ROY ZIMMERMAN AT THE HEARING
CORNERSTONE MUSIC CONSERVATORY – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2019, 8:00pm
Unlike that other Zimmerman, Roy Zimmerman’s answers aren’t blowing in the wind—they’re right in your face.
You want to know who the whistleblower is– well, I’ll tell you. Roy Zimmerman—that’s who. He’s been blowing the whistle ever since the day after Election Day, 2016. He came to the Cornerstone Music Conservatory at 12121 Pico Blvd. #205 (2nd Floor), West L.A. last night—the only principal figure not to be subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee. Adam Schiff didn’t dare—Roy would have been his worst nightmare. The first words out of Roy’s mouth were “This machine speaks truth to power;” add the following words—“This machine is the bell of freedom,” and that pretty much sums up the whole evening too.
Well, not quite; for Roy has added a third instrument to Woody Guthrie’s guitar; “This Machine Kills Fascists” and the late Pete Seeger’s banjo: “This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender,” for the crypto-fascists Roy is addressing include, ”Neo-con, homophobic, corporatist, anti-intellectual. war-mongering, hate speak, faux populist, polluting, imperialistic, chicken hawk privateers,” who will be driven “Screaming from the room.” It’s written on Roy’s banjo; after all, he is a satirist—and a satirist’s job is to exaggerate. The problem, as he points out, is that it is almost impossible to exaggerate the current administration—for he is “the man who would be King.”
When this tour started—on January 20th, 2016—Inauguration Day—Angela Davis spelled out Roy’s immediate sense of his own purpose: In Washington, DC—the epicenter of the march—keynote speaker Angela Davis summed up the immense crowd’s determination in the following words: “The next fourteen hundred and fifty-nine days of the Trump administration will be fourteen hundred and fifty-nine days of resistance.” Roy’s concert anticipated her peroration and could be counted Day One, since it was entitled. “ReZist!” That was 2 years 321 days ago.
But that doesn’t stop Roy—for when in doubt just quote him, which he does to great comic effect in the second song: CovFeFe or Grounds for Impeachment. Roy is addressing, as he calls them, “like mindless people.” Rize Up is Roy’s tenth album as a solo artist; “Satire empowers people—to laugh is to fight back. To hope is to fight back.” As The LA Times said, “Zimmerman displays a lacerating wit and keen awareness of society’s foibles that bring to mind a latter-day Tom Lehrer.” Roy and his wife and co-writer Melanie Harby are currently embarked on what he calls his “Blue Dot Tour—small bastions of Blue in surrounding Red states” —he just came back from Hot Springs, Arkansas—where when he is accused of preaching to the choir he says, “I don’t think of it that way—I think of it as entertaining the troops.”
Who are his targets, by the way? “There’s nothing funny about World Peace. Social Justice never killed at The Comedy Store. If we ever attain a worldwide consciousness of peace and justice, I’ll be happily out of a job. But as long as there’s poverty, war, bigotry, ignorance, greed, lust and paranoia, I’ve got a career.” Thus he aims his Martin M-36 guitar and Vega long-neck banjo at ignorance, war and greed. His aim is true and his playing impeccable.
He dedicates his third song, My Conservative Girlfriend, with this prescient line—written twenty years ago,
She’s got the Supreme Court tattooed on her rump
Beside an autographed portrait of Donald Trump
—to right-wing propagandist Ann Coulter, though in the past it has been dedicated to John McCain’s former running mate, Sarah Palin, Fox News radio host Laura Ingraham, and recent White House Communications Director Kellyanne Conway. But the key word is “girlfriend,” to remind you that it is written with love.
Nor does he ignore the vice-president, who had a deserved reputation for his support of the “Religious Liberty Act” in the great state of Indiana, which earned him the VP nod by our president—to curry favor among his conservative base:
Lines like these:
Freedom to oppress
In the name of righteousness…
Y’all know the story of the first Thanksgiving
Historical origin of Martha Stewart Living…
They knew the strictures of their scriptures would never fail ’em
And so they started lighting fires on the pyres in Salem…
Religious freedom to scratch where it itches
Religious freedom to burn our own witches…
–Words and music copyright © 2015 by Roy Zimmerman and Melanie Harby
Then this killer song follows—to all the victims of the tragedy of gun violence: To the Victims of This Tragedy We Send Our Thoughts and Prayers. Which is what we are conditioned to hear in the face of the “Guns and Lunatics” out there—But Roy follows this satire with a note of hope—dedicated to the 17 martyrs of Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School by recounting the students’ leadership last March 24th, in mounting a nationwide march to our nation’s Capitol.
It was thrilling to watch, even as we wondered what it would accomplish. But to see Emma Gonzalez standing in silence at the podium—as she counted off the seconds it took for the assassin to murder all seventeen martyrs—couldn’t help but inspire you to hope for a better day to come. The song that grew out of this tragedy was his title song, Rize Up:
In the stillness of the aftermath…Rize up…
This is your world.
This is your time
You’ll be lifting as you climb.
We need your people to thank for that.
Roy is referring to the children—as in a little child will lead them.
Then Roy lightens the mood with his paean to growing older, in Psychedelic Relic.
He points out how strange it is to observe the 50th anniversary of Woodstock by noting that lefties “Now love the FBI,” and how there is now “No nudity—unless you count baldness—And how “an artificial hippie is now an artificial hip.” But the real test of how you know you’re a “Psychedelic Relic” is if you’re “waiting for the acid to kick in, and what kicks in is acid reflux.”
He follows this with a lovely hymn to the American Dream, based on the Everly Brothers classic All I Have to Do Is Dream; Dedicated to all the heroes in Texas, Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean, words and music by Boudleaux Bryant, parody lyrics and new music by Roy Zimmerman and Melanie Harby, one of Roy and Melanie’s stunning parodies.
A great Christmas song follows—on the theme of What Would You Rather Get for Christmas?—a world of peace and justice, or a lot of nice stuff?” But that only begins to describe it, for it starts with a lot of unlikely alternatives—each contrasted with “a kick in the head” or something similar. When an audience member surprises him by picking a “kick in the head” Roy comes back with “Always a contrarian,” a word you don’t hear every day. Christmas wins out in the end—much to my (comic) relief.
Keep on keeping on, Roy.
With thanks to Jeannine Frank of Parlor Performances for press pass.
Ross Altman has a PhD in Modern Literature from SUNY-Binghamton (1973); he belongs to Local 47 (AFM); and heads the Santa Monica Traditional Folk Music Club; Ross writes for www.folkworks.org he may be reached at email@example.com