Tom Morello a.k.a. the Nightwatchman leads a double life. One half, a Grammy award winning guitar virtuoso and the second half, a tireless, committed, political activist. Tom was born on May 30, 1964 in Harlem, New York, to Mary Morello and Ngethe Njoroge, a Kenyan Guerilla soldier and eventual first Kenyan ambassador to the United Nations. Morello then moved to Libertyville, Illinois. At an early age, the guitar hero received his first tastes of racism and oppression.
Libertyville was a virtually all white, conservative community. Much of the townspeople were prejudice and hated Tom for simply being a different color. Morello would later describe some of this prejudice he experienced in his famous folk ballad, “One Man Revolution.”- “Found a noose in my garage, now about that, so tonight I’m in the bushes with a baseball bat.” The white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members his town placed the nooses in his garage to scare him away. Tom felt small and inferior at first, and then he discovered music.
Initially Tom listened to heavy metal greats such as Black Sabbath and KISS, but by high school he found his solace in politically charged Punk Rock, with the likes of The Clash and The Sex Pistols. Music was an escape for Morello. He claims it made him see past the constraints and boundaries of his small town and see a world that needed change. In 1982, Morello graduated from Libertyville High School and began attending Harvard University. During his college years, he began practicing guitar seriously. This means eight hours a day, no matter how much work he had to complete. By 1986, he graduated with a BA (with honors) in Political Science. In 1988, Morello landed a slot as lead guitarist in the glam metal band, Lock Up. Unfortunately, they found very little success. His next band, however, would permanently alter the role of Politics in music.
Rage Against the Machine was formed in 1991 and took the world by storm. In the past, artists have incorporated social and political issues in their craft, but none like RATM. Every single song by the band preached some sort of radical, revolutionary message. The band saw themselves as renegades in a corrupt world fighting injustice wherever they saw it. In 2000, they broke up and it’s safe to say they were a success: selling millions of albums world wide and more importantly educating their audience about social issues and how they can actively prevent them.
Morello then moved on to form Audioslave, which after six years also became a huge, commercial success, selling millions of albums along the way. However, fans and Morello himself, felt he needed to play political music again, having been in what Tom calls “A right wing purgatory.” He had been playing as The Nightwatchman on the side, but now he is taking it more seriously: Albums and touring. The music is far different from his previous work (heavy metal), being folk and folk rock.
Throughout his adult life he has been a committed activist, specifically in the areas of peace, human rights, social and economic justice, and various other issues. Personally I admire Tom more for his dedicated activism and this is why I chose him. Specifically, I admire his non-profit organization, Axis of Justice (which he formed with Serj Tankian of System of a Down). The organization was formed in 1999, when Tom noticed an overwhelmingly large amount of fans sporting Nazi Swastikas and other hate symbols. The organization has made it clear that they are Anti- Racist and Anti-Fascist. Through the organization, concerts are performed in small communities where all the proceeds go to charities and activist groups. On top of that, Tom and his buddies go into the impoverished communities, where they’re playing and they help them out during their stay.
I can relate to Tom Morello, because he also sees the need for change in the world and like me, he believes in peace, freedom, and equality.
Thursday, May 28, 2009