Timelessness is a concept I have been more aware of as I listen to music lately. Some of the best bodies of work not only strike specific feelings inside of me the moment I listen to them, but keep their same purpose while applying to the current times I live in. I remember the first time I listened to Rage Against The Machine’s 1992 self-title album, 1996’s Evil Empire, and 2000’s The Battle for Los Angeles, and remarkably, they haven’t aged the bit. Not just from a musical standpoint.
The foursome of lead singer and truth-to-power speaker Zack de la Rocha, guitarist and wizard Tom Morello, and the groove-keeping duo of bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk is something that can’t be duplicated. It’s also the anti-war, anti-authoritarian call to the ills of police brutality messages that every generation can understand and cultivate in their own way. In many instances of life, we are fighting old battles dressed in new clothing, but rock has always provided the road map of rebellion to combat them.
Being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a prestigious honor, but I wasn’t surprised that 3/4ths of the band didn’t attend it. It also didn’t surprise me that Morello’s speech not only highlighted the fans who still chant the bridge to “Killing In the Name Of” like a war cry, but all the ways regular, everyday people can change the world. Rage Against The Machine’s legacy was never going to be measured in the trophies they accumulated – but in the feet, they get to move out to a protest, a voting booth, or just being a constant, immovable impediment to injustice.
Some of the best music is meant to get you off your seat, dance/headbang all your fears that way, and envision a place where the possible isn’t that far out of sight. It’s almost serendipitous how this induction from one of the most influential bands of our time happened to play out. Because, in reality, Rage’s music is just the mechanism of what our inner voices are yelling anyway. The labor movement is as active and robust as it’s ever been. Young people are calling on their leaders to work in their interests – showing that their voices have to be worked for and not taken for granted. Before they do so, they might listen to “Testify” or “Bulls On Parade” because dismantling struggle will always require a soundtrack.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction last night is where the music industry gave their flowers in the way these ceremonies do. However, it’s what is done off the stages and podium that is the real reward for the band that started in Los Angeles, California.