Here’s an excerpt from the liner notes of singer, songwriter and activist Steve Earle’s new record due out Aug. 24 on Artemis Records. It’s called “The Revolution Starts … Now.”

The word “immediate” best describes the atmosphere around the studio as this record was being made in the late spring of 2004. The prisoner abuse scandal had just broken and the Bush administration, still reeling from the 9/11 Commission hearings, was circling the wagons. The Democrats, for their part, were carefully (sometimes, in my opinion, too carefully) trying to sort out how best to press the advantage. Meanwhile, back here in Tennessee, me and my boys had a deadline to meet.

The most important presidential election of our lifetime was less than seven months away and we desperately wanted to weigh in, both as artists and as citizens of a democracy. All but two of these songs were recorded within 24 hours of the first line hitting the paper. We worked 12- and 14-hour days and in between takes and over meals we talked about the war, the election, baseball, and women, in precisely that order. Maybe I am getting old.

Democracy is hard work. American democracy requires constant vigilance to survive and nothing short of total engagement to flourish. Voting is vital, but in times like these voting alone simply isn’t enough. By the time some of you hear these songs the election will be over. Then the real struggle begins.

When the dust clears and the votes are all counted (we’re watchin’ YOU, Jeb) it will be up to all of us — Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and independents alike — to hold whomever is left standing accountable for their actions on our behalf every single day that they are in power. The day after the election, regardless of the outcome, the war will go on, outsourcing of our jobs will continue, and over a third of our citizens will have no health care coverage whatsoever.

Like I said, it’s hard work and there’s so much to be done. And there always will be. The Constitution of the United States of America is a revolutionary document in every sense of the word. It was designed to evolve, to live, and to breathe like the people that it governs. It is, ingeniously, and perhaps conversely, resilient enough to change with the times in order to meet the challenges of its third century and rigid enough to preserve the ideals that inspired its original articles and amendments.

As long as we are willing to put in the work required to defend and nurture this remarkable invention of our forefathers, then I believe with all my heart that it will continue to thrive for generations to come. Without our active participation, however, the future is far from certain. For without the lifeblood of the human spirit even the greatest documents produced by humankind are only words on paper or parchment, destined to yellow and crack and eventually crumble to dust.

Yours for the … revolution,

– Steve Earle
Fairview, Tenn., May 2004
Originally published Aug. 10 by CommonDreams.org.

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