Billy Bragg performed an impromptu show in Ferguson, Missouri on Tuesday (August 19).
The singer-songwriter was playing in nearby St Louis when he made a trip to the city, which made headlines after the recent civil unrest following the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Bragg commented: “A number of people said to me on Twitter, if you’re going to go to St Lou, are you going to go to Ferguson? But we didn’t want to just go there and walk through Ferguson and be tourists. We wanted to do something for the community.”
Bragg, alongside Joe Purdy, played for an hour to 200 people in the courtyard of a pub called the Royale, owned by protester Steven Fitzpatrick Smith. In the set, Bragg played Woody Guthrie’s ‘Hangknot, Slipknot’, civil rights song ‘Cryin’ In The Streets’ as well as Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changin”.
“The true enemy of all of us who want to make the world a better place is not capitalism or conservatism, it’s cynicism,” Bragg told the crowd. “You have the opportunity to show the world that St Louis is not a cynical place.”
Meanwhile, Lauryn Hill has dedicated a track to the people of Ferguson. ‘Black Rage’ is an interpretation of her track ‘My Favourite Things’. Writing on Twitter, the singer says it is an “old sketch” of a song she made in her living room. “Strange, the course of things. Peace for MO,” she wrote.
Last week, rapper Killer Mike posted a photo of Brown’s grieving mother and stepfather, alongside text in which the rapper gives his thoughts on police brutality and the abuse of power – labelling the incident as “govt-sanctioned murder”.
J Cole has also responded to the unrest, putting out a track titled ‘Be Free’ accompanied by a blog post in which he wrote, “I’m tired of being desensitized to the murder of black men. I don’t give a fuck if it’s by police or peers. This shit is not normal.”