David Crosby, co-leader of the folk-rock trio Crosby, Stills and Nash, is making a documentary film about social activism through popular music, according to the film's director, Todd Robinson.
"There are a number of ways to affect social change; politics is one, music is
another," Robinson said the other day.
Robinson -- who produced Ridley Scott's
"White Squall" and directed "The Legend of Billy the Kid" for the Walt Disney
Co. -- said the film will be titled "Stand and Be Counted."
While Robinson attends to film making, it is Crosby, who first hit the charts in the mid-'60s as a member of the Beatles/Dylan-influenced folk-rock band, the Byrds, who has witnessed or participated in the use of music to effect social change.
Robinson expects the film to touch on everything from Negro spirituals to anti-war anthems, from Woodstock to Live Aid, from
John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Give Peace a Chance" bed-in message to a
chorus of top-selling artists recording "We Are the World" on behalf of Africa's
starving populations. And it will certainly include the latest and most high-profile use of music in a social/political context: the Tibetan Freedom Concert. The third annual concert, conceived by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch as a protest against China's occupation of Tibet, takes place this weekend in Washington, D.C.
Set to include footage of such historic musical/political events as the Concert for
Bangladesh, No Nukes, Live Aid and the Tibetan Freedom Concert, the
documentary will feature interviews with some of rock's most influential voices.
Well-known performer-activists, including R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, Tracy
Chapman, Neil Young, A Tribe Called Quest, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Paula
Cole, John Mellencamp, Wavy Gravy, Sting, Willie Nelson, Carole King, Hootie
and the Blowfish, Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez, will join comedians
Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg in commenting on what part music has
played in effecting change.
The filmmakers plan to complete the documentary in time for the Sundance film
festival in January 1999, according to Sidney Sherman, producer of "Stand and
While politics takes a front seat when it comes to influencing society, Robinson said that "the lyrical metaphor is more powerful than political rhetoric because the musical message can transcend race, class or creed."
He also pointed out that the artists and musicians talking about social
change often make a difference because, in contrast to politicians whom the
public has learned not to trust, they are seen as believing strongly in the causes
they are supporting. "These musicians are speaking about things they are very
passionate about," Robinson said.
The filmmakers are preparing to fly to Washington, D.C., this weekend to film the
Tibetan Freedom Concert. The two-day event will
feature Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam, the Beastie Boys, R.E.M. and Beck, among
many other artists. The film crew hopes to capture live performances in addition
to artist interviews and press conferences.
"Stand and Be Counted" originally was conceived as a book by Crosby while
he was recovering from a liver transplant in 1994, according to Robinson. After a couple of false starts in
preparing the book, Crosby got the project moving by collaborating with writer
David Bender; the two are currently working on the book and plan to release it
early next year.
Currently, there are no plans for the release of a soundtrack album for "Stand
and Be Counted."