Creative Impact

Billy Bragg

British singer-songwriter, activist, music historian, and best-selling author Billy Bragg has been at music and politics for more than 35 years. Finding inspiration in the righteous anger of The Clash and the socially conscious folk tradition of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, Bragg was the leading figure of the anti-folk movement of the '80s. While his lyrics are bitingly intelligent and clever, they were also warm and humane, filled with detail and wit.

He has dedicated much of his music to social change and grassroot causes. He became a champion of activism in the 1980s as he fused the personal and the political in songs of love and conscience in characteristic blend of simple, poetic lyrics and evocative melodies, conveyed by emotive Cockney-inflected voice. His debut album, Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy, brought critical acclaim, reached the British Top 30, and yielded the hit “A New England” in 1984. A committed socialist, Bragg played a number of benefit performances during the British miners’ strike of 1984–85 and helped form Red Wedge, an organization and tour that supported the Labour Party. In 2017, in the wake of the political upheavals brought on by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, Bragg released an EP of topical material, Bridges Not Walls. Bragg’s political writing isn’t restricted to the studio. He is an author and outspoken critic of fascism and Brexit. His book, The Three Dimensions of Freedom (2019) explores the tools democracy has at its disposal to combat the rise of authoritarianism. Bragg travelled twice to the Soviet Union when Mikhail Gorbachev started to promote the policies of perestroika and glasnost. In November 1987 he played ten concerts in Tallinn, Moscow and Leningrad. The tour is filmed for the documentary Mr. Bragg Goes To Moscow (1988).