Undoubtedly, the world history of music has been governed by politics to some degree.
Ron Hawkins, former front man for The Lowest of the Low and a solo artist, views his career very much from a dual perspective, balancing elements of both politics and pure art.
Politics, as Hawkins describes, has played an extremely pivotal role through his career. In fact, it was this intellectual interest that gave birth to his beginnings as a musician.
“I got started kind of through politics, believe it or not. The first band I was in was a Marxist punk rock band and I came to it being a politically interested punk rock kid,” he said. “Before that, when I was a really little kid, I was a big Beatles fan, and it all came together when I was 16 or 17.” Hawkins further explained his admiration for the Beatles in the context of his own interests.
“Part of the reason I liked [John] Lennon a lot was because he was a musical genius — a giant artistically — but toward the middle and the end of his career, he got politicized and radicalized,” he said.
Political socialization, unlike in the case of Lennon, was the early stages for Hawkins.
“We started off when we were younger writing more didactically political stuff. It sort of watered down the art end of it for me, but I never found a comfortable coexistence between the two,” he said. “As I started concentrating on it more as an art form, I was able to invent the political messages in my lyrics just by writing about my life.”
Hawkins said, however, that this shift in his approach to theme reflects only one side of this development.
“It was done in a more artistically pleasing way, not just spouting at people. Don’t get me wrong — I do lots of spouting at people, just not on stage,” he said.
According to Hawkins, the greatest significance of his political outlook with respect to music lies close to home.
“We see the victors of the capitalist system having their praises sung all the time, but I wanted to tell stories about working class people — the people I grew up with,” he said.
“And of course I say this from the privilege of a capitalist society,” he continued.
It seems music has given Hawkins the perfect outlet for both intellectual and artistic expression — a career that many would be envious of.
At one time though, Hawkins was in pursuit of a different type of employment.
“I was almost an NHL goalie. I played hockey until I was about 18 and got a call up to the Marlies training camp — the Leafs’ farm team,” he said.
But as it turned out, Hawkins had other plans.
“I loved playing and I loved being a goalie, but I couldn’t really picture myself travelling around for the rest of my life in a van with a bunch of guys. So I joined a rock band.”
Ron Hawkins and the Do Good Assassins plays the Grad Club on Nov. 9 at 10 p.m.
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