Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Dead Kennedys

The Dead Kennedys are a great punk band because they were so politically-oriented. Many of their songs deals explicitly with oppression and power. "Kill the Poor," one of their more famous songs, has them ironically calling for the death of poor people. Their polticial critiques often incorporated darker humor, like when the band stopped midway through a song to adjust their wardrobe, making each of them look like they were wearing dollars signs on their shirt.

The person that interests me most from the Dead Kennedys is not the infamous Jello Biafra (though he is his own fascinating person) but East Bay Ray. Looking at Ray's life, it seems as if he was destined to be a punk. His parents participated in the Civil Rights Movement. He went to Berkeley, a notoriously liberal school. In addition to that and playing guitar for the band, Ray was D.I.Y., mixing numerous Dead Kennedy's material and later setting up a record company when they could not find anyone else to distribute their music.
Listening to them now feels just as relevent today as it probably did in the 80s. Politically, little as changed. Instead of talking about Cambodia, we would simply talk about Iraq or Afghanistan, but very little of their music needs to change. Problems with power still exist, and many of The Dead Kennedy's thoughts on the subject are as relevant as ever.

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