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Music

Five musicians who became politicians

Sometimes an artist needs to conquer more than one field to fulfil their trajectory. Sometimes they need to aspire to something grander and greater, resorting to areas of politics where chiming choruses do not permit the singers, drummers or guitar players the chance to show their political faces.

And these are the musicians who change direction and steer into politics, and this list looks at five of the most notable luminaries that left the trappings of rock for something completely different. They decided to move into a different arena, one where riffs do not soar, or choruses play.

This list doesn’t include civil rights activists, a la John Lennon, but strives to examine the pop stars who emerged from the precipice to become a politician, wearing a different guise for their information, guided by their gumption and sheer will

The five we’ve chosen enjoyed varying degrees of fame, but there’s no denying that they are equal parts political voice, as they are a creative thinker. And on that cheery note, let’s take a look at the five who made the cut.

Five musicians who became politicians:

5. Peter Garrett

The Australian frontman is one of the foremost musicians of his generation. He fronted and continues to front Midnight Oil, but like his bandmates, he grew increasingly concerned with problems arising about the environment and felt it was his duty to speak out for the country. His first attempt to make a name in Australian politics arrived when he was asked to stand for the Nuclear Disarmament Party (NDP). He lost, but it gave him a taste of politics that led to greater, more substantial victories.

Elected to the position of Environment Minister in 2007, Garrett was responsible for spearheading the whaling conservation policy, culminating in a cessation of commercial and “scientific” whaling. His impact was just, and since returning to Midnight Oil, Garrett has made sure to continue down his chosen crusade, delving into environmental and social concerns.

4. Dave Rowntree

It’s always the quiet ones that make the loudest impact. If there’s a chance you didn’t realise that Dave Rowntree was the drummer for Blur, you aren’t the only ones, but Rowntree was instrumental in getting the band recognised, both from a musical and legal point of view. He took it upon himself to return to law during Blur’s hiatus, feeling that there was a great deal to delve into, and tapped into an interest that didn’t involve either sticks or cymbals.

After a few losses, he eventually won a seat on Labour, which gave him the chance to serve as on the Norfolk County Council. He stood as an MP from 2017, until 2021, where he decided to stand down. “It has been a joy and a privilege to represent the residents in University Ward,” Rowntree wrote on his website, “And I’ve made friendships here that will last a lifetime. I hope that when this is all over, I can get back involved somehow.”

3. Sonny Bono

No, we’re not talking about the singer from U2 – although the Dublin frontman has never felt any qualms talking about politics, as is evident from his trip to Ukraine recently – but Cher’s first, and possibly greatest, collaborator, who duetted on such jaunty singles as ‘I Got You Babe’, later reinvigorated by UB40. The single in question proved to be one of the most ubiquitous in rock, which likely explains why it pops up so frequently in radio playlists across the world and galaxy. Everyone loves the tune, although it might drive you crazy a la Groundhog Day.

He could never match Cher’s success as a solo vocalist, but branched out into politics instead. Elected to the position of Palm Springs mayor in 1988, Bono enjoyed further acclaim when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1994. Bono died in 1998, but the Palm Springs International Film Festival commemorates the singer turned politician annually.

2. Krist Novoselic

The Nirvana bassist has been a popular figurehead in the realm of US politics, although his impassioned defences for the artists in the world shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, especially when you consider that the singer-turned political independent founded JAMPAC (Joint Artists and Musicians Political Action Committee). Over the years, JAMPAC has fought against a number of restrictive bills, including the Teen Dance Ordinance, a 1985 law that made it difficult for minors to attend rock events.

The bassist created controversy when he decided to make a comment in favour of Presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Critics were surprised to hear a left-winger speak in favour of the multi-millionaire. “As an avowed independent, I don’t endorse a major party or candidate,” Novoselic confirmed. “And it feels insane to have to say this, but I don’t support fascism, and I don’t support an authoritarian state.”

1. Dana Rosemary Scallon

Yes, the voice behind ‘All Kinds Of Everything’ ran for President of Ireland in 2011, racing against current incumbent Michael D. Higgins for a chance to sit behind the big house. What it presented was the possibility that a former Eurovision star could place herself in the world of politics and make an impression, steering the conservative back to more antiquated times. Thank the lord that she didn’t win the title. Scallon received 51,220 votes (2.9%) of the vote, jumping from a campaign that was proudly European in its outlook.

“I am not anti-Europe,” she clarified. “I have always said that Europe, the concept of Europe is good. We want to be in Europe.” Her comments were made after she criticised the European Union’s decision to push The Lisbon Treaty back into the public conscience. The singer in question made it her mission to speak on behalf of women during the campaign, although her pro-life views were criticised by some of the more liberal members of the public.