Why songwriter Billy Bragg doesn't have time for cynics

For decades, Billy Bragg has played great songs — born of pop and laced with politics. Today he shares what keeps him going.
Billy Bragg offers insight into his celebrated music and complex lyrics in the new book, A Lover Sings. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

For decades, Billy Bragg has played great songs, born of pop and laced with politics — but when his son missed a Cold War reference, it reminded him of the importance of context. Today the U.K. musician joins Shad to discuss his new book, A Lover Sings, which further explains some of his carefully-crafted lyrics. 

Bragg explores the roots of his progressive political activism, why he fears music has lost its vanguard role, and how he really feels about cynics (also known as people who have simply "given up").

"The real enemy of all of us who want to make the world a better place is not capitalism or conservatism, it's cynicism."

He also posits that good political songs don't need to spell out solutions, but should still signal a way forward. 

WEB EXTRA | Shad admits he's a big fan of Bragg's. As sampled and discussed on air, here's one of Shad's favourites, Levi Stubbs' Tears
Plus here's the track that makes him exclaim "Oh, Canada": Ontario, Quebec and Me


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