It Takes Money To Walk Away From Money

The LA Times is running a story on John Densmore, the drummer for The Doors. Mr. Densmore won’t sell out and that is a story today, especially considering that you have Dylan, Sir Paul, Led Zep and The Stones all lending their creations to corporate interests.
“People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music,” Densmore told the paper. “I’ve had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, other people say they know someone who didn’t commit suicide because of this music…On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That’s not for rent.”
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Yet, offers keep coming in, such as the $15 million dangled by Cadillac last year to lease the song “Break On Through” to hawk its luxury SUVs.
If Densmore is a dinosaur, he is not the last surviving one. Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles continue to say no to commercials. So do Neil Young and Carlos Santana. But all of them still pull in concert revenues that make that choice far easier. Densmore himself points out that if he were poor he might make a different choice.
But his stance against commercialization has won a chorus of support from the true believers of rock. In the Nation, Tom Waits wrote a letter in praise of Densmore: Corporations “suck the life and meaning from the songs and impregnate them with promises of a better life with their product. Eventually, artists will be going onstage like race-car drivers covered in hundreds of logos.”

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About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.