear from fans who have been affected by our music and in turn have affected the world in significant ways. Organizers, activists, public defenders, teachers, the presidents of Chile and Finland have all spent time in our mosh pit. When protest music is done right, you can hear a new world emerging in the songs skewering the oppressors of the day and hinting that there might be more to life than what was handed to us. Can music change the world? The whole aim is to change the world or at a bare minimum, to stir up a shit load of trouble.
When Rage started, we rehearsed deep in the San Fernando Valley. This guy passed by our place regularly and one day asked, what are you guys doing in there? We said, we're a band. He asked to hear us and we said, sure. He came in, sat down. This was the first guy to ever hear the music of Rage Against the Machine. We played him a couple songs. After we finished, we asked him what he thought. He paused, stood up and said, your music makes me wanna fight.
[As a Rage fan, I absolutely adore the video below with its early lyricless version of ‘Killing in the Name’ and the time travelling mosher who ‘gets it’, flying into frame at 19 mins. I’ve long aspired to interview this guy]
Throughout history, the spark of rebellion has come from unexpected quarters: authors, economists, carpenters. But as Salvador Allende said, ‘There is no revolution without songs.’ So who's to say what musicians might or might not be able to achieve with revolutionary intent when the bouncing crowd makes the Richter scale shake? Personally, I'd like to thank my wife Denise, and my kids who remind me daily that the world is worth fighting for.
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