A year ago, I wrote ‘Dreamers’, a song for the 50th birthday of a very good friend, Jen Owen, who I first met 20 years before. I played it for the first time at her birthday party in Stroud, in Gloucestershire, and then recorded it last September with my band The Four Fathers, and we’ve just released it online as the second single from our forthcoming second album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’
‘Dreamers’ reflects on our wilder, younger years, and then progresses to look at how we came to be parents and how “we overcame some demons / And gained some wisdom somehow,” and it’s one of a number of songs I’ve written in which I attempt to grapple with getting older and what that means — something that, I find, very little popular music does, being generally fixated as it is with youth, even when those responsible for its creation have long passed their youthful days.
That said, one of the most poignant musical moments for me over the last few years was when David Bowie returned from long years of musical silence with his 2013 album, ‘The Next Day’, and the absolutely extraordinary ‘Where Are We Now?’ with its palpable sense of mortality, and its refrain about “walking the dead.” And then, in 2016, almost on the eve of Bowie’s death, came ‘Blackstar’, a song that felt like a requiem — as well as being one of the most profound pieces of popular music ever recorded. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, I was very excited to put the final touches to my band The Four Fathers‘ second album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ The album will be available soon on CD and to download on our Bandcamp account, where our existing recordings are still available — our first album ‘Love and War’, the ‘Fighting Injustice’ EP, featuring remixes of three songs from ‘Love and War’ (US and UK versions), and a single, ‘Close Guantánamo.’ Please feel free to like us on Facebook and to follow us on Twitter.
The album features ten original songs — eight by me, as lead singer and rhythm guitarist, and two by Richard Clare (lead guitar, backing vocals), and we recorded it with Pat Collier at Perry Vale Studios in Forest Hill in three sessions from July to November with Brendan Horstead on drums and percussion, Andrew Fifield on flute and harmonica, and Louis Sills-Clare on bass.
My songs include the title track — our most recent song — comparing how white westerners value their own lives compared to the victims of the west’s post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the refugees fleeing the death and destruction in Syria and elsewhere, and the black men — and children — killed with impunity by the police in the US, where the Black Lives Matter movement has been such a powerful force. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article (as “New Close Guantánamo Video Reminds President Obama He Has Just 70 Days Left to Close the Prison Before He Leaves Office”) for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.
Video features photos of some of the 500+ celebrities and concerned citizens who have sent in photos this year for the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, and a new song, “Close Guantánamo,” by The Four Fathers.
Following the news that Donald Trump has won the Presidential Election, the Close Guantánamo campaign has launched a new promotional video, urging President Obama to do all he can to fulfill the promise to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay that he made on his second day in office back in January 2009.
We believe that the need to close the prison is more urgent than ever, given that, on the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised to keep Guantánamo open, to send new prisoners there, and to reintroduce torture.
It’s been an action-packed week. Last Monday, I promoted the release as a download of Song for Shaker Aamer, by my band The Four Fathers, which I wrote about the last British resident still held in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. We recorded it last November, and it was used in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, a campaign I launched with my activist friend Joanne MacInnes, featuring MPs and celebrities standing with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker. The song is available — on Bandcamp — for just 80p ($1.25), although you can pay more if you wish. We are donating 25% of the takings from the song to Shaker’s family.
After sending out a press release about the download, I was almost immediately asked to appear on RT to promote it — and the Morning Star also featured it. And then, on Friday, came the welcome and long-awaited news that Shaker is to be released! Thanks to everyone who has worked to get him out of Guantánamo and back to his family in London. We anticipate that he will be home within a month, allowing for the statutory 30-day period that the US Congress has insisted on having before any prisoner is released.
‘Song for Shaker’ is just one of eight original songs on ‘Love and War.’ I wrote five other songs, Richard Clare wrote one, and one is an old folk song that I gave a punky roots reggae makeover in the late 1980s while living in Brixton. The Four Fathers are: myself on lead vocals and guitar, Richard on guitar and backing vocals, Bren Horstead on drums and percussion, Andrew Fifield on flute and harmonica, and — not a father — Richard’s son Louis Sills-Clare on bass. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, after I had released ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ by my band The Four Fathers on Bandcamp, I sent out a press release that was picked up on by RT, who invited me to discuss the release of the song, and Shaker’s ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial in Guantánamo, on the evening news.
I was delighted to cycle down to Millbank Tower for the interview, which was not shown last night, but, I hear, was shown in rotation on the news earlier today, although I didn’t see it until I was sent a link to the video that RT made available on YouTube, which I’m posting below.
My thanks to RT for making the interview available, and for their coverage of the story — the We Stand With Shaker banner projected on a huge screen in the studio, the clips from the song, and my interview, in which I was able to express my profound frustration with the fact that he is still held, despite being approved for release under George W. Bush in 2007 and Barack Obama in 2009, despite the UK government calling for his return since 2007, despite the UK government backing a Parliamentary motion calling for his return in March, despite David Cameron raising his case with President Obama this year, and despite the president promising to “prioritize” his case. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, on Bandcamp, I launched ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, about the last British resident in Guantánamo, as a download, available for just 80p ($1.25) — although you can pay as much as you want for it — with 25% of the money received going to Shaker Aamer’s family.
I wrote ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ last year, and it was used as the song in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker from Guantánamo, which I launched last November with the activist Joanne MacInnes, and which has secured substantial support, with nearly 100 celebrities and MPs standing with the giant inflatable figure that is at the heart of the campaign.
I recorded ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ with my band The Four Fathers, and it is the opening song on our debut album ‘Love and War.’ The eight-track album is available in its entirety on Bandcamp for £4.50 ($7), or you can buy individual tracks for 60p ($0.93) each, and a CD is also available for £7 ($10.85), which contains two bonus tracks. You can also buy the CD via my website. Read the rest of this entry »
With just five days to go until the General Election, and with reports that the Tories are leading in the polls, I wanted to make sure that I made my opinions clear about the last five years under the Tory-led coalition government, with its assault on the poor, the unemployed and the disabled — as well as my thoughts about UKIP, whose rise has been such a depressing spectacle.
The song is embedded below, and I hope you like it and share it if you do. Read the rest of this entry »
Regular readers may know that a friend of mine, the singer/songwriter Sarah Gillespie, has long taken an interest in tackling injustice, and regularly regales her audiences with the story of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay. This is a bold and commendable move in a world more generally characterized by the refusal of musicians either to engage with politics at all, or only to do so in a general “let’s make poverty history” kind of a way, which, although it may be worthwhile, is also uncontentious.
Championing an alleged “terror suspect” in Guantánamo is, however, a much more challenging stance, and one to be supported — and if any other musicians are reading this, who would like to be involved in campaigning to get Guantánamo closed, then please get in touch with me, as I am currently soliciting support for a video campaign to demand the closure of Guantánamo in January 2013, when the next President of the United States is inaugurated.
As I explained in an article last June, Sarah’s last album, “In the Current Climate,” specifically featured a song inspired by Shaker Aamer, entitled, “How the West Was Won,” and Sarah has now taken her interest in current and contentious politics one step further with a beautiful, powerful, four-part, 15-minute anti-war song, “The War on Trevor,” which also deals with the post-9/11 hysteria regarding terrorism. Featuring variations on a theme by Joseph Haydn, “The War on Trevor” is available from Amazon here, and also on video below, in an excellent film made by Tali Atzmon — which is, by turns, and as required by the songs, fractured, poignant, and darkly funny. Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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