The Artist as Social Entrepeneur – By Ben Irvine

By Ben Irvine | Jun 25, 2012
The Creativity Post

Social progress, like great art, dwells in a sweetspot between political extremes.

“Equality” – I spoke their word as if a wedding vow.
But I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.

Bob Dylan, from ‘My Back Pages’

When a disgusted audience member yelled out ‘Judas!’ during a concert at the Manchester Free Hall in 1966, the onstage performer, Bob Dylan, was out of favour with just about everybody. It wasn’t always so. Though he had spent his early twenties as an acoustic guitar-strumming singer-songwriter goading the establishment with warnings that “the times they are a changin’” and “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command”, such outspoken lyrics had earned him a legion of ideological young fans and the tag of ‘spokesman of a generation’.

But by the mid-sixties Dylan himself had changed. Denying he was a ‘protest singer’, he had recently acquired an electric guitar and a rock-and-roll backing group, and begun composing new material which was more personal, less overtly political. In the eyes of the folk traditionalists, Dylan had sold-out. On tour, he was repeatedly met by boos, slow-handclaps and mass walkouts, while previously sympathetic journalists criticised his ‘downright bad manners’ and ‘rude and uncooperative behaviour’. They had a point. After being accused of betrayal in Manchester, Dylan snarled back “I don’t believe you, you’re a liar” and instructed his band to “play fuckin’ louder”, before launching into a blistering version of his greatest song ‘Like A Rolling Stone’.

Dylan was a social pioneer as well as a musical genius. In rebelling not just against the powers-that-be but against the popular forces of rebellion, he steered a progressive path between right and left ideologies; one which is increasingly being walked today. On the right is a callous individualism which would allow economic forces to run riot through a graveyard of social values. On the left is a buck-passing statism which would allow a centralised government to mop up the resources it is supposed to reallocate.

As Dylan stood at the microphone, with his marketing men lurking in the wings, and a flock of frowning socialists arrayed in the stalls, perhaps he saw clearly how the mentalities of individualism and statism conspire, like two pendulums cajoling each other into motion. The individualist with his one-upmanship becomes trapped in the conformity of consumerism, condemned to be free to keep up with the Jones’s; the statist preaches the power of the collective yet selfishly delegates to someone else the exercise of its will. Like mania accompanying depression, the extremes of egotism and groupthink come to jointly characterise society.

In other words, Tony Blair’s ‘third way’ got it disastrously wrong. To create a fair society and a thriving economy we must minimise, not maximise, both statism and individualism. This amounts to a political position which is doubly contrary, yet far from nihilistic. Its adherents are social entrepreneurs: movers and shakers who seek to make ethics more economical and the economy more ethical, melding left and right in a way that obviates both. In improving the welfare of their client groups and running projects with integrity and conscientiousness, social enterprises can achieve the aims of a redistributive and regulatory state while minimising the need for one.

David Cameron calls it the ‘Big Society’; Neil Kinnock called it ‘neighbourhood’, ‘community’, ‘brotherhood’, or just plain old ‘society’. Whatever you call it, it is a far cry from the rich man protecting himself from antisocial behaviour by installing bigger bars on his windows, or the socialist achieving similar peace of mind by paying higher taxes and taking refuge in the amnesic properties of a bottle of wine. When a Conservative leader starts sounding like a Labour leader, you know that something significant is happening. A vital truth is rising like the sun over warring camps. The neurotic extremes of individualism and statism are giving way to the down-to-earth placidity of honest enterprises striving to make life better for their surrounding communities, up and down the land.

Of course, people will always want to better themselves, the state will always be required to supply public goods, and these two forces will always be complementary. But to the extent that social entrepreneurs succeed in doing good for themselves by doing good for others, the ideologies of individualism and statism, and their damaging consequences, will fade away. We will cease to use the economy and the state as vehicles for our neuroses.

Dylan is a fine poster-boy for entrepreneurialism, not just because in his early career he dragged himself up by his bootstraps in the biting cold of New York, but because art itself has much in common with social enterprise, and Dylan is one of history’s greatest artists. Paintings, songs, poems, sculptures, plays; the finest examples of all these originate in a mindset which is imbued with the dynamics of social enterprise. Such works hit a sweet spot. In their willingness to lay down a challenge, morally or aesthetically, they steer clear of the pandering groupishness of statism. And in their eagerness to please, console, educate or inspire, they avoid the self-indulgence of individualism; indeed, one of the most beautiful qualities of great art is that it embodies the artist’s selfless and painstaking efforts to understand and present truths in new ways that can help others come to terms with the world and their experience. Leonard Cohen once remarked that his songs are for other people to use.

In contrast, the worst examples of art thrive when right and left ideologies predominate. Creativity veers into frivolity; sympathy veers into derivativeness; conviction is found wanting. Nowhere are these wayward trajectories more obvious than in TV singing competitions, wherein conformity and egotism merge and the result is noisy hysteria. The comedian Bill Hicks’s appeal to musicians – “play from your fuckin’ heart” – has fallen on deaf ears.

It has long been sensed by artists and critics that art is somehow inherently political, yet the idea that art should be ideological has never felt quite right to me. The best art is neither socialist nor indifferent to the needs of others. Rather, it is socially entrepreneurial. It glorifies the artist yet enhances all of our lives and acts as a true force for change. This is the kind of art that society needs more of, yet it’s these kinds of artists whose messages are all too often drowned out. When Dylan rallied his band in Manchester, he knew precisely what he was doing.

About the author:
Ben Irvine is a writer, publisher, campaigner and recovered philosopher. He is editor of the Journal of Modern Wisdom (, a collection of essays which seeks to put wiser ways of living back on the agenda for both academics and members of the public. He also edits Cycle Lifestyle (, a free magazine which is currently running the London Cycle Map Campaign, lobbying for a Tube-style map and network for cycling in the UK capital. Ben’s wider interest is in using insights about human nature to promote well-being, mutual understanding and co-operation in society. As well as writing a regular blog for The School of Life, he is an Honorary Associate in the philosophy department at Durham University.

Exclusive Book Excerpt: ‘Amy, My Daughter’ by Mitch Winehouse – By Rolling Stone

Late singer’s father recounts the origins of ‘Rehab

‘Amy, My Daughter’ by Mitch Winehouse. Harper Collins

By Rolling Stone
June 27, 2012

After the tragic death of Amy Winehouse last year, her father, Mitch, agreed to write a memoir about his daughter’s brief life. In this exclusive excerpt from Amy, My Daughter, he recounts when Amy switched representation from 19 Management to Metropolis Music, her first meeting with producer Mark Ronson and their early work on the tunes that would form her blockbuster album, Back to Black. “You know, they tried to make me go to rehab, and I told them no, no, no,” she told Ronson during a walk in New York, talking about her family. “That’s quite gimmicky,” he said. “We should turn that into a song.”

Leaving 19 was a tough decision but it turned out to be the right one. In the end, Amy’s relationship with Raye Cosbert and Metropolis became, in my view, one of the most successful artist/manager partnerings in the music business. Very quickly, Raye set up meetings with Lucian Grainge at Universal, and Guy Moot at EMI. Raye’s energy was just what Amy’s career needed – like a kick up the arse. For some time Guy Moot had wanted Amy to get together with the talented young Mark Ronson, a producer/arranger/songwriter/DJ. In March 2006, a few months after she’d signed with Metropolis, Raye encouraged her to meet Mark in New York so the two of them could ‘hook up’. She knew very little about him before she walked into his studio on Mercer Street in Greenwich Village, and on first seeing him, she said, ‘Oh, the engineer’s here.’ Later she told him that she’d thought he would be an older Jewish guy with a big beard. That meeting was a bit like an awkward first date. Amy played Mark some Shangri-Las tracks, which had the real retro sound that she was into, and she told him that was the sort of music she wanted to make for the new album. Mark knew some of the tracks Amy mentioned but otherwise she gave him a crash course in Sixties jukebox, girl-group pop music. She’d done the same for me when I’d stumbled over a pile of old vinyl records – the Ronettes, the Chiffons, the Crystals – that she’d bought from a stall in Camden Market. That had been where she’d developed her love of Sixties makeup and the beehive hairdo.

Photos: Amy Winehouse Remembered

They met again the following day, by which time Mark had come up with a piano riff that became the verse chords to “Back to Black.” Behind the piano, he put a kick drum, a tambourine and “tons of reverb.” Amy loved it, and it was the first song she recorded for the new album.

Amy was supposed to be flying home a few days later, but she was so taken with Mark that she called me to say she was going to stay in New York to carry on working with him. Her trip lasted another two weeks and proved very fruitful, with Amy and Mark fleshing out five or six songs. Amy would play Mark a song on her guitar, write the chords down for him and leave him to work out the arrangements. A lot of her songs were to do with Blake [Fielder-Civil], which did not escape Mark’s attention. She told Mark that writing songs about him was cathartic and that “Back to Black” summed up what had happened when their relationship had ended: Blake had gone back to his ex and Amy to black, or drinking and hard times. It was some of her most inspired writing because, for better or worse, she’d lived it.

Mark and Amy inspired each other musically, each bringing out fresh ideas in the other. One day they decided to take a quick stroll around the neighbourhood because Amy wanted to buy Alex Clare a present. On the way back Amy began telling Mark about being with Blake, then not being with Blake and being with Alex instead. She told him about the time at my house after she’d been in hospital when everyone had been going on at her about her drinking. “You know they tried to make me go to rehab, and I told them, no, no, no.”

“That’s quite gimmicky,” Mark replied. “It sounds hooky. You should go back to the studio and we should turn that into a song.”

Of course, Amy had written that line in one of her books ages ago. She’d told me before she was planning to write a song about what had happened that day, but that was the moment “Rehab” came to life.

Amy had also been working on a tune for the “hook,” but when she played it to Mark later that day it started out as a slow blues shuffle – it was like a twelve-bar blues progression. Mark suggested that she should think about doing a Sixties girl-group sound, as she liked them so much. He also thought it would be fun to put in the Beatles-style E minor and A minor chords, which would give it a jangly feel. Amy was unaccustomed to this style – most of the songs she was writing were based around jazz chords – but it worked and that day she wrote “Rehab” in just three hours.

If you had sat Amy down with a pen and paper every day, she wouldn’t have written a song. But every now and then, something or someone turned the light on in her head and she wrote something brilliant. During that time it happened over and over again.

The sessions in the studio became very intense and tiring, especially for Mark, who would sometimes work a double shift and then fall asleep. He would wake up with his head in Amy’s lap and she would be stroking his hair, as if he was a four-year-old. Mark was a few years older than Amy, but he told me he found her very motherly and kind.

This was a very productive period for Amy. She’d already written “Wake Up Alone,” “Love Is a Losing Game” and “You Know I’m No Good” when we were on holiday in Spain, so the new album was taking shape. Before she’d met Mark, Amy had been in Miami, working with Salaam Remi on a few tracks. Her unexpected burst of creativity in New York prompted her to call him. She told him how excited she was about what she was doing with Mark, and Salaam was very encouraging. Jokingly, she said to him, “So you’d better step up.” Later she went back to Miami to work some more with Salaam, who did a fantastic job on the tracks he produced for the album.

When Amy returned to London she told me excitedly about some of the Hispanic women she’d seen in Miami, and how she wanted to blend their look – thick eyebrows, heavy eye-liner, bright red lipstick – with her passion for the Sixties “beehive.”

By then, Mark had all he needed to cut the music tracks with the band, the Dap-Kings, at the Daptone Recording Studios in Brooklyn. Shortly after that my mother passed away and Amy, along with the rest of the family, was in pieces. It wasn’t until a few weeks later, in June 2006, that Amy added the last touches to Back to Black, recording the vocals at the Power House Studios in west London. I went along that day to see her at work – the first time I’d been with her while she was recording. I hadn’t heard anything that she’d been doing for the new album, so it was amazing to listen to it for the first time. The sound was so clear and so basic: they’d stripped everything back to produce something so like the records of the early sixties. Amy did the vocals for Back to Black over the already-recorded band tracks, and I stood in the booth with Raye, Salaam and one or two others while she sang.

It was fascinating to watch her: she was very much in control, and she was a perfectionist, redoing phrases and even words to the nth degree. When she wanted to listen to what she’d sung, she’d get them to put it on a CD, then play it in my taxi outside, because she wanted to know how most people would hear her music, which would not be through professional studio systems. In the end, Back to Black was made in just five months.

Excerpted from the book Amy, My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse, out June 26th, with permission from It Books.

Read more: Rolling Stone Magazine

Women Who Rock: In the Pages of Rolling Stone

By Rolling Stone

Janis Joplin, Adele, Joan Jett and more on their inspirations and struggles

Picture: Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin:

“That’s the good thing about women, man. Because they sing they fuckin’ insides, man. Women to be in the music business give up more than you’d ever know. She’s got kids she gave up, any woman gives up home life, an old man, probably, you give up a home and friends, children and friends, you give up an old man and friends, you give up every constant in the world except music. That’s the only thing in the world you got, man. So for a woman to sing, she really needs to or wants to. A man can do it as a gig, because he knows he can get laid tonight.” (February 17th, 1972)

Patti Smith:

“People say to me, ‘Aren’t you afraid of becoming a sex object?’ Especially a lot of writers are obsessed with making you feel guilty or upset because you might become a sex object. Well, I find that very exciting.” (July 27th, 1978)

Liz Phair:

“When I first met the people at Capitol Records, a woman who worked their press mentioned that a guy I was going to meet at a radio station liked cute women – and maybe I could change my clothes, and if he pawed me not to worry about it. I was aghast. I felt like someone was trying to fuck me after a handshake.” (November 13th, 1997)

Women Who Rock: In the Pages of Rolling Stone

Bugge ‘n Friends and Erik Truffaz – London Concert

Picture: Erik Truffaz and Ilhan Ersahin


London concert:

Thursday 12 July 2012
Bugge ‘n Friends and Erik Truffaz

Oval Space, Hackney London, UK
Venue info and map

Bugge ‘n Friends
Erik Truffaz
Ilhan Ersahin
Joaquin Claussell
Jazzanova Dj Set
Alex Barck & Special
Three Piece Rhythm Section…
Ashley Beedle

Picture: Erik Truffaz and Ilhan Ersahin

Radiohead Reschedule Shows After Toronto Collapse

Photo by Mitch Manzella

String of dates postponed until September
By Carrie Battan
on June 27, 2012 at 10:22 a.m.

Following the recent Toronto stage collapse that killed drum technician Scott Johnson, Radiohead announced that they would need to postpone a string of June and July tour dates due to damage to their light show and stage setup. Those dates have been rescheduled for late September. All original tickets are valid for the rescheduled dates, and there are some refund options– find the new schedule below.

Drummer Phil Selway posted on the band’s website, “Thanks to all of you who have sent messages of support over these past couple of weeks. Scott has touched many people’s lives and all your sentiments are testament to this. Our thoughts and love remain with Scott’s family.”


07-01 Florence, Italy – Parco Delle Cascine
07-03 Bologna, Italy – Piazza Maggiore
07-04 Codroipo, Italy – Villa Manin
07-06 Berlin, Germany – Wuhlheide
07-07 Berlin, Germany – Wuhlheide
07-09 Canton de Vaud, Switzerland – Quarry of St Triphon
07-10 Nimes, France – Les Arenes #
07-11 Nimes, France – Les Arenes #
07-13 Kobetamendi Park, Spain – Bilbao BBK Live
07-15 Lisbon, Portugal – Optimus Alive Fest
07-25 Taipei, Taiwan – Nanang Exhibition Hall
07-27 Jisan, South Korea – Jisan Valley Rock Festival
07-29 Niigata, Japan – Fuji Rock Festival
09-20 Canton de Vaud, Switzerland – Quarry of St Triphon
09-22 Rome, Italy – Hyppodrome Capanelle
09-23 Florence, Italy – Parco Delle Cascine
09-25 Bologna, Italy – Arena Parco Nord
09-26 Codroipo, Italy – Villa Manin
09-29 Berlin, Germany – Wuhlheide
09-30 Berlin, Germany – Wuhlheide
10-06 Manchester, England – Manchester Arena
10-08 London, England – o2 Arena
10-09 London, England – 02 Arena
10-14 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Ziggo Dome
10-15 Cologne, Germany – Lanxess Arena
10-18 Antwerp, Belgium – Sportpaleis
11-06 Auckland, New Zealand – Vector Arena $
11-09 Brisbane, Australia – Entertainment Centre $
11-12 Sydney, Australia – Entertainment Centre $
11-13 Sydney, Australia – Entertainment Centre $
11-16 Melbourne, Australia – Rod Laver Arena $
11-17 Melbourne Australia – Rod Laver Arena $

# with Caribou
$ with Connan Mockasin

Mumford & Sons Announce Summer Tour

By Evan Schlansky June 27th, 2012
American Songwriter

Mumford & Sons will look to reconquer America this summer. The last time they were here, the British Americana band played a three-night stand at the Ryman Auditorium in their spiritual home of Nashville, Tennessee.

Mumford and Sons Battle Nerves At The Ryman

Now the quartet have unveiled their summer tour plans, which include four one-day, Gentlemen of the Road variety shows in Maine, Virginia, Illinois, and California. Tickets go on sale June 29 at all major outlets.

Mumford & Sons also have a new album in the works, slated for a September 24 release date. Check out the new song “Where Are You Now” here.

Mumford & Sons US Tour Dates

August 1 – Hoboken, NJ @ Pier A (No Fee Ticket)

August 4 – Portland, ME @ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover

August 6 – Providence, RI @ Providence Performing Arts Center

August 7 – Canandaigua, NY @ Marvin Sands Performing Arts

August 9 – Portsmouth, VA @ nTelos Wireless Pavilion

August 11 – Bristol, VA @ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover

August 13 – Louisville, KY @ Louisville Waterfront Park

August 14 – Columbus, OH @ The LC Pavilion

August 18 – Dixon, IL @ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover

August 20 – Lincoln, NE @ Pinewood Bowl Theatre

August 21 – Laramie, WY @ Gryphon Theatre

August 22 – Magna, UT @ The Saltair

August 25 – Monterey, CA @ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover

August 28 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre

September 1 – Snowmass Village, CO @ Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival