Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Rickey Medlock of Lynyrd Skynyrd
“I play the h— out of a freaking guitar,” says Rickey Medlock of the legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, but he’s none too happy with paying “the h—” out of his wallet for Washington’s wasteful spending.
“I pay a lot in taxes,” Medlock told WND in an exclusive interview. “Why can’t I stand up and say, ‘You know what? I don’t like the way the money is being spent? I don’t like where you’re putting the dollars now?’
“We’re over 16 trillion in debt that my tax dollars are going to pay for, my 21-year-old daughter is going to pay for, and she’s soon to graduate college. Is she going to be able to get a job? I don’t know,” he continued, “but she’s going to have to pay that money back; her kids are going to have to pay that money back. It’s got to stop someplace! We can’t keep spending the money that we don’t have.”
Medlock and his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bandmates, best known for the Southern rock hits “Freebird” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” have been thrust into the news lately, as Lynyrd Skynyrd is performing in Tampa this weekend at a fundraiser for the veterans group Citizens Helping Heroes as part of the festivities surrounding the Republican National Convention.
Never shy to mix pointed lyrics into their tunes, Lynyrd Skynyrd is also celebrating the release of their new album, “Last of a Dyin’ Breed,” including the politically charged songs “Something to Live For” and “Nothing Comes Easy.”
“Paycheck’s going down, prices are going up, takes most of my money just to fill my pickup truck,” sings the band in “Nothing Comes Easy.” “Let’s put back the pieces to this broken promised land. All this crazy spending, I don’t understand.”
The song continues, “Politicians preaching, but it don’t ever change. Same old lines and bulls—, might as well flush it all down the drain.”
Medlock told WND it doesn’t take an expert economist to see D.C.’s spending is wildly out of control.
“I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a tax expert. I’m a rock and roll musician,” Medlock said. “I play the h— out of a freaking guitar, but even I can see what monies come in, and I see what I pay out, and it freaks me out sometimes. And then to know that in a large sort of way, my tax dollars go for things they shouldn’t go for – all I’m saying is we need to figure this out.”
Medlock warned, however, not to read too much into his group’s performance at the RNC. Even though Politico reports Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer Johnny Van Zant has vocally backed GOP candidates and supports Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, Medlock told WND the band is a mix of political viewpoints, held together by some good old, Southern common sense.
“We have in our band left wing people, we have a couple Democrats, we have several Republicans, we even have a libertarian. We’re kind of a mixed bag,” Medlock said. “And all of us can come together – we might be backstage, and a couple of us get together and talk about what’s going on – we don’t beat each other over the head and say, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong.’
“If we can do it as a group, as a rock group,” Medlock asked, “why the h— can’t Congress do it?”
Medlock returned to the song “Nothing Comes Easy” as an example of what Washington, D.C., is missing by playing politics instead of forging solid economic policy.
“‘Nothing Comes Easy’ – it doesn’t come easy, because you have people in the trenches every day trying to feed their families and trying to make it through, month to month,” Medlock told WND, “and people are standing up and saying, ‘Where is all our money going? What is it being spent on? Why do we see wasteful spending?’
“I’m 62 years old. I’ve been working and paying taxes and paying in to Social Security since I was about 14 or 15 years old,” he continued. “When I get ready to fall back a little bit – I worked my a– off my whole life – am I going to be able to get some of that money back? Or is the government – and I’m talking about both parties, I’m not talking about just one party – are they going to make it where all of a sudden I can’t get something back in return?
“And you know what, man? Everybody, even my own band mates, they talk about the current administration,” Medlock said. “I don’t know, I’ve got nothing against the president, I don’t know the man … but I’ve got what my eyes are telling me, I’ve got what my pocketbook is telling me. The deal is, I just want to see it great for everybody.”
Van Zant was even more pointed in criticizing Obama.
“His whole platform was change, change. Well, very little has changed, I know, for the people that are our fans,” Van Zant told Politico. “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve heard the president go, ‘We’re asking the rich to take a little bit more in taxes.’ Well, that’s not asking, that’s telling.”
Medlock told WND he wasn’t too thrilled with Obama’s insistence on raising taxes either.
“When he talks about ‘paying your fair share,’ it was very publicized in the beginning that some of Obama’s incoming cabinet members, they owed two and three years of back taxes,” Medlock said. “Well, OK then, pay your fair share.
“We’ve got people who have worked hard and built up their wealth, and they have paid taxes,” Medlock said, “and maybe they have figured out loopholes that attorneys have been using for 20, 30, 40 years now, but what’s with all of a sudden saying, ‘The rich man is not paying his share of taxes?’
“Wealthy people, they’re the ones who actually have money to create a business, for people to get a job and go and make a living,” Medlock said. “Do I think they need to pay their fair share? Yes, but if you want to argue about it, fix the loopholes that are there already.”
To Medlock, those thoughts are just common sense, not political posturing. In fact, he scolded the press for painting the group as partisan, simply because they’re performing during the RNC.
“This is what gets me sometimes about the press,” Medlock told WND. “We were asked to play for Citizens Helping Heroes, a wounded warriors group. Had Citizens Helping Heroes asked us to play at the Democratic National Convention, we’d have played there. It doesn’t matter to us where we get asked to play for the troops, their families, veterans – we’re going there to be there for the wounded warriors. That’s why we’re showing up.
“Hey, it looks like we might even have a freaking hurricane coming,” Medlock said. “But guess what? Lynyrd Skynyrd is still going to show up and let the warriors know we’re there for them.”
In the end, Medlock insisted, Lynyrd Skynyrd backs the hard-working people of America and isn’t afraid to give Democrats or Republicans an earful if they tear those people down.
“When we write songs, we try to appeal to everybody,” Medlock told WND. “We try to reach out, not only to the left or to the right, but to the middle, wherever. Those songs you are talking about, that’s just our way of expressing what we believe.
“‘Give Us Something to Live For’ is basically saying, ‘Give us something great in this country. Let this country stand great and stand tall and be an example for other countries,’” he continued. “I don’t know if a Southern rock band has all the answers, but I do know one thing: I think a band like Lynyrd Skynyrd has a lot of courage for speaking what we believe.”