Bob Dylan and his song, The Masters of War, were all over the news recently--An Editorial noted that " one of the highlights of the Vote for Change finale in Washington, D.C., was surely Pearl Jam's visceral, morally outraged take on Dylan's "Masters of War." "
Guess the Secret Service wasn't at the show, or didn't have TiVo. Guess James Lemons of Boulder will have to realize 15, 16, 17 and 18 year olds think and reason for themselves.
It turns out that the informant
lied misspoke had a verbal malfunction: A Boulder High senior anonymously telephoned 630 KHOW and 850 KOA radio talk shows Thursday (November 11, 2004) alleging that the band inserted Bush's name into the lyrics. She later said the band only showed pictures of Bush on a screen in the background of their recent rehearsal while singing those lyrics —implying a threat to the president. Somebody tell Blogicus Maximus the girl lied.
[other discussions: Suicide Girls; January 1998: Bob Dylan serves up the most bizarre pop culture juxtaposition of the casino era by performing "Masters of War," arguably his most uncompromising 1960s protest song, during a concert at the Taj Mahal, Atlantic City's most ostentatious gaming hall; Storyhunters says Colorado Conservative says just like the good old days; Blogicus Maximus finally ID's the station. I wonder if he is going to retract or correct what he said, now that the anonymous girl--brave, eh?--has retracted her allegation.]
POSTED: 4:25 pm MST November 11, 2004
BOULDER, Colo. -- Parents and students say they are outraged and offended by a proposed band name and song scheduled for a high school talent show in Boulder on Friday evening (November 12, 2004)
Members of the student band, named Coalition of the Willing, talked to 7NEWS and said that the incident is being blown out of proportion. The students say they are performing Bob Dylan's song "Masters of War" during the Boulder High School Talent Exposé because they are Dylan fans. They say they want to simply express their views and show off their musical abilities.
But some students and adults who heard the band rehearse called a radio talk show Thursday morning, [ Mike Rosen's Morning Show on KOA] saying that the band's song ended with the call for President George W. Bush to die. Threatening the president is a federal crime, so the Secret Service was called to the school to investigate.
However, students in the band say that they're just singing the lyrics and not inciting anyone to do anything.
Dylan's 1963 song blasts gun and weapons makers and ends with the lyrics: "You might say that I'm young. You might say I'm unlearned, but there's one thing I know, though I'm younger than you, even Jesus would never forgive what you do ... And I hope that you die and your death'll come soon. I will follow your casket in the pale afternoon. And I'll watch while you're lowered down to your deathbed. And I'll stand o'er your grave 'til I'm sure that you're dead."
The students say that they never threatened the president and never changed the lyrics to the song.
"It's just Bob Dylan's song. We were just singing Bob Dylan's song ... If you think it has to do with Bush that's because you're drawing your own conclusions. We never conveyed that Bush was the person we were talking about," said Allysse Wojtanek-Watson, a singer for the band.
The school's principal is standing behind them. "Never was it rehearsed or auditioned with a change of lyrics. I want to be very clear about that," said Boulder Principal Ron Cabrera. Cabrera said Secret Service agents questioned him for 20 minutes and took a copy of the lyrics. They did not ask to speak to any of the students but they did question a teacher.
"She never said anything about killing Bush ... It's crazy, it's chaos. We have nothing in there it says about killing Bush," said band leader Forest Engstrom.
Engstrom said he only wanted to perform the song after seeing Dylan in concert in
Denver Boulder ( reviews last month. [Engstrom] said the performance was to be dedicated to his late grandfather, a veteran he said would have opposed the war with Iraq.
Despite the controversy, the Boulder School District said it will allow the students to perform Friday evening. "Boulder High School has expectations for the appropriateness of talent show acts and those expectations are communicated to the performers. Over the course of the rehearsals, the faculty has worked with the performers to create a show that falls within those expectations. School staff have monitored the performance and spoken with the students and are satisfied that the performance is simply student expression and not a threat against anyone. The school tries to strike a balance between encouraging and allowing students' freedom of expression and staying within what is appropriate in a high school setting," Boulder Schools spokeswoman Susan Cousins said in a statement.
During the rehearsals for the show, teachers Jim Vacca and Jim Kavanaugh played backup at the students' request but the teachers decided not to perform on Friday evening because they didn't want to detract from the students' performance, Cousins said. The band had at one point considered calling itself The TaliBand but the students decided against it after discussing with Vacca the offensive nature of the name, she said.
Vacca is the same teacher/student adviser who praised a group of 70 students after they camped out overnight in the school library last week to protest the results of the presidential election and to announce their worries about the direction of the country. The students wanted to meet with Colorado's political leaders to get assurances that they were being heard. The students said they worried about war, a return of the draft and the future of the environment after the election in which they could not participate.
"In an age where narcissistic college students riot in an inarticulate drunken stupor, you have students here at Boulder High School, principled, thoughtful and yet scared of four more years of pre-emptive war, the Patriot Act and an increase in militarism at school through the No Child Left Behind Act," Vacca had said.
Some people are upset that students and teachers are allowed to put up such a performance, and some say the high school students are being manipulated by the adults. "These kids are being used to promote an extreme leftist point of view on the taxpayers' dime," said 7NEWS Viewer James Lemons. He said other students who saw the tryouts and were upset by the presentation discussed it with their parents but are afraid of speaking up because of the political environment within the school and in Boulder, considered the most liberal city in Colorado.
The principal said that the accusations and allegations are untrue and unfounded. "I feel that the school and these students have been accused without being able to confront their accusers," Cabrera said, adding that no student or parent had talked to him about the allegations. "Why would someone do that?"
Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks
You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly
Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain
You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud
You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins
How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead
Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music
Boulder High band draws notoriety--Boulder Camera VersionSecret Service investigated claims band advocated harming president--By Aimee Heckel, Camera Staff Writer--November 12, 2004
A musical band of Boulder High teachers and students aroused national controversy Thursday, drawing scrutiny from the U.S. Secret Service and spurring discussion about the separation of politics and public education. Some students and parents said the band, originally called the "Taliband," advocated killing George W. Bush. Band members denied the accusations, saying they would never advocate violence.
The band is scheduled to perform in the school's talent show tonight. Members have changed the band's named to the "Coalition of the Willing" and at least one of the teachers, Jim Vacca, has dropped out. Vacca supervised a student-initiated protest at Boulder High's last week, an event that also drew national attention. Students refused to leave the school library until they talked with politicians about their concerns.
The student band members, who all participated in the peaceful sit-in, said they rehearsed a punk rendition of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," and people misinterpreted the lyrics. The song criticizes gun and weapon companies and ends: "And I hope that you die/ And your death'll come soon/ I will follow your casket/ In the pale afternoon/ And I'll watch while you're lowered/ Down to your deathbed/ And I'll stand over your grave/ 'Til I'm sure that you're dead."
A Boulder High senior anonymously telephoned 630 KHOW and 850 KOA radio talk shows Thursday alleging that the band inserted Bush's name into the lyrics. She later said the band only showed pictures of Bush on a screen in the background of their recent rehearsal while singing those lyrics — implying a threat to the president.
Several people who heard radio discussions called the Secret Service, which immediately investigated, said principal Ron Cabrera. He said investigators took a copy of the lyrics, interviewed Vacca and left, "satisfied there was no account to the rumor." Calls to the Denver office of the Secret Service were not returned.
Cabrera also said he interviewed teachers and students who watched the rehearsal and none said they heard threats against the president. He said no student or parent expressed concerns to him before calling the media.
Politics and public schools
Forest Engstrom, 16, a sophomore who started the band two weeks ago, said he asked Vacca to join because the teacher plays the electric guitar. Engstrom also recruited video teacher Jim Kavanagh to play the electric banjo and help compile the pictures Forest wanted projected in the background.
Kavanagh had assigned a controversial film project in April that also received widespread criticism. He asked students to film a comical or exciting chase, and one video depicted a scene said to be similar to the Columbine massacre in 1999. Forest said he wanted to perform "Masters of War" after attending a Dylan concert in Denver last month. Forest said the band's show is in memory of his grandfather, a veteran who died two years ago and would have opposed the Iraq war.
"If I would have known this would happen, I wouldn't have done it," he said. "It has been blown way out of proportion." But some people said the teachers crossed the line. High schoolers are impressionable and the teachers' involvement could "infringe upon their ability to be a presenter of unbiased information," said Ryan Call, a Denver field coordinator with the Students for Academic Freedom Information Center.
The center supported the "Academic Bill of Rights," aimed at countering the "aggressive leftist culture" that they say dominates college campuses today. "There are some professors that need to find another line of work if they want to be political propagandist," said Call, 29, a University of Colorado graduate.
Kavanagh and Vacca said Thursday they respect all points of view and don't let their beliefs enter the classroom. Vacca said he "cherishes the opportunity for discussion and dissent." Kavanagh said Boulder High is an "an academic place where all voices can be heard and respected. That is extremely American." He said he might not participate in tonight's show because of media pressure.
Principal Cabrera said the teachers wouldn't perform "because they don't want to detract from the students' performance."
Mike Altenbern, president of the Boulder Valley teachers' union, said earlier this month that it's within teachers' free-speech rights to tell students whom they voted for, if asked. But teachers aren't allowed to campaign on school time and should present both sides during class.
Mack Clark , Boulder Valley School District deputy superintendent, said the "guiding principle" is common sense. "If teachers are advocating for a particular candidate or trying to espouse a particular point of view, that's inappropriate," Clark said. The talent show is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. today in the school auditorium.