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If the great Phil Ochs were to rise from the dead today, he would probably be hailed as the new David Rovics.
Andy Kershaw, BBC
Absolutely brilliant. David Rovics says exactly what needs to be said.
Ian McMillan, BBC
David Rovics is a freaking genius.
Eric Spitznagel, MTV
I’m a big fan.
Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine
No one gets more deeply to the heart of important issues, with catchy and concise poetry, than David does. He has a talent for expressing things that are hard to say. All of his songs grab me emotionally and let me know how I really feel. His songs come alive like stories and movies, not just words.
Right now, there is no one to touch David Rovics when it comes to a politically coherent music that can both entertain, energize and educate.
Afshin Rattansi, RT
David Rovics is the musical version of Democracy Now!
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Listen to David Rovics.
The last time David Rovics had a real job was when he was a part-time barista at a Starbucks in 1995. After having too many thoughts about killing all the white men in suits who never tipped that entered his workplace (which were most of the clientele), he quit that job quick. Since then he has been subsisting as a musician, playing in the streets and subways of Boston at first, and by the late 1990’s, touring internationally as a DIY protest singer. Except that he hates the term “protest singer.” But that’s how the mainstream media would dismissively define him and his ilk, anyway, so there you go.
If you’re using this bio to introduce David at a gig, you can be merciful to your audience and stop there. The music will be better than reading this narcissistic crap. But if you want all the gory details, keep reading (preferably to yourself).
David was born in New York City into a family of classical musicians. He played classical cello as a kid, and got back into playing the cello again in 2016, after watching a video on YouTube and having a musical epiphany of dubious quality.
But as a guitar-slinging singer/songwriter, David has toured in over two dozen countries, including every state in the US except for Mississippi and North Dakota (if you don’t count that open mike in Bismarck during a road trip across the country around 1989).
His many years of attempting to musically infiltrate the Left have not been entirely pointless. He has been a featured performer at protests throughout North America and Europe. An abbreviated list includes many protest rallies against the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC including April 16th, 2000; antiwar protests in Washington and New York, including February 15th, 2003, for half a million people.
When President Bush came to Berlin in 2002, David entertained the 100,000 or so folks who came to protest, and at the TTIP protest in Berlin in 2015 he sang for 250,000. He was also a featured performer at the G8 protests in Rostock in 2007, the G8 protests in Scotland in 2005, the G20 in Pittsburgh in 2009 and the G20 in Toronto the following year. Other countries where David has played at protests for thousands of people include England, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia and Japan.
These sorts of crowds make David feel very good, since at his own gigs he considers himself lucky if 50 people show up.
In addition to his musical involvement with the anticapitalist movement, labor, environmental and antiwar movements internationally, David has been writing songs and singing at protests related to the Israeli occupation of Palestine since 2000. In 2005 he did a tour that included ten shows in the West Bank, along with shows in Lebanon and Jordan. He has also toured a bit in Japan, Hong Kong and a variety of Latin American countries, and extensively in Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe.
David’s songs have been streamed or downloaded in one form or another in the low millions, between the various platforms. This has resulted in very little money, however, and since the demise of the CD, David has managed to continue to make a living as a musician by beseeching his fans to join his Community-Supported Art scheme.
David’s songs have been recorded by various musicians, including the founder of Nueva Trova, Cuba’s Vicente Feliu (“Song for Ana Belen Montes”). David’s song “The Commons” was translated into Dutch and recorded with the Kik by legendary Dutch songwriter, Armand. The Wakes of Scotland recorded “They’re Building A Wall” and “St Patrick Battalion,” which has also been performed and recorded by many people throughout Europe and throughout the Americas. Other songs of his that have been covered extensively include “Black Flag Flying” and “I’m A Better Anarchist Than You.”
His songs have appeared in songbooks including Rise Again (sequel to Rise Up Singing), and the official songbook of the Norwegian labor movement (LO) and the Danish SUF (Socialist Youth). His songs have appeared regularly in Sing Out! magazine. His songs have also appeared in widely-circulated high school textbooks in Germany and Sweden, as tools for developing a deeper understanding of US politics.
His music is played regularly on community radio, and a long time ago he used to be heard on Democracy Now! regularly. For a while he was featured regularly on a national BBC radio show in the UK, until Andy Kershaw lost his job there. He has occasionally been featured on other media including the Washington Post, RT (Russia Today), Press TV (Iran), Al-Manar (Lebanon), and national radio programs in Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Australia and elsewhere.
David’s songs have been featured in many documentaries, probably because he’s the only person to have written a song on that particular subject. Legendary director Haskell Wexler (Four Days in Chicago) and Mohammed Al-Attar (The Iron Wall) are two of the directors who have used his stuff. His music was used in documentaries broadcast on West Virginia Public Television and ABC in Australia, and has been used as theme music for Truthout’s audio broadcasts and other radio and internet broadcasts.
David’s essays are regularly published in Counterpunch, and have also appeared in Truthout, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Common Dreams and many other places. Such as his blog.
David has two albums of children’s songs. “The Pirate Song,” being one of the few songs about pirates that does not mention inappropriate subjects such as alcohol and has no swear words in it, has been featured in elementary school plays throughout the English-speaking world.
He has shared the stage on a number of occasions with Tom Morello, founder of Rage Against the Machine, who also recorded a lead guitar track on David’s 2012 album, Meanwhile In Afghanistan. He has also shared the stage with Billy Bragg, Chumbawamba, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger, and has toured extensively with Attila the Stockbroker, Robb Johnson, Anne Feeney, Tracey Curtis and Alistair Hulett.
In 2009 in Copenhagen he opened for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Bolivian president Evo Morales. He has frequently shared the stage with other leftwing politicians in many different countries, including Congress members Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, and Cynthia McKinney; US Green Party presidential candidates David Cobb and Jill Stein; members of the European Parliament, and members of parliament of many different European countries including the UK, Denmark and Portugal.
David, his music, and his role in protest movements internationally have caused him to be mentioned in a number of history books and books about contemporary politics of one kind or another. David features especially prominently in the last section of Will Kaufman’s Singing for Peace (Paradigm Publishers), a history of the music of the US peace movement from the Revolution to the present.
He wrote a novel, A Busker’s Adventures, in 2016 (self-published on his mobile app and elsewhere). He also wrote a pamphlet published by PM Press, Sing for Your Supper – A DIY Guide to Playing Music, Writing Songs and Booking Your Own Gigs.
Most of his recordings have been self-released or put out by very small indy labels, but his 2003 CD, Behind the Barricades – the Best of David Rovics was put out by Daemon Records (the label run by Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls) and Halliburton Boardroom Massacre (2006) was distributed by EMI.
Since 2007 David has held down an apartment in the rapidly-gentrifying city of Portland, Oregon. He has two children, and an Instagram account to prove it.