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John Legend calls US gun culture 'insane'

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On Tuesday night, John Legend headlined a Motown tribute concert, celebrating the record label’s 60th anniversary.
Alongside Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder, the star performed a selection of Marvin Gaye hits, including the timeless, socially-conscious soul anthem What’s Going On?
“I’ve always been inspired by Marvin Gaye,” says Legend, on the phone from his home in LA the following morning.
“He showed us that activism can be part of your art; and that art can inspire other people’s activism.”
It’s a lesson the 40-year-old has applied throughout his career, most notably on the 2010 album, Wake Up, which resurrected and reframed protest songs from the 60s and 70s for a modern audience.
Today, he releases a protest song of his own, Preach, that was inspired by the onslaught of negative news coming out of America – gun violence, bigotry, child separation, police brutality.
“It’s stressful to read the news sometimes,” says the singer. “Sometimes we can get so frustrated and throw up our hands, and it’s important that we realise we can actually do something.”
The song’s chorus – “I can’t sit and hope / I can’t just sit and pray” – is directly targeted at US politicians, and their reluctance to tackle the country’s gun laws.
“Every time there’s a gun massacre in America, which is way too often, politicians come out and say, ‘We send our hopes and prayers to the victims and their families’ and then they don’t do anything about it,” he says.
“So the song is basically a rebuke of the people in power.
“If you look at any polls, there’s only a small minority that are against background checks, a small minority that are against other regulations. We’re looking at 80 or 90% approval on a lot of these provisions. So it really is the politicians who are lagging behind the people.”
“But then, that gets to the whole problem with our system, that moneyed interests and lobbyists and corporations carry more weight with politicians than the people do, too often, and we need to change that too.”
“The gun problem is insane, it’s radical and it’s terrible.”
In the song’s refrain, Legend sings, “I try to do the things / I say that I believe / I can’t just preach, baby, preach”; and the star says he was “directly inspired” by the survivors of Parkland school shooting a year ago – especially Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, who have campaigned for background checks and challenged America’s powerful gun lobby.
“This is really a tribute to their activism,” says Legend, who accepts that Preach won’t move the dial on the issue of gun ownership.
“I don’t know that a song would ever convince someone to change sides,” he admits, but stresses the importance of “using my career to fight for justice”.
“It’s a tough time but I’m also optimistic we can make change happen. I’ve been a part of that before and I think it’s possible for us to do it again.”

SourceBBC NEWS

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