There are all kinds of rock stars. Some are selfish and self absorbed, others just like to party and carry on, some have an outright need for celebrity, and then there are those who may have a touch of all that, but who are also striving for something greater.
I have found that some of the most substantial music and lyrical messages have come from artists who grew up in a blue-collar world, like Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Pete Townshend just to name a few. There is something about growing up in a working class environment that brings with it an experience of real life’s struggles and vulnerabilities. Most often it also produces a strong worth ethic because when you grow up in a blue-collar family you have to work hard for everything you get–you surely learn the value of a dollar and sometimes what it’s like not being able to afford some of the finer things in life. Furthermore, if you are a songwriter hoping to connect to the public at large, you may have a better shot then some because you come from the vast majority of the people you are trying to connect with.
So it was, and continues to be with Dee Snider. His music has always been rebellious, as so much of rock is, but it also has had a theme running through it, and that theme is a voice for the common man. Dee Snider is one guy who hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
Some years ago I attended the first induction ceremony of the Long Island Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. When you realize that Long Island also comprises the burro of Queens you begin to understand and appreciate what a large scope of talented music people have come from that area—runs the gamut from Tony Bennett to Paul Simon to Billy Joel to the Ramones and many, many more.
The night I attended they were inducting Billy Joel, The Ramones, Leslie West, and Dee Snider, just to name a few.
Amongst all of them I was most impressed and moved by Dee’s acceptance speech. Of course he thanked all the record and radio people who had helped him, his managers, band mates, etc., etc., but then he said the following, and I remember it word for word.
“I mostly want to thank my wife Suzette. She was with me when I was nothing, she put up with me when I became something, and she is still with me now that I’m nothing again.”
At the time, Dee was a bit down on his luck before he re-invented himself on reality TV, radio, etc.. The point is, this was a real life’s moment, a statement from the heart, one so vulnerable as to take the spotlight off his celebrity and place it so elegantly on his wife. It blew my mind—this was a real guy, a man’s man.
Is Dee Snider perfect? Hell no, and he’ll be the first to tell you that. The man has flaws and makes mistakes like the rest of us. But the overall point here is that he feels like the rest of us—doesn’t put himself above anyone.
So on his new solo album, We Are The Ones, it is no surprise to again hear that familiar voice for the common man running through many of the songs. They are the kind of songs that make you want to become part of the Dee tribe, because you feel like he is singing for you. The title track is a battle cry for the everyday men and women who work hard, do the right thing and try to get along in life yet have to put up with outside forces like politics, corruption, war, sickness, etc.. You hear the same sentiments echoed in songs like, “Rule The World,” the newly re-recorded acoustic version of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and even on the Nine Inch Nails cover “Head Like A Hole.”
The newly re-recorded acoustic version of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” has not only been tapped the official anthem for the Recording Academy’s advocacy efforts, including the “Fair Play Fair Pay act, but illusionist Criss Angel fell in love with the song and directed a must-see music video to use for his charity in support of childhood cancer research.
“Rule The World” just might be the best track on the album in this reporter’s opinion (again, a song for us all), and “Head Like A Hole” and “Crazy For Nothing” are two other faves of mine.
This year Twisted Sister has been on their farewell “Forty and F*ck It” tour in honor of their 40th anniversary. Dee says he wants Twisted to end on a high note while the band can still bring it on all levels—never wants to play a lesser version of it.
I admire that—still very caring about the art form and not just thinking about cashing in year after year on the past.
Real artists have to move forward to feel alive, meaningful, and relevant. With Twisted Sister effectively entering the rearview mirror, Dee now has his sights set on a new musical direction and it’s a good one.
If you love anthemic rock, if you feel like a citizen of rock, or even just a proud citizen in general, you will probably really dig this album. Dee Snider is singing for, and about you.
Rock on kids!
© Paul Rappaport 2016
With Twisted Sister effectively entering the rearview mirror, Dee now has his sights dead-set on his new musical direction. “I’ve never been about living in the past. The past is wonderful to reflect on and enjoy, but for me, I’d rather show you the latest thing I’ve been working on. I’m all about looking ahead, and this record is very much about me moving forward.”