Billy Bragg

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BILLY BRAGG IN CONCERT: British folk-punk icon and all-around agitator Billy Bragg has been rousing fans with his biting wit and galvanizing protest songs since the late '70s. The line between art and politics has never concerned Bragg – he's an outspoken left-wing activist, and he makes no apologies for using his music as a platform to share his message with a wider audience. In concert he keeps things simple, strumming his guitar and delivering songs like "Whose Side Are You On" and "Take Down the Union Jack" with a cheery attitude that belies their weighty themes. Bragg is a man with a message, but he's far cry from a humorless pedagogue – whether he's railing against fascism, promoting a multi-racial Britain, or simply singing a love song, he manages to do it all with a warmth, humor, and poetic sense that leaves ticket buyers wanting more. BACKGROUND SNAPSHOT: Essex-born Stephen William "Billy" Bragg started writing poetry and playing guitar in his teens, but it wasn't until he saw The Clash perform at a 1978 Rock Against Racism event that he developed an interest in social causes. Merging his love of poetry with his newfound political passion, Bragg began penning protest songs and performing them on the streets of London. He managed to get a demo tape to an exec at Charisma Records, and in 1983 the label issued Bragg's debut album Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy. Featuring seven politically charged songs and clocking in at just over 15 minutes, the record wasn't expected to be a hit, but listeners loved it – the album cracked the Top 40 on the UK Albums Chart and ultimately went Gold. Bragg followed up with a string of Top 20 albums including Talking with the Taxman about Poetry (1986) and Workers Playtime (1988), the latter of which spawned the No. 1 hit "She's Leaving Home." Since then Bragg has remained both musically and politically prolific, supporting various leftist movements and releasing more than a dozen albums including 2016's Shine a Light, a collaboration with American folk hero Joe Henry.