Entertainers protest in anti-nuclear crusade

by Abe Peck
Winnipeg Free Press
June 13, 1979

"Just give me the warm power of the sun
Give me the steady flow of the waterfall
Give me the spirit of living things
As they return to clay.
Just give me the restless power of the wind
Give me the comforting glow of the woodfire
But please take all your atomic poison power away."
John Hall, "Power," Siren Songs - BMI.

John Hall is afraid to live near one. Jackson Browne thinks the sun is a better bet. Graham Nash demonstrated against them at the large rally in Washington, D.C., May 6. Bonnie Raitt, the Doobie Brothers and James Taylor aren't big fans either.

After "musing" about nuclear energy, these performers have decided to spend (at least) two nights in September playing benefits for the anti-nuclear movement at New York's Madison Square Garden. These "No Nukes in Our Garden" shows should rank among the larger non-profit events in rock music history, rivaling the Concert for Bangladesh and the benefits for imprisoned boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and approaching the scale of the monster 1975 show staged in San Francisco's Kezar Stadium for that city's sports program.

The schedule calls for two shows Sept. 19-20, to be produced by Muse (Musicians United for Safe Energy). With tickets priced at $15.50 and $18.50, a $8,000 seat midweek stint could gross more than $600,000. A potential record album might add an additional $1 million to the anti-nuke coffers; a move could produce even more.

Profits will go to fund anti-nuclear and alternative energy organizations around the country.

"There are plenty of causes around. I would just as soon not have this one. But for me it's a necessity, the issue that transcends all others," Hall, a former member of Orleans, told Rolling Stone. His opposition to nuclear power is double-edged: He studied physics at Notre Dame and his mid-state New York home, is just six miles from a planned nuclear installation.

"The government has not found it in its interest to fund, research or subsidize private enterprise that's working to develop solar energy," added Jackson Browne. "The most obvious reason is that there's not a great deal of profit to be made from harnessing the sun."

Profits frorn the concerts will be disbursed by the MUSE Foundation, a 13-member mixture of performers, producers and activists. According to the Village Voice, the Roster includes Browne, Raitt and Hall, arid writer Howard Kohn, whose articles in Rolling Stone did much to focus public atten'tion on the Karen Silkwood radiation case (which recently ended with a $10-million judgement against the Kerr-McGee Co.).

Also involved is MUSE president Sam Lovejoy, an early foe of things atomic who in 1974 chopped down a nuclear-plant weather tower which had been erected near the communal farm he was living on in Montague, Mass. (His case was thrown out of court on technicality.)

Along with event co-producers Tony Campbell and David Fenton, the list includes politico Tom Hayden, Native American John Redhouse and representatives of Friends of the Earth, the Clamshell Alliance, Critical Mass and the American Friends Service Committee.

"At most benefits, the musicans get up, play and leave," Fenton said. "This (the benefits) was their idea, and some of them are on the board that will give away money to the anti-nuclear and pro-alternative energy groups. So they're involved on every level."

"MUSE will definitely not close up shop after the Garden concerts," and Browne, holding Out the possibility that benefits will be held in other cities.

The Garden concerts had a dry run of sorts at the May 6 Washington rally, which Browne, Nash, Dan Fogelberg, John Sebastian and Joni Mitchell attended, Michell attended. Mitchel sang "The Crow in the Cradle," which, she recalled, "come from the ban-the-bomb movement. Since that time, I think that everybody, either consciously or subconsciously, has been disturbed about potential destruction. But I don't think they expected it to come on friendly territory from their own government."

Hall's idyllic song about "Power" aside, the anti-nuclear movement still has some serious questions to answer. Is pollution producing coal a viable energy replacement? Can solar .power become a feasible alternative? What will get us over the current oil lump?

As Barry Commoners lengthy twopart series of articles in the New Yorker recently showed, this movement is beginning to articular an alternative energy policy.

But what if the major power companies and utilities try to beat the alternative energy people at their own game? Look deep into the mushroom cloud and you can see it now: a pronuclear counterfestival called "Nukes on Our Three Mile Island," held at - where else - Harrisburg Pa.

Publicity could be handled by those advertising-articles Mobil Oil runs in newspapers. And the groups they might not want to participate, but the Electric Light Orchestra, Bad Company and Pacific Gas & Electric all have the right names. So do the Grateful Dead.

But then again, the special guest stars at this benefit would have to be Blind Faith.

Late word puts Jackson Browne, Melissa Manchester, Lily Tomlin, Graham Nash, Peter, Paul and Mary and Sha Na Na's Jocko Marcellino at the Hollywood Bowl the afternoon of June 10 for an anti-nuclear benefit called "Survival Sunday II."

"It's as if reality is being written by the Sanity Department at Mad Magazine," Manchester said, explaining that she was especially upset about California's Diablo Canyon nuclear installation. "The idea of building a nuclear plant on a fault line - let alone building it at all - is beyond comprehension.

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