by Reuters/Yahoo! | Reuters/Yahoo! | 31 December 2003
DALLAS (Reuters) - Country music icon Willie Nelson has written a Christmas song with an edge -- a protest against the war in Iraq that he hopes will stir passions in those who hear it.
Nelson, 70, told Reuters on Wednesday he wrote "Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth" after watching the news on Christmas Day and will play it in Austin, Texas on Saturday at a concert to benefit Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.
His rare foray into protest music -- he said it was only the second such song he had written, after the Vietnam-era "Jimmy's Road" -- follows recent political controversies stirred by the Dixie Chicks and Steve Earle.
The Dixie Chicks, one of the biggest acts in country music, had their music boycotted by some country stations after lead singer Natalie Mains said at a concert in London just before the invasion of Iraq that she was embarrassed to be from the same state as President Bush.
Last year Steve Earle sparked the ire of conservatives with his song "John Walker's Blues" about the young American who converted to Islam was captured while fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Nelson said his new song criticized the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq and those who thought it unpatriotic to speak out against the war.
The song opens with the line "How much oil is one human life worth?" and swings into the chorus: "Hell they won't lie to me/ Not on my own damn TV/ But how much is a liar's word worth/ And whatever happened to peace on earth?"
"I hope that there is some controversy," said the country singer, who has five nominations in the upcoming Grammy Awards. "If you write something like this and nobody says anything, then you probably haven't struck a nerve.
"I got it out of my system. I was able to say what I was thinking," Nelson said.
David Swanson, a spokesman for the Kucinich campaign, said the candidate was a Willie Nelson fan and the song resonated with themes raised by Kucinich on the stump.
"This is a patriotic song," Swanson said.
Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March saying that Saddam Hussein threatened U.S. security by possessing weapons of mass destruction, but no such weapons were found.