The Voice of the People? Musicians as political actors

Seth Hague, John Street, Heather Savigny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article explores the ways in which popular musicians, in particular Bob Geldof, have come to assume a central role in the campaign to alter economic and political relationships between the developed and developing worlds. It focuses on the example of Live 8, but traces this back through Make Poverty History, Jubilee 2000, and Live Aid; and it makes contrasts with another example of music’s use for political ends: Rock Against Racism. What we are concerned to show is how Geldof’s role was constituted both by the political and aesthetic ideology that he evolved and by the processes that legitimated him as a representative of, and expert on, the cause he espoused. We set this analysis against the background of the specific literature on music’s role in social movements; the general literature on post-democracy; and the rise of celebrity politics. While these literatures, we argue, provide a general framework for understanding the role of musicians in politics, they are vague on the detailed cultural politics of the processes involved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages20
JournalCultural Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008

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