The 20 Best Tom Morello Quotes

The New York City-born guitarist Tom Morello rose to fame in the hard-rocking band Rage Against the Machine. That Rage is a political group should surprise no one; Morello, 59, is as activist a mainstream artist as there is, and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

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As a result, fans may wonder just what he has to say about life, his craft, and the world at large. Answers for inquiring minds can be found in this look at some of Morello’s more-provocative quotes.

[RELATED: Tom Morello Responds to Olivia Rodrigo Calling Rage Against the Machine Her Favorite Band]

1. “Progressive, radical, or even revolutionary change has always come from below.”

2. “When I moved to Hollywood, I was expecting it to be this Mecca of extraordinarily talented musicians, and it was instead the era of Faster Pussycat and bands that had an appeal, but I couldn’t do anything like that. There’s nothing in my being that can do anything like that.”

3. “When you pick up a guitar, you don’t put down your First Amendment rights.”

4. “Music, I think, is best when it honestly explores personal demons, and it stirs around in the silt of the psyche to find out what’s really there.”

5. “Then about 12 years ago it dawned on me that folk music—the music of Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs, early Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger—could be as heavy as anything that comes through a Marshall stack. The combination of three chords and the right lyrical couplet can be as heavy as anything in the Metallica catalogue.”

6. “My parents met in Kenya. My father is African, is Kenyan. The Kenyan side of my family was involved in the anti-colonial movement.”

7. “I literally integrated the small town of Libertyville, Illinois. I was the first person of color to reside within its borders.”

8. “The real estate agent had to go door-to-door in the apartment building we wanted to rent, asking if it was OK for this interracial family—my mom is white and I was a 1-year-old, half-African kid – to live in the apartment building.”

9. “Charles Manson loved the Beatles but didn’t understand them. Gov. Chris Christie loves Bruce Springsteen but doesn’t understand him. And Paul Ryan is clueless about his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine.”

10. “I’ve played hundreds of protests. I’ve marched on dozens of picket lines. I’ve strummed my guitar at innumerable demonstrations.”

11. “The one thing that Hendrix had that is unique among extraordinary guitar players is he had songs that were on the radio. His guitar genius was exposed to the masses by ‘Foxy Lady.'”

12. “My one wish for humanity is that everyone can become the person they were meant to be—what are the barriers to that? Often it’s crushing poverty or certain circumstances.”

13. “My music is—there’s no litmus test, there’s no political litmus test for listening to it—but I am never going to compromise one iota to satisfy with someone who’s uncomfortable with the ideas I feel in my heart.”

14. “Racism is a problem, economic inequality is a problem, not enough rock ‘n’ roll on the radio is a problem. But all those problems will become insignificant when the oceans rise in a way that threatens organized human activity.”

15. “I am not the least bit surprised that injustice persists. I’m also not surprised that resistance to injustice persists.”

16. “I grew up on misogynist, devil-worshiping heavy metal music, and then it was groups like The Clash and Public Enemy that reminded me that there were a different set of ideas that could be expressed with great music.”

17. “The way corporate media likes to portray America is as a homogeneous whole that high-five’s each other at the Super Bowl. But what we have is a grotesque disparity between the rich and poor that is only getting wider.”

18. “With guitar, I’d always mixed more sounds that occur in hip-hop, or occur on Crystal Method records, or occur at the zoo—so I’ve never been sort of tethered or have limited myself to the traditional rock ‘n’ roll vocabulary.”

19. “As a guitar player, I’ve been influenced by dance music—it was Crystal Method and The Prodigy back in the day. I would listen to those textures and try to approximate them on the electric guitar.”

20. “The system under which we live is owned and operated by people who do not deserve to run the world.”

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/WireImage)

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