'Woke' culture is threat to protest songs, says The Clash videographer

Film maker who worked with The Clash and Elvis Costello says ‘woke’ culture is a threat to protest songs because artists are ‘fearful’ of being accused of ‘cultural appropriation’

  • Don Letts, 65, from London, said protest songs are now a ‘difficult proposition’
  • Worked as videographer for The Clash, directing several of their music videos 
  • The film director and musician said the world is ‘so woke you can’t make a joke’
  • Revealed many artists are fearful of ‘being accused of cultural appropriation’  

‘Woke’ culture is a threat to protest songs because artists are ‘fearful’  of being ‘accused of cultural appropriation’, according to the videographer for The Clash.

Film director and musician Don Letts, 65, from London, was most famous for directing music videos for the punk rockers and also worked with The Pretenders and Elvis Costello. 

Writing in the Radio Times, he said the protest song had become ‘an increasingly difficult proposition’, commenting: ‘In a world so woke you can’t make a joke, trying to navigate the minefield of fake news, conspiracy theories and information overload is made even trickier by the fear of being accused of cultural appropriation.’

According to The Guardian, Don said music had gone from being a ‘rebellious, anti-establishment thing’ to ‘a part of the establishment’.  

Film director Don Letts, 65, from London, argued the world has become ‘so woke you can’t make a joke’

Don went on to argue that for many people, protest music ‘is as relevant as ever’, and is still a ‘vital mode of expression’.

He continued: ‘Today, there’s no lack of artists prepared to call it as they see it.

‘Many operate below the radar and even those who spend a lot of time on the red carpet, like Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé, have found ways of using their position to keep people politically engaged and proactive.’ 

The film director, DJ and musician was born in London and became embedded in the punk rock scene in the 1970s. 

The DJ was most famous for directing music videos for punk rockers The Clash and also worked with The Pretenders and Elvis Costello (pictured, with Jarvis Cocker) 

In 1975, he ran the London clothing store Acme Attractions, which sold ‘electric-blue zoot suits and jukeboxes, and pumping dub reggae all day long’. 

After seeing one of Bob Marley’s gigs at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1976, Don snuck into a hotel and befriended Marley. 

Acme quickly became a hit with the most famous bands of the period, including The Clash, Sex Pistols and Deborah Harry.

The crowds at Acme promoted Andy Czezowski to start up The Roxy, a London nightclub during the original outbreak of punk in England, so that people could go from the store and have some place to party. 

The film director became embedded in the punk rock scene in London in the 70s and directed several music videos for The Clash 

With limited punk records to play, Don included many dub and reggae records in his sets, and is credited by some with introducing those sounds to the London punk scene, which was to influence The Clash and other bands. 

From that time till this he’s continued to DJ nationally and internationally, playing at festivals including Glastonbury and Latitude. 

Don, who lives in North London, is married to wife Grace and the couple have two children. 

He also has a son and a daughter from his previous partner.

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