This is a YAL Exclusive review. Thanks to Ben Sommer for the opportunity.
Ben Sommer is a self-described libertarian, whose music is an “edgy…mix of Frank Zappa, Iron Maiden, XTC & Public Image Limited” among others. Sommer’s lyrics adopt a “bitter worldview” which many a libertarian may have felt at one time or another.
More importantly, Sommer’s music tells a story.
Sommer grew to hate most government from within the system, as a substitute teacher. When asked about his experience within the system, Ben told us his story:
My wife and I met in 1997. Part of our common interest was “alternative” child rearing and education – we both had an awful time in the government schools and we wanted to understand why. She introduced me to the book Summerhill, which was huge. So, while exploring career options right after graduating college I tried out subbing in various government schools. I quickly became disgusted.
I saw the same pathology in both the “dirty inner city” – Boston – and the rich suburban school systems – my hometown of New Canaan, CT for instance. Returning home for a few months to teach alongside my old teachers finally opened my eyes. There were several horrible experiences with tyrannical administrators and depressingly apathetic “lifers” (i.e. tenured teachers). Things were the same in Boston and New Canaan – the rich kids just had better facilities. The tragedy was that most of the kids were good kids, and if only a more humane environment were available that wasn’t “one-size-fits-all”, they would’ve flourished. Instead, kids get rewarded for conforming to, and excelling within, the narrow band of “success” that the state has defined. Put simply, government schooling is meant to turn out good little Romans for the empire, not free-thinking men and women.
Sommer’s music, though controversial, is catchy, and his lyrics convey a message of distrust and displeasure towards an out-of-control establishment. His first album, “America’d” focuses on attacking political correctness and corporatism in American society. Some of Sommer’s songs move more into the modern conservative spectrum, such as one song titled “Speekie Engrish,” but in general, they resemble right-libertarian feelings towards individual liberty from an over-powering government.
Some may be offended by Sommer’s lyrics; but often that’s what makes them great. When asked about his somewhat-incendiary lyrics, he noted:
In my lyrics, I try to weave together a sardonic sense of humor, truth, absurdity, and irony. So, when I screech that “I’m a right wing fiend!”, I’m mocking all those unimaginative and poorly informed folks who’ve labeled me a “right winger” just because – for example – I have some bad things to say about government schooling, or believe in personal not “collective” accountability in life. But I’m also mocking myself – that part of me that can get ornery and cranky and drift into conspiracy theories too easily.
Check out Sommer’s anti-pandering song, titled “Adult Children” below, in his first music video.
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