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Turton taking his protest song to Big Apple
by Eric Volmers

Sam Turton has come to the realization that supporters of U.S. President George W. Bush can be found in some fairly unexpected places.

The Guelph singer-songwriter concluded this after a recent home-town showcase at the River Run Centre's Songwriter's Café, the monthly gathering where local songsmiths swap musical tales and writing techniques.

Turton performed his song Patriot—a stinging rebuke of the current administration at the White House—and was approached after the show by a man who took exception to Turton's anti-war stance.

"He presented the similar argument: What would you have done about Saddam Hussein?" Turton said. "My general response is that I think violence has to be saved as the last resort. I think there are more creative solutions."

What was notable about the confrontation is that it's the only negative response Turton has received thus far to the tune, despite having played it in a number of U.S. venues.

Patriot, which contains such less-than-subtle musings as "You won't take their oil and our money and drag us down the road to hell, no," has been performed by Turton in Detroit and Pennsylvania among other places. Each time he performs it, the 53-year-old has gingerly prefaced the song with an explanation.

"I was a little concerned that people would be offended by someone from another country, in a sense, critiquing their government," he said. "I took my time to set up the song, saying that in a great democracy you can agree and disagree. It's a patriotic act to agree and disagree."

Turton's song and reputation as a protest singer are likely to get a boost in New York City in the next week when he performs as part of an anti-Bush showcase at the Knitting Factory. Turton will perform the tune on Sunday as part of the Canadian Artists Against War showcase at the world-renowned venue. He will perform again the following night, which just happens to be the day the Republican Convention is launched in the Big Apple.

The second show is part of the Knitting Factory's Involver series, one of many anti-Bush initiatives spearheaded by American artists and promoters.

Turton is no stranger to tuneful politicking. In 1978, he hitchhiked from Nova Scotia to Ottawa to take part in a Canadian "No Nukes" concert. His recently released album Feel contains the politically charged Empires Fall, a song that targets what he sees as American imperialism. The singer has also been a part of the movement protesting Wal-Mart's proposed location in the north end of Guelph.

So why does Turton feel compelled to involve himself in another country's politics?

Turton said he wrote the song as a "world citizen," dedicating it to his American friends who are opposed to Bush's policies.

Unlike the protest movement in the 1960s, Turton said artists have become unusually organized this time around. Bruce Springsteen, for example, is leading a touring anti-Bush show featuring Pearl Jam and REM among others that will specifically target states that could determine the outcome of the November presidential election.

"They seem to be becoming more comfortable coming out now," Turton said.

"Before, there seemed to be more of a culture of fear, more like the McCarthy era where artists were scared to risk their careers. I know a lot of musicians who were told 'Don't play those peace songs.' Musicians have held back in the last year."

But anyone who thinks only U.S. musicians are entitled to voice their opinions on American politics have a rather naive view of the power America holds over the world, said Chrysanthi Michaelides, a spokeswoman for the Toronto-based Artists Against War.

Since April, the organization has held some high-profile concerts featuring Sarah Harmer and The Cowboy Junkies in Toronto.

"It's not just American politics," she said. "That's what we need to open our eyes to. U.S. foreign policy affects all of us. They are global issues. No one is safe, to put it bluntly."