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Rock Against Racism (RAR) was a campaign set up in the United Kingdommarker in 1976 as a response to an increase in racial conflict and the growth of white nationalist groups such as the National Front. The campaign involved pop, rock and reggae musicians staging concerts with an anti-racist theme, in order to discourage young people from embracing racist views. The campaign was founded partly in response to allegedly racist comments and gestures made by Eric Clapton and David Bowie.

History

Originally conceived as a one-off concert with a message against racism, Rock Against Racism was founded in 1976 by Red Saunders, Roger Huddle and others. According to Huddle, "it remained just an idea until August 1976" when Eric Clapton made a drunken declaration of support for former Conservative minister Enoch Powell (known for his anti-immigration Rivers of Blood speech) at a concert in Birmingham. Clapton told the crowd that Englandmarker had "become overcrowded" and that they should vote for Powell to stop Britainmarker from becoming "a black colony." Clapton told the audience that Britain should "get the foreigners out, get the wogs out, get the coons out" and then repeatedly shouted the National Front slogan "Keep Britain White".

Huddle, Saunders and two members of Kartoon Klowns responded by writing a letter to NME expressing their opposition to Clapton's comments, which they claimed were "all the more disgusting because he had his first hit with a cover of reggae star Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff"". The letter continued: "Come on Eric... Own up. Half your music is black. Who shot the Sheriff, Eric? It sure as hell wasn't you!". At the end of the letter, they called for people to help form a movement called Rock Against Racism, and they report that they received hundreds of replies.

Further support for RAR came after David Bowie made statements that expressed support for fascism and perceived admiration for Adolf Hitler in interviews with Playboy, NME and a Swedish publication. Bowie was quoted as saying: "Britain is ready for a fascist leader... I think Britain could benefit from a fascist leader. After all, fascism is really nationalism... I believe very strongly in fascism, people have always responded with greater efficiency under a regimental leadership." He was also quoted as saying: "Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars" and "You've got to have an extreme right front come up and sweep everything off its feet and tidy everything up." Bowie caused further controversy by allegedly making a Hitler salute while riding in a convertible, although Bowie has always strongly denied that he did this, claiming that a photographer caught him in the middle of waving.

Clapton has never withdrawn or apologised for his remarks, and has in recent years stated that he still stands by his statements and has reiterated his support for Enoch Powell. However, Bowie later retracted and apologised for his statements, blaming them on a combination of an obsession with occultism, the Thule society and Nietzsche, and excessive drug use. He said: "I have made my two or three glib, theatrical observations on English society and the only thing I can now counter with is to state that I am NOT a fascist."

RAR's first activity was a concert featuring Carol Grimes as lead artist, and it also launched the fanzine Temporary Hoarding. In spring and autumn 1978, RAR organised two major music festivals with the Anti-Nazi League, to counteract the growing wave of racist attacks in the UK. It has been reported that 80,000 people marched six miles from Trafalgar Squaremarker to the East End of Londonmarker (a National Front hotspot) for an open-air concert. The concert featured The Clash (as seen in the film Rude Boy), Buzzcocks, Steel Pulse, X-Ray Spex, The Ruts, Sham 69, Generation X and the Tom Robinson Band. An audience of 25,000 came to the Northern Carnival in Manchestermarker, for a concert featuring Buzzcocks, Graham Parker and the Rumour, and Misty in Roots. In 1979, a concert was held at Acklam Hallmarker in Londonmarker featuring Crisis, The Vapors, and Beggar.

The original Rock Against Racism crew launched a new website on April 27, 2008.

Love Music Hate Racism

RAR was reborn in 2002 as Love Music Hate Racism, with a concert at The Astoria in London, Englandmarker featuring Mick Jones, Buzzcocks, and The Libertines. Other acts involved in the campaign include Ms. Dynamite and The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. With a goal of counteracting the activities of far right organizations such as the National Front and the British National Party, it has held high-profile concerts in Trafalgar Squaremarker.

See also



Footnotes

  1. Blood and Glory, The Observer, Sunday March 4, 2007
  2. Socialist Review
  3. Virgin Media: 'When Pop Stars Talk Politics: Clapton's Shocking Rant'
  4. The Ten Right-Wing Rockers, The Observer, Sunday October 14, 2007
  5. Standing by the Wall: The Quotable David Bowie
  6. 'GOODBYE TO ZIGGY AND ALL THAT', article in Melody Maker, October 1977
  7. Standing by the Wall: The Quotable David Bowie
  8. Virtual Festivals, news, reviews and listings for Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds, V Festival, T in the Park, Download, Isle of Wight, Bestival and other UK and International festivals
  9. Manzoor, Sarfraz (20 apr 2008) The year rock found the power to unite . Guardian.co.uk. [1]
  10. Rock Against Racism benefit with Crisis, Beggar and The Vapors, riot at Acklam Hall, Ladbroke Grove, London, Friday June 29th, 1979
  11. Rock Against Racism


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