865~2324~1000501~ Tunes of turmoil - Lifestyle* - DailyTidings.com - Ashland, OR
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  • Tunes of turmoil

    Patrick Dodd writes songs of social justice from a human perspective
  • Guitarist and social justice songwriter Patrick Dodd has dedicated his life to making music about the people most in need to further a dialogue among Americans.
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    • If you go
      What: Performance by Patrick Dodd, Silas R. Shand and Kyle Cregan
      When: 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19
      Where: Johnny B's, 120 E. Sixth St., Medford.
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      If you go
      What: Performance by Patrick Dodd, Silas R. Shand and Kyle Cregan

      When: 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19

      Where: Johnny B's, 120 E. Sixth St., Medford.
  • Guitarist and social justice songwriter Patrick Dodd has dedicated his life to making music about the people most in need to further a dialogue among Americans.
    "The main focus of everything I've ever done is for working people," says Dodd. "I was raised with the music of Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard. The guys that sang original labor tunes."
    His lyrics touch on topics that range from environmental issues to homelessness, battered women and Native American affairs, all written from a human perspective.
    "I think great art is written about people, not issues," says Dodd. "They are easier to understand if you filter them through the eyes of a human being. Issues only invite argument."
    A longtime resident of Oregon, the 62-year-old now lives in Wilderville outside Grants Pass.
    "You know in one winter in Southern Oregon whether you're going to like it or not, the first time the sun disappears for a month," says Dodd, "It takes no prisoners."
    The son of a jazz guitarist, Dodd spent much of his childhood on an Indian reservation in northern Oklahoma, where his grandmother lived. Later, he found that he was not of Native American descent; his family had been so poor it had no other place to live besides the reservation. But it was the time spent on the reservation that most impacted his life and his music.
    "I don't think that Americans see rural poverty very often," says Dodd. "The Indian approach to the view of America is not only different, but addictive, once you really start to know what happened and know how these people responded to it, and get to know their culture on their terms."
    Dodd says he doesn't remember ever not playing the guitar, but that he started playing probably around age 4, writing his first song at age 6. As an adult, he was well on his way to a successful music career when he moved to Austin, Texas.
    "They call Austin the grad school of songwriters," says Dodd.
    He then started going to environmental rallies, only to see that there was a missing musical element to the gatherings.
    "I realized the speakers were current, the poets were current, the audio/visual was current and then the music came from Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly and from people that weren't there," says Dodd, "So I decided to write about this time period and what's happening now."
    In the '70s, Dodd was asked to write songs for the activist group the American Indian Movement, something his childhood on the reservation had prepared him for.
    "To see American poverty, all you have to do is go to your average reservation. The income is 60 to 70 percent lower than the average," says Dodd. "The despair is absolutely palpable. For me is wasn't as much of an awakening as it was a call. They are faced with a world that doesn't meet the world view that their elders faced, so Native suicides are always way higher than the rest of the curve, and when you see that even as a child, that makes an impression."
    Dodd wrote a song called "Long May You Ride," about five chiefs who rode from California to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. He also wrote the theme song for Food Not Bombs that is downloaded about 2,000 times each year the organization celebrates its anniversary.
    "People tell you that this music will never sell in the marketplace, as if that's the only use for music," he says. "But I have seen music support people long enough to change bad laws."
    Even though the subject matter of many of his tunes can be heart-wrenching, Dodd delivers them in a way that is humanizing and inspiring. He's also learned to have a little fun sometimes, too.
    "A Native American taught me to never let it get so bad that you forget how to laugh because you're beat that day," says Dodd. "Never let it rob your sense of humor. Your sense of humor is part of your dignity, that's what he taught me."
    In that same humorous vein, Dodd performed a song called "Hillbilly Heaven" for the Tidings Cafe on the banks of Waters Creek in Wilderville. Dodd has two recorded albums. The first, from 1992 called "Crimes Against The State," is downloaded frequently by people in Japan who sing it on karaoke machines to express social unrest in an acceptable way in their culture, he says. The album's cover is a photo of Dodd's daughter being arrested at a protest as a young girl. He also recorded a two-disc album for his 50th birthday called "Songs of the Life and Times of the Great American Outlaw."
    "I don't have a single regret about what I decided to do," says Dodd.
    Dodd will perform with Silas R. Shand and Kyle Cregan at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at Johnny B's, 120 E. Sixth St., Medford.
    Mandy Valencia is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at avalencia@mailtribune.com.
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