Cancel Culture: Killing MUSIC in the name of

WORDS: Steve Waterman Music Writer PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

Neil Young once said that rock and roll will never die, but after disgraceful ‘cancel culture’ pressure from woke quarters of the Australian music industry to ensure Sticky Fingers doesn’t play at this year’s Bluesfest in Byron, I’m not so sure.

The veneer, fake, one-sided plasticity of the industry to ‘censure’ musicians for past indiscretions – and for views contrary to theirs – is an outrage which requires an appropriately intolerant response.

I can only think of one applicable lyric right now: from Rage Against the Machine’s killing in the name of: “F**k you I won’t do what you tell me!”

These lyrics are universal. Outrageous. Offensive to some, but freedom of expression nonetheless to others – the core of arts, music and creativity. An anthem of a generation of who healthily expressed and challenged the status quo of the ills of their society at the time.

There’s an old saying that if you want to control a society, restrict or dispose of the artists, poets, writers and philosophers. Then you are free to impose your will on others. The artists who censored Sticky Fingers are complicit in this.

The Ten Commandments have been replaced by the enlightened. Thou shalt not have a contrarian view; Thou shalt behave in a way that is acceptable to me; Thou shalt not step outside of the norms and standards of our current society.

And the worst ‘sin’ of all? Thou shalt not be racist.

Evidently, we are led to believe racism is such a big issue in this country – a country founded on multi-culturalism and in a society that is probably the least racist in 6000 years of human history and where the indigenous are treated better than they ever have been.

Let’s take racism, which was allegedly at the core of Sticky Fingers’ being ‘cancelled’ from the Bluesfest for an event some seven years ago. Public campaigns and personal attacks against Sticky Fingers have dated back to 2016 when lead singer Dylan Frost was accused of abusing and threatening other artists including, allegedly, indigenous singer Thelma Plum.

While not an excuse, there is some wiggle room in the fact that Frost was later diagnosed with schizophrenic bipolar disorder. While never supporting bigoted behaviours and outbursts, someone please guide me to someone who has never done it.

The old saying is still poignant: let him (I better say her, they) without sin, cast the first stone.

Freedom of expression – for generations amplified by the music industry – is imploding on itself.


Why must every band that walks on a stage spend its introductory moments acknowledging First Nations people and give us all a guilt trip that none of us are responsible for? Let’s just say it once, like we do the national anthem (remember, we are young and free not one and free).

Have these woke antagonists spent time in indigenous communities? Do they genuinely care for the plight of the First Nations people? Have they reflected on the possibility that they might be followers rather than leaders? Are they just complying for fear of losing their own credibility in a cut-throat industry?

I have no doubt that their influenced view flies in the face of what they intended when they were first inspired – raw and unplugged – to pick up an instrument and let the soul be free and liberated. They, like the corporate Australia they so detest, also operate under an umbrella of being required to behave a certain way. Maybe a record contract is at stake.

Spare me the hypocrisy, the lectures and the judgement. It is the cancel culture that is ruining it for everyone. The notion of a free society is we should be able to choose what we believe, think, and how we view the world. It is the beauty of universal freedom – something many countries don’t have the privilege of enjoying.

So before the hate mail comes flying in from the incensed, may I remind us to focus on the real injustices going on in the world rather than the hurling of some sticks and stones. Think of Ukraine, Africa, freedom for women in Iran and many other countries.

If you really give a shit, take your yoke and direct it to these plights, not the ‘cancel culture’ that the despots of the world must be laughing at about us; watching us implode within ourselves rather than uniting as arguably the world’s most successful multi-cultural success story. Go feed the poor and help the disenfranchised. Hey, maybe find it within yourself to have a bit of sympathy for people like Dylan Frost who clearly has had some shit to deal with.

Finally, let me just say this. I’m just so glad that the minders of the Her Majesty the Queen (may she rest in peace), didn’t write a note to the minders of the Sex Pistols to refrain from continuing to refer to the Monarchy as ‘a fascist regime’ or saying ‘she ain’t no human being’ during the band’s anarchist, anti-establishment tirades of the 1970s.

That would have been a red rag to a bull and the anti-establishment that has been at the core of the music industry would have accelerated the rock ‘ n’ roll rebellion that still continues today. Kind of. Until the woke arrived and cancelled Sticky Fingers.

Live and let live. Better still, love and let live.

This is just a blip. The tribe will eventually find its voice and rebel against the current wave of political correctness.

We will enter a new world where woke cancel culture will be shown up for exactly what it is: vacuous, hypocritical and intolerant

We will say: “F**k you I won’t do what you tell me.”

The very culture of rock and roll will rise up against it, and Neil Young will be right.