Who says musicians have to be liberals?
Not John Popper, the harmonica-playing wizard and lead singer for the band Blues Traveler. He’s proud to call himself a libertarian — albeit one with conservative leanings. “[I'm] a libertarian who is a Republican when pushed,” he told the St. Petersburg Times (January 8, 2003). Popper was less equivocal in a 1996 interview with MTV. When asked about his political views for the music channel’s Rock The Vote program, he said, “Well, I believe in freedom for markets and freedom for individuals, so I guess that makes me a libertarian.”
Popper has also been willing to publicly take libertarian stands on controversial issues. For example, www.BluesTraveler.net notes: “Popper is widely known as a gun-rights advocate.” In a 1997 interview in Rolling Stone, Popper said he supported the repeal of most gun laws. In an interview on Launch Music On Yahoo (October 10, 1997), Popper said he collected “firearms and swords” as a hobby, and said he loved the “aesthetic of weaponry” because they were “designed to be life-savingly efficient.” In May 1999, Popper defended Second Amendment rights on MTV’s Point Blank, a round-table discussion about gun control.
Popper has also been outspoken about ending the War on Drugs. In 1995, his band contributed a song to the pro-legalization album, Hempilation: Freedom is NORML. In August 2000, National Review noted that Popper and Blues Traveler “been forthright about its views on drugs: They’re for legalization.”
There’s one other place where Popper’s libertarian tendencies are visible — his lyrics. In his 1991 song, “Support Your Local Emperor,” Popper mocks the inflated egos of politicians. He sings: “Support your local emperor / Pay him tribute every time / Let it be known he holds your fate / From his fingertips shall flow the wine / Tell him when he speaks the air is sweet / Wherever he walks rosebuds be laid…” The song then asks the sarcastic question: “But could you tell me what he’s ever done for you?”
Popper got into music after seeing the film The Blues Brothers. He taught himself the harmonica, and eventually mastered a unique “machine-gun style” of playing that he patterned after Jimi Hendrix’s guitar heroics.
In 1984, he formed Blues Traveler, and the band developed its signature free-form, boogie-blues-rock sound in the clubs of New Jersey. In 1990, the band released its debut album. Along with the Dave Matthews Band and Phish, Blues Traveler spearheaded the 1990′s jam-band revival, and built a nationwide following with relentless touring. The band hit the charts with its 1994 album Four, which spawned the Top 40 hits “Run-Around” (which spent a record 49 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart) and “Hook.” The band won a Grammy Award for “Run-Around” in 1996.
Blue Traveler’s albums include Blues Traveler (1990), Save His Soul (1993), Straight on Till Morning (1997), Decision of the Sky (2000), Bridge (2001), Travelogue: Blues Traveler Classics (2002), Truth Be Told (2003), ¡Bastardos! (2005), Cover Yourself (2007) and North Hollywood Shootout (2008). In 1999, Popper released a solo album, Zygote.
“[I'm] a libertarian who is a Republican when pushed.” – John Popper in the St. Petersburg Times (January 8, 2003)
“Well, I believe in freedom for markets and freedom for individuals, so I guess that makes me a libertarian.” – John Popper on MTV’s Rock The Vote (1996)