Left Justified: Singing CIA agent talks history

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My buddy, folk musician Dave Lippman, will be speaking about his life and loves, interweaving stories, history, and song Monday, Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., Rockford. Best known for his performances as “George Shrub—the singing CIA agent,” Dave has a rich history in the peace movement. He started protesting the Vietnam War, then journeyed to Central America in the 1980s, visiting peasant villages and living with the poorest of the poor. He now speaks out for peace in the Mideast. I love the guy, and am glad to host this free program open to the public.

Dave was an early participant in both politics and music: he’ll show a closely guarded picture of his 1966 folk-rock band leafleting for striking farm workers. He got thrown out of his best friend’s house for Vietnam protests while still in high school.

Upon graduation, he joined with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS—these folks were pretty radical for the time, and still are). He was singing unprintable songs at anti-war rallies and traversing the country to attend demonstrations. The ’80s found him ranging from Central America to Australia to Europe, gathering experiences of world struggles and translating them into multimedia music pieces as well as satire—his sinister comic character, the “Singing CIA Agent George Shrub,” had been born with the Reagan-Bush era and continues today, as do many of the apparatchiks of that period.

The ’60s are in vogue now, what with the “40th anniversary of nearly everything,” Lippman says. “That era is really a state of mind, but not Kansas. Nicaragua really had its ’60s in the ’80s, when poets came to power, however briefly; Venezuela is having its ’60s today.”

Fresh from the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta (a continuation of grass-roots meetings that began in Brazil), Lippman notes that people around the world are more aware of the power of their own self-organization, than was the case in the sixties. “Well, not everyone. Just the ones we don’t hear about.”

In this special “The ’60s Then and Now” program, the folksy satirist promises to reveal “the direction of the world’s social systems” and “the invisible signs of hope” for the future. He says he will accomplish this primarily through song, but also share visuals that might “put faces on the daily news and humanize the statistics of suffering and perseverance.” We can’t ask for more than that from a folksinger.

“Folks are organizing across the country,” he says, “and it’s just us that are doing something that is keeping the movement together, that gives a little hope to us woe-be-gones here in the flatlands.”

Rockford Peace & Justice Action Committee sponsors this program, with an assist from Rockford Urban Ministries, the Social Justice Committee of the UU Church, and friends of George LaForrest, Peter Reilly, Betty Johnson, David Liddell, and Revs. Kent Walker and John Breck.

More info: 815-964-7111.

Look Dave up online: http://www.davelippman.com.

Here’s some of Dave’s blurbs:

“Lippman is a national treasure”—L.A. Herald-Examiner

“Viciously funny”—Guardian (England)

“One of my favorite political satirists. This is a very funny man.”—Erich Lee Preminger

“The Dean felt that more harm than good would come from your visit.”—student, Skidmore College, N.Y.

“God, that man can talk! What a great writer!”—Utah Phillips

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

from the Sept. 26 – Oct. 2, 2007, issue

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