The Sunday Magazine

Steve Earle on refugees, the death penalty and song-writing as literature

Of all the outlaws that country music has produced, Steve Earle has always been among the most willing to put himself on the opposite side of popular opinion and the political mood of the US. While he was releasing a string of critically-lauded album, writing fiction and drama and trying his hand at acting, he was also a committed anti-death penalty activist and a vocal critic of the way America's war on terror and its wars abroad. Now, on the 30th anniversary of his seminal debut album, Guitar Town, he has taken up the cause of refugees from Africa and the Middle East.
(Chris Wodskou)
Listen50:38

Of all the outlaws that country music has produced, Steve Earle has always been among the most willing to put himself on the opposite side of popular opinion and the political mood of the US.

In song, in writing and in activism, he's weighed in against the death penalty, against the war in Iraq and the war on terror, against the Confederate flag. 

I've been to Belfast when there was gun trucks in the street, and they said that would never change. I don't believe that what's going on in the [Middle East] is hopeless...I'm a recovering heroin addict. I simply can't afford to believe in anything like a lost cause or a hopeless case. - Steve Earle, on gun violence in the United States

And now — he is throwing his support behind refugees. Along with fellow singers Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller, Steve Earle is part of the Lampedusa: Concerts for Refugees tour sponsored by the Jesuit Refugee Service. The tour coincides with the 30th anniversary reissue of Guitar Town, several months after the release of his most recent album of duets with Shawn Colvin. 

I woke up [on Thursday] feeling legitimized because Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, and that means that what I do is literature, and I've believed that all along. - Steve Earle

Steve Earle has won three Grammy Awards. He's also acted in films and television series and written a novel, a collection of short stories and a play. In 2010, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty bestowed upon him its Shining Star of Abolition Award. 

Click the button above to hear Michael's feature interview with Steve Earle. Because this segment includes commercially recorded music, we are only able to make it available within Canada for copyright reasons. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now