Billy Bragg: The Northampton Shuffle

BILLY BRAGG is an English musician and songwriter who artfully blends elements of folk music, punk rock and protest songs. His lyrics often embrace romantic and political themes, hence his alter ego Mr. Love and Justice. In a music career spanning more than 30 years, Bragg has written some of the most memorable songs of his generation. And as a died-in-the-wool progressive activist he has inspired many in his audience to seek freedom and justice for those less fortunate.

Mr. Bragg has always been an innovator with musical form: who else thought to perform finely crafted folkie-protest-love songs accompanied by a thick cockney accent and a trebly electric guitar? And make top ten records and sell out tours the world over while doing it? From his punk/folk solo work in the early 1980’s, to his Motown inspired Talking with the Taxman about Poetry, from his Grammy winning collaboration with WILCO on Mermaid Avenue Songs of Woody Guthrie, to the 2009 London debut of lyrics he set to Beethoven’s ODE TO JOY, Billy Bragg has always been a wordsmith and a true master of melody.

INNOVATORS IN MUSIC caught up with a warm and friendly Billy on a cool and rainy July 2009 day in Northampton, Massachusetts. In the balcony of the recently restored historic Calvin Theatre we spoke at length about the role of political music in society, overcoming cynicism, the death of his father, of engaging his audience politically, his profound love for all things Smokey Robinson, the Constitutional Monarchy, raising kids who play loud electric guitars poorly, Thin Lizzy, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, English identity, more Bob Dylan, and of course, the elusive alchemical art of finding a great song hidden deep, down inside.

INNOVATORS is pleased to present BILLY BRAGG in The Northampton Shuffle.