Danny Goldberg Shares Thoughts On The Crossroads Between Art, Entertainment & Politics In New Book


Kat Harlton

Danny Goldberg has worked in the music business as a personal manager, record company President, public relations man and journalist since the late 1960s.

Goldberg was the founder and President of Gold Mountain Entertainment, an artist management firm whose clients included Nirvana, Hole, Sonic Youth, Bonnie Raitt, The Allman Brothers, Rickie Lee Jones and more. 

Other highlights in Goldberg’s career include being the Vice-President of Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records, working with the band from 1973 through 1975. In 1980, Goldberg co-produced and co-directed the rock documentary feature, “No Nukes,” starring Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, and Jackson Browne, among others.

He was Executive Producer of the multi-platinum soundtrack of music from the television series “Miami Vice” and was Music Supervisor on numerous feature films including “Dirty Dancing.”

Goldberg began his career as a music journalist having written for, among others, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and Billboard Magazine (for whom he reviewed the Woodstock Festival in 1969).”

I had the opportunity to chat with Danny about his latest book “Bloody Crossroads 2020: Art Entertainment and Resistance to Trump”, political activism in Hollywood and what’s next.

Kat: For those who are just discovering who you are, can you share a little about yourself and why you felt inspired to write a book about the crossroads of entertainment and politics, specifically during the Trump era?

Danny: In 1980, inspired by concerts that Jackson Browne and others organized to raise awareness and money to combat the growth of nuclear power plants, I co-produced and co-directed the rock documentary film No Nukes which included the first political activism by Bruce Springsteen . After that I got to know a wide array of actors, performers and writers who were also politically active and I was inspired by many of them.

When Trump was elected, there was a huge growth in political activism from a wide array of artists and entertainers including younger artists like Billie Eilish and Cardi B, and older performers who had not previously been politically visible such as Robert De Niro and Bette Midler. When Jon Stewart was hosting The Daily Show during the Bush and Obama administrations, his was the only five night a week comedy/talk show that regularly centered around politics. After Trump was in office it was every show, every night. 

I noticed that political journalism often ignored or trivialized the political engagement of entertainers and I knew that the campaign books that would come out would marginalize this aspect of the coalition that elected Biden so I decided to document the phenomenon. 

Kat: Many people see you as a hugely influential figure in the world of rock and roll, and may not have expected this foray into politics. Who would you recommend this book to?

Danny: I think that anyone interested in the emotional and psychological forces behind American politics will be interested in the role that artists and entertainers have been playing.

Kat: What kind of research did you do for this book, and did you discover anything that surprised you?

Danny: I interviewed several dozen people who were part of the narrative including Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Rosanne Cash and Chuck D as well as showrunners of several political tinged TV series like David Simon (“The Wire,” and “The Plot Against America”) , Billy Ray (“The Comey Rule), and Brian Koppelman (“Billions”) as well as several political journalists and some activists like Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace U.S.A. 

I also read several books about political activism in Hollywood in previous decades, and obsessively scanned the internet daily for activity on Twitter and YouTube, reports of (and criticism of) entertainment activism in the news media.

Kat: You mention Kanye West being widely criticized for his Trump White House visit and yet his music has remained popular and widely respected. During your career, you worked with politically active artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Kurt Cobain, and Steve Earle, whose music has also remained popular and respected. Why do you think this is the case for some political artists and not others?

Danny: Although left of center activists paid a high professional price in previous eras, especially in the U.S. during the “McCarthy period” of  the nineteen fifties, in recent decades artists derive their power from their fans.

I think most fan bases connect with artists based on their art and yet have a pretty good idea of their politics if they follow them for a while and I also think that most fans can compartmentalize a performer’s politics from their art. For example, I’m a fan of Jon Voight’s acting even though I detest his politics. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel the same way about Eric Clapton given his recent anti-vax ranting. But I will always love the way he plays the guitar and I will always love “Layla.”

The notable exception in recent decades was when the Dixie Chicks records were dropped from American country radio stations after Natalie Maines criticized George W. Bush at the outset of the Iraq War and the group (now known as The Chicks) lost connectivity to that part of their fan base that only knew them through those stations. 

Kat: Based on your research and history in the entertainment business, how much does an artist/actor/creator taking a political stance or side, actually affect the outcome of something like an election? and is it worth it for an artist to take a stance, considering the potential backlash they could face?

Danny: No one knows exactly what affects election results, but my premise is that when a Reality TV show host can become President, it’s obvious that there is some connection in the minds and emotions of some voters between the part of them that connects with entertainment and the part of them that votes. 

Whether or not it’s “worth it” is a decision that each artist has to make for themselves and there is not a “one size fits all” answer—but I think one of the more interesting discussions on this subject can be found in the Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana” when she discusses her decision to support the Democrats with her parents. 

Kat: What’s next?”

Danny: Hopefully the coalition that defeated Trump in 2020—including the artists and performers who were part of it—can stay together and defeat the continuing specter of fascism…and help nudge the public towards justice and rationality on issues like racism, sexism and climate change, –and especially on actual democracy.

For more on Danny Goldberg visit: http://goldve.com/danny-goldberg

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