For decades, boycotting has been a powerful way of getting people involved in delivering messages against oppression. The United States of America was founded on a protest against England’s tyranny which resulted in the American Revolution. Protests only increased in prominence the years since, reaching a height during the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout America’s most recent history, we’ve seen quite a few artists lead boycotts surrounding pressing political matters. Whether it be through artwork, lending their fame to a cause or through song, artists have always found a way to speak up and speak out in protest against what they feel is wrong. This year we’ve seen some musicians take some pretty big initiatives in leading protests of their own. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest artist-led boycotts of all time!
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When the state of Arizona decided to create, and attempt to pass, an immigration reform bill that would legally racial profile its citizens, a bold move was made. More so than the obvious racial undertones of SB 1070 was the even bigger issue of a state attempting to preempt the federal government in immigration regulations. This new law, which was primarily aimed at Arizona’s Latino population (a population which boasts about 30% of Arizona’s population as a whole), quickly became a nationwide upset. Suddenly this became not only a concern for immigration activists but for civil rights activists as well–a cross-cultural issue. People were angry, people were concerned and people took action.
But the artist community came out in numbers and provided their support to upset residents of Arizona and civil rights activists by boycotting performances in the entire state. Soon after the news of SB 1070, there was new of musicians everywhere, including Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West and Chris Rock, vowing not to perform in the state of Arizona until the law was overturned. Yesterday (July 28) a judge issued an injunction on SB 1070. At the time of posting there were no new developments on artists returning to perform in Arizona.
In efforts to fight apartheid in South Africa people around the world were responding to the travesties that occurred. The United Nations announced an official boycott and soon after companies were pulling money out of the country, actors were putting pressure on their guilds to pull programming in South Africa and the nation eventually was banned from the Olympics. The anti-apartheid movement got a big push when musicians joined the cause led by Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Through music, Van Zandt got some of the more popular recording artists of the time together to record the album Sun City. Artists who helped on the project included Run DMC, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Ringo Starr, David Ruffin, Grandmaster Flash, Nona Hendryx, Hall & Oates, George Clinton and Pat Benatar amongst others. The project became a great success raising more than one million dollars in support of anti-apartheid projects.