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Five Bands That Stood Behind Their Politics and Refused to Play a Gig

Russia Protest
Harry Engels, Getty Images

This week’s news that the National canceled a series of upcoming concerts in Russia because of the political unrest going on there is nothing new for politically minded artists. From Bob Dylan’s protest songs in the ’60s to Pussy Riot’s demonstrations over the past year, musicians have been quite vocal when it comes to standing for a particular cause. But sometimes speeches, social-media campaigns and concerts aren’t enough. Sometimes they have to go to extremes and actually take more drastic measures to get heard. Here are Five That Stood Behind Their Politics and Refused to Play a Gig.


The National

 
 

With the current civil unrest in Ukraine and Russia, the National decided to cancel shows in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev, which were to take place this summer. "We remain hopeful of coming to play for you in the future and we sincerely hope this current instability resolves in a positive, democratic and peaceful way," the Brooklyn band wrote on Facebook. "Take care of yourselves and we hope to see you soon."

 

The Pixies

 
 

Following a deadly naval raid on a vessel heading to Gaza in 2010, the Pixies canceled their show only a couple of days before the scheduled gig. "The decision was not reached easily, and we all know well the Israeli fans have been waiting for this visit for far too long," a rep from the band's management said. "We'd like to extend our deepest apologies to the fans, but events beyond all our control have conspired against us. We can only hope for better days, in which we will finally present the long-awaited visit."

 

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

 
 

Bruce Springsteen has played just about every nation on the planet. But it wasn't until this year that he's performed in South Africa. Since the beginning of apartheid in the '80s, he and his band have boycotted any performance in the country. In addition to Springsteen's support of the issue, bandmate and guitarist Steven Van Zandt started the Artists United Against Apartheid movement 30 years ago. Springsteen finally performed in Cape Town and Johannesburg in early 2014.

 

Blondie

 
 

Many bands had reservations about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, including Blondie. Because of Russia's harsh crackdown on homosexuality, the group brushed off the opportunity to play a special 45-minute set during the games. “Blondie has always been a part of the downtown community in NYC, with many, many friends who represent alternative lifestyles," Debbie Harry told the Huffington Post. "We feel very strongly about these friendships and associations, and don’t feel good about participating in a situation where biases and prejudices are paramount."

 

The Beatles

 
 

A recently unearthed contract for a 1965 Beatles gig at the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., revealed that the group refused to play for a "segregated audience." While there's very few details about the Fab Four's cancellation of the gig in light of racial tensions at the time, it shows that they were somewhat ahead of their time in sticking up for what they believed in.

 

Next: 10 Best Clash Songs

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