Do musicians make great politicians

Rapper and former Fugees member Wyclef Jean is running for the position of President of Haiti.  Wyclef is undoubtedly a good musician, but does his ability to produce records enhance his ability to run a country?  By his own admission, Wyclef lacks political experience and, because he has lived in the USA for 31 years, he also lacks experience of actually living in the country he hopes to rule, so it could be reasonably be assumed that he also lacks an intimate knowledge of daily life in Haiti, so what chance does he really have of running one of the world’s poorest country and of enhancing the lifestyle of its inhabitants?

To judge Wyclef Jean’s chances of being a formidable politician and rule we should perhaps compare his aspirations with the success or otherwise of other musician/politicians.

Perhaps the world’s most successful musician/politician is Sir Bob Geldorf.  He is undeniably political, but he has been successful by working outside the political system to put pressure on those who work within it.  His ability to act as an independent agitator is the aspect that has given him real political power and the opportunity to have a real influence on politicians to act to implements his demands.  Bob Marley tried to intervene in the politics of Jamaica, but got shot for his troubles.

One musician who did have an impact was Sonny Bono, late of Sonny and Cher fame.  Sonny was a Republican Member of the California Government for four years until his tragic death in a skiing accident in 1998.  Sonny never forgot his musical roots, and his most famous piece of legislation was the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.  Extending the life of artistic copyrights to almost a hundred years, it was dubbed the ‘Mickey Mouse Act’ by its detractors, who pointed to the massive lobbying support the act was given from, and the massive financial windfall the act gave to, the Disney Corporation.

Peter Wishart was an original member of the Scottish group Big Country, who were chucked off an Alice Cooper tour for being too weird.  He was also a longtime member of Runrig.  In 2001, after quitting Runrig, Peter was elected to the British Parliament as a member of the Scottish National Party.  Peter is a humble backbencher, but he has managed to form another band with its members made up of other British politicians.

Perhaps the most influential musician to make it in the political sphere is Peter Garret former lead singe of the political Australian band Midnight Oil.  Peter ran for the Australian Parliament on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, won his seat and was elevated to the position of Minister for the Environment, a role you would think he would be suited to because of his green political leanings.  Sadly, Peter turned out to be a much better singer than a politician as he stuffed up some elements of his portfolio, proving that the ability to sing is no requirement for high political life.

So, is Wyclef Jean qualified, because of his musical abilities, to run a basket case nation like Haiti?  Probably not.  Those musicians who’ve entered politics before him have not had much impact on political change.  Wyclef could probably do a better job of helping his country by making music about it and trying to build public awareness in the fate of his fellow countrymen, and raising funds for Haiti.  I saw Wyclef on CNN.  Gone were the dreadlocks and on went the suit.  He may have some local popularity, but that would soon wane if the job was too big.

Now, why am I discussing musical politicians for a travel site?  Because I’m having a rant on my site so I’m allowed to, also because it involves the country of Haiti, which is not very tourist friendly at present but with decent leadership it could be, and because rock stars are perennial travelers, so there’s my very slim thread.

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