Valley Center, CA
May 26, 2022

Celebrities have best influence when not trying to be political

Many entertainers and athletes are trying to use their celebrity status for political influence, but history indicates that celebrities have their greatest impact on public policy when they are not seeking to be political.
Despite all of the various peace and justice songs which have been recorded, none of those can be considered songs which had a direct political impact. Sammy Hagar recorded “I Can’t Drive 55” in 1984, but the national 55 mph speed limit wasn’t modified until 1987 and states were not allowed to set freeway speed limits higher than 65 mph or non-Interstate speed limits above 55 mph until 1995. Peter Tosh called for the legalization of marijuana in his 1976 song “Legalize It,” but no state in the United States legalized recreational marijuana until 2012, 25 years after Peter Tosh’s death and more than 35 years after the song was released.
It could be said that the Debby Boone song “You Light Up My Life” had a political impact since its success propelled producer Mike Curb into elected office. However, as California’s lieutenant governor Curb’s only activity of note was as a substitute for Jerry Brown and that four-year term was his only elected position so “You Light Up My Life” wasn’t the song which had the greatest political impact.
The one song which had the greatest impact by itself on public policy was “Convoy” by C.W. McCall. Convoy increased the popularity of citizens band radio, and in 1976 the Federal Communications Commission increased the number of citizens band channels from 23 to 40. C.W. McCall wasn’t trying to be political, but his song had more of an impact than the artists who sought to leverage their popularity for political causes.
The 1972 song “All the Young Dudes,” which was written by David Bowie and recorded by Mott the Hoople, had no political intent but can be used as an argument for both socialism and capitalism. Bowie wrote “All the Young Dudes,” but gave the song to Mott the Hoople, who recorded “All the Young Dudes,” and had a hit with the song. Bowie had more than enough songs to be successful without recording it himself.
From a socialist standpoint the success of Mott the Hoople is an example of sharing the wealth. Bowie didn’t need a specific additional hit song and was willing to let another band obtain the benefits from that song. The wealth was in fact shared, as Bowie obtained royalties from the sales of the Mott the Hoople song. From a capitalist standpoint what David Bowie did illustrates the controls against hoarding resources. Had Bowie himself recorded “All the Young Dudes,” it would have been at the expense of one of his other songs, and with more songs than available room on his album he gave his song to someone who needed a hit record and was willing to give Bowie royalty money for the assistance. The song, which had no political connotations itself now aids both sides of a political economics argument.
Celebrities have their greatest impact when they focus on what made them celebrities rather than trying to be political activists. They have the right to their opinions, but they will likely be more effective by keeping to their artistic or athletic skills.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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