As It Happens·Q&A

Twisted Sister's Dee Snider endorses Ukrainians singing We're Not Gonna Take It

When Dee Snider found out that some Ukrainians are using a song he wrote as a resistance anthem, he offered his full endorsement. But the rock star had nothing good to say about anti-maskers who sing his song at protests.

But the rock star has nothing good to say about anti-maskers who sing his song at protests

Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider — pictured here on Oct. 20, 2017 — has endorsed the use of his song We're Not Gonna Take it by Ukrainians fighting a Russian invastion. (Juan Karita/The Associated Press)

Story Transcript

When Dee Snider found out that some Ukrainians are using a song he wrote as a resistance anthem, he offered his full endorsement.

But the Twisted Twister frontman, whose grandfather was Ukrainian, didn't have anything nice to say about those who invoke We're Not Gonna Take It  to protest mandatory masking and other pandemic health measures. 

"One use is for a righteous battle against oppression; the other is [an] infantile feet stomping against an inconvenience," the Los Angeles-based '80s hair metal star, said Sunday in a tweet that's been re-posted more than 50,000 times.

Snider spoke to As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about why he's glad Ukrainians have found inspiration in his music as they fight a Russian invasion. Here is part of their conversation. 

Why was it important for you to endorse We're Not Gonna Take It for the Ukrainian people?

It was designed to be a song where people can read their personal strife and struggle, whether it's your teachers or your parents or your government or an invasion — whatever.

But then I started to get some people asking me, "Well, how can you support that, but you know, you denounced the anti-maskers?"

I was processing it and I was about to head out the door to get Saturday-morning bagels for my family, and I said, you know: This is why. 

And I wrote it down. And I came back a couple of hours later and opened up my Twitter feed, and it exploded, and I said: "Whoa!" I didn't realize I sort of hit the nail on the head.

One group are fighting for their lives against oppression and tyranny for real. It's a life and death situation. The other group are screaming that they're being oppressed because they're being asked to wear a piece of paper over their nose and mouth to protect others.

It's just so ludicrous, you know? And when you put that kind of perspective on it, it looks embarrassing when you see these true people fighting for their lives, struggling for their lives in the Ukraine, and you get these silly people … stamping their feet like little children.

You said that there was an explosive response on social media to that posting of yours. What kind of things did you hear?

One of the constant things that I'm seeing is: Who would have thought Dee Snider from Twisted Sister would be the voice of reason in 2022?

But I responded to that saying: I've always been a voice of reason. You just weren't listening.

I've always [had] sort of the same mindset, the same position, if you go back to when I spoke in Washington in the '80s fighting censorship. I wasn't in there cursing out the politicians. I was rationally explaining what was the problem with the censorship they were trying to impose on music.

So I've always had this sort of centrist position on things.

Twisted Sister members pose for photos before a press conference in New York on April 29, 2003. From left to right: A.J. Pero, J.J. French, Snider, Mark Mendoza and Eddie Ojeda. (Reuters)

What did the band have in mind when you guys wrote the song in the early '80s?

I wrote the song myself and, you know, I was an angry young man. And it was a song about being mad at my dad and being mad at my teachers and mad at my bosses and mad at ex-girlfriends who said I was never going to be anything, you know, and all that stuff. So it was one of those teen angst songs.

But as a songwriter, I always try to leave it open for interpretation. And sometimes people use the song, like teachers. A number of years ago, teachers were using it as their battle cry, and I was like: Yes! Teachers, yes! You get it.

And then I get the, you know, the anti-maskers … singing it, and I go: No, they don't get it.

What people don't understand is that for commercial use, yes, I have control. But for just, like, singing it at a rally or something … the songwriter has zero control. And people for some reason think, "Oh, you wrote the song, that means you endorse them," which is not always the case.

The only thing the songwriter or the band can do is denounce the people [you don't support] or cheer on the people who you support.

Like, I was on a Broadway stage and as I walked out before I sang We're Not Gonna Take It, I said, "This one's for the teachers."

But then when [former Republican congressman] Paul Ryan, who's anti-choice … was using it, I had to denounce him. I said, "Dude, the first line of the song is we've got the right to choose. How can you be singing my song?" 

Do you plan to use your platform in any other ways to support the Ukrainian people?

I would love to do something with it. You know, somebody's approached me and said, "What about doing an all-star re-recording of it for the Ukrainian people … to raise money, all proceeds going to the people [whose] lives are being destroyed?"

I would support doing that, something like that, in an instant. But, you know, with something like that, you need some really big players — bigger than me. I need the [Bruce] Springsteens and the Bonos of the world to step forward and say, "Dee, we'll do this with you." Because you know, a bunch of hair bands aren't going to get the interest of the world.

But then again, I apparently got the interest of the world with my tweet. So who knows? 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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