Born To Rage: Guitar God Tom Morello & His Social Activism


Happy Birthday [May 30, 1964] to Tom Morello, Grammy-winning, [and totally awesome] guitarist of polemic hard rock band Rage Against The Machine and tireless social activist.

Tom Morello, ranked #26 by Rolling Stone of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time and voted 5th greatest guitarist in the last 30 years by a BBC poll, is best known for his sonic work with Rage Against The Machine; in which his unique picking style; love of loud feedback and insane rhythmic thrashing have created some of the most inimitable music to come out of the hard rock genre. His experimentation with pedals produces industrial sound effects not normally associated with guitars – sirens, bombs, screams and scratches.

RATM’s socially-conscious politics is intrinsic to its music [the band’s name kind of gives it away], they are staunchly anti-establishment and promote social disobedience through both their music and interviews.

RATM disbanded in 2001, after a falling out with lead vocalist Zack de la Rocha and Morello went on to form Audioslave with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell.  Audioslave was a huge commercial and critical success, selling multi-platinum albums, until the band broke up in 2007 and Rage Against The Machine was reformed with the original lineup.

RATM has toured and recorded together since 2007, while Morello has had numerous side projects, including his lesser-known folk music work under the alias The Nightwatchman.

Tom’s activism includes his adherence to and promotion of a vegetarian diet [for health and ethical reasons], his support of the Occupy movement [he has played at many Occupy events] and his criticism of the U.S. government’s actions in military detention centre Guantanamo Bay – about which he has stated, “Guantanamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured — from waterboarding to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts — playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the eardrums. Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine. The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me.”

 [Morello at an Occupy Wall Street event]

Tom is also the co-founder (along with Serj Tankian) of the non-profit political activist organization Axis of Justice, which airs a monthly program on Pacifica Radio station KPFK (90.7 FM) in Los Angeles. Axis of Justice is a political group whose declared purpose is “to bring together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice together.” They “aim to build a bridge between fans of music around the world and local political organizations to effectively organize around issues of peace, human rights, and economic justice.” The group has worked for such causes as immigrant rights and death-penalty abolition. Its recommended book list includes such authors as Noam ChomskyKarl MarxChe GuevaraGeorge OrwellMumia Abu-Jamal and Grant Morrison.