Published October 23, 2020
Tiffany Christopher shares about redefining her role as an entertainer in this candid conversation with Bambi Grinder for NoteWorthy Music.
No one gets to tell an artist what their job is.
~ Daniel Harris, professional illustrator and creator of Alice is Dead
Tiffany Christopher: Taking a Stand
By Bambi Grinder
with Tiffany Christopher
Tiffany Christopher | Photo by Kirk Lanier | Photos courtesy of Tiffany Christopher
When Dale McCurry, my co-founder here at NoteWorthy Music, told me about our friend Tiffany Christopher being told in not so many words to “shut up and sing,” I didn’t think he was serious. It never occurred to me that entertainers, and specifically musicians, are not at the very least commentators on social issues. Are they not the indicator species of social ailments and injustices? I have always thought them to be. The idea that they aren’t widely accepted as such boggles my mind. Perhaps that is a naive view, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been guilty of having an idealistic outlook of how things should be.
Make Love, Not War
We have a generational dynamic at NoteWorthy Music. Our perspective and experience of different eras differs drastically. I enjoy learning musical history first hand from someone who lived it then and is living it now. Of course, we both are living it now and yet it’s different for each of us because of that history. Dale admirably focuses on love and reminds me to be positive and optimistic, while my words become incoherent babble as I try to articulate the agitation and frustration I feel over the inconceivability of the current state of humans on Earth.
Woody Guthrie in 1943 with his guitar labeled “This Machine Kills Fascists”
Courtesy New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)
From Dale, I have learned that antiwar and protest songs were a big part of the songwriter movement in the 60s and 70s. Folk had always been heavy in protest songs, but the war brought it to the streets: The idea of protest through music to a popular level. “The war made hippies out of beatniks,” Dale said with a smile. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan were all part of that. Dylan was booed at the Newport Folk Festival for bringing an electric band. This signaled the merging of poetry and pop music at a new level. It brought the idea of real issues to popular music, and it all came out of folk.
Saying What Needs to Be Said
I grew up in a close-minded community. I remember the outrage over Melissa Etheridge posing nude with her partner to protest fur in 1995. While those around me raged against them, I cheered. I was fourteen and acutely aware that those inaccessible people on the PETA poster were closer to me than my own relatives because they and I stood for the same things. This, combined with a few episodes of Saturday Night Live when our antennae had just enough reception to render an occasional fuzzy picture on our black and white television, and I believed that’s just what entertainers did. And I continue to believe it. Where has anyone else been that it isn’t apparent? How is there an issue here? How is this up for debate?
Tiffany Christopher | Photo by Jason Caligaris
And one of the things that needs to be said for us all: No one gets to tell an artist what their job is.
We have proudly morphed into a forum giving voice to a chorus of artists to say what needs to be said.
Tiffany joins a good company of entertainers shining a light on plights and social issues throughout the trying times of our brief nation. We depend on the words of those such as Cat Stevens, Dolly Parton, Joe Strummer (The Clash), Ani DiFranco, Daron Vartan Malakian and Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Merle Travis, Tracy Chapman, Bono, Indigo Girls, and Johnny Cash and those yet to come.
First of All
Tiffany initially shared the following:
My response to someone telling me in not so many words… ‘Shut up about politics and entertain us:’
I understand what you are saying.
Perhaps it is time for me to accept that my role is not to entertain only. My music is not to be a form of escapism. If my productivity and priorities are based around making sure everyone is ignoring the state of the world and their role in it…well I guess today I quit being an entertainer.
And start being a voice for the masses.
Art is an expression of life, … and life is pretty effed up right now. I share what I care about, and AOC (U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), is an inspiration to me. If you know anything about me or my live show, you know I am raw and real. Perhaps you don’t like what I said? That’s ok. But don’t tell me what my purpose is. If you need to escape, sobeit.
Tiffany Christopher | Photo by Jason Caligaris
Focusing on What’s Important
And so I asked Tiffany about this experience and what precipitated her receiving the message to “shut up and sing.”
Tiffany: Well, the play-by-play goes like this:
My music seems to appeal to a wide demographic (all walks of life on the dance floor, so-to-speak). I love that. The idea that my music brings different groups together inspires me, but in truth, looking back, I also was walking a fine line of not offending anyone so as to not lose “fans.” Casting a wide net.
Since the pandemic I have felt the importance in voicing who I am and what I stand for. Watching how blind our country is around injustice, listening to how the conversation about equality has been somehow mistaken for a trite dialogue about politics (partisanship), compels me to add my voice to the conversation. Educating myself and taking part in this pivotal election year has become very important to me.
Since the pandemic I have felt the importance in voicing who I am and what I stand for.
One of the portals through which I communicate my opinions is social media. There are active and peripheral “fans” on social channels. Recently quite a few of my less-heard-from followers have been combative in their comments. I do appreciate a good debate, but I cannot tolerate disrespect, cruelty, misogyny, or bigotry. It’s been interesting to watch years of silent facebook “fans” (whom I do not know) come charging out of the shadows guns blazing.
So, I posted a video of AOC (U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) being generally awesome and eloquently standing up for all women while taking the house floor with the comment:
“This is the future.
“Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is standing for us all. She is meeting hate with elegance and strength. #womensupportingwomen #equalityforall”
This was a speech about equality, not politics. It gave me chills. Ironically enough a woman commented on the post saying,
“Please, I’m tired of politics. We have ALL seen these posts over and over. I come to your FB page to get away from it all and listen to your music… I’m done with this page.”
So here we are.
Tiffany Christopher | Photo by Jason Caligaris
Bambi: Did you receive this sort of direct message of “Shut up and entertain us” from only one person or are there others who have taken this stance with you?
Tiffany: Some have said more, some have said less. The negative responses around my posts regarding equal rights are either nasty, ignorant hatred or privileged opinions expecting me to entertain and shake my ass.
Bambi: Is this a new thing you have faced this year or have you experienced this sort of feedback in the past?
Tiffany: If there was anything worth regretting, it would be that I did not join the fight sooner. So, no, I have not experienced this type of feedback before.
If there was anything worth regretting, it would be that I did not join the fight sooner.
Bambi: You shared that there is this sort of unspoken commandment of “Do your job and don’t offend anyone,” but that you gain fans by offending people. That you assemble a “collective of like-minded individuals” (I love this!) once people know what you stand for. Please elaborate on this.
Tiffany: “Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” ~Ruth Bader Ginsburg
There is a movement driving through. It is a pivotal moment in our history, and my energies will be part of its fuel. I hope the lovely minorities, the beautiful LGBTQIA family, the lost and the oppressed feel that I have joined them with my voice. Both in what I create and in the forum that I provide. I hope I can say something worth saying. If that offends some “fans” I’ve made along the way, that is the price for taking a stand for something much bigger than my music alone.
Photo by Paul Erin Neff
Tiffany Christopher has been electrifying stages around the country and inspiring audiences for more than a decade. Stages lit up include: Arise Music Festival, WinterWonderGrass, Tucson Folk Festival, NAMM [National Association of Music Merchants], Campout For The Cause, Waarusa, Hotel Cafe in LA, Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Missouri, and many more. With notes of early Jagger and the roots of Brandi Carlile, TC's energy takes her audience to a place that's edgy, hilarious, and just plain mind-blowing.
To learn more and buy stuff go to: https://tiffanychristopher.com/
Writer and Editor
Co-founder/owner of NoteWorthy Music, Bambi Grinder has spent many years as a shaper of words—writing novels and short fiction (which she prefers in first-person present tense). Bambi is delighted to make this foray into the digital landscape with NoteWorthy Music as publisher, editor, writer, and web designer and developer.
You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more Tiffany read 20:20 with Tiffany Christopher
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NoteWorthy Music is a music journal and salon platform supporting the music industry and giving voice to a growing chorus of diverse artists. We are transgenre, embracing art without labels. We celebrate art and artists by honoring the genuine creation and spirit of all who create and by receiving all art with respect and kindness—and without prejudice.
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