Rufus Wainwright on Music and the Movement


Dave Valk is a 21-year-old senior at UCLA. The L.A. Weekly has dubbed him one of the “new generation of gay leaders” and we wholeheartedly agree, which is why we sent him to Washington to give you his own unique take on everything from inaugural balls to Rev. Warren’s invocation. Here, his take on an interview with Rufus Wainwright at Tuesday’s HRC Ball.

At Tuesday’s Inaugural HRC Ball, the night was filled with music and dancing courtesy of performances by everyone from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington to Cyndi Lauper. And some of my favorite conversations throughout the evening were not just with the DC politicos, but with these musicians, who offered a different approach to what it means to create real change. One of the people I enjoyed speaking with most was Rufus Wainwright.

I’ve always admired Wainwright not only for his rich, vibrant singing voice, but also for the voice he uses to stand up for some of the most important issues facing the LGBT community today. When we sat down for a casual conversation, I mentioned to him that when thousands of people were marching through the streets of Los Angeles and moving up Wilshire Boulevard, all I could think about was how all the artists out there in the protests would be creating the backbone of the movement with their music. Bob Dylan did it, and now, so is Rufus Wainwright. I think Rufus also saw his potential, though he was humble in admitting it:

Music is basically a window into several different souls. You can be inclusive or you can be exclusive. You can even be bigoted with your music if you want! But I don’t think the form itself has any requirements. Yes, music is powerful—it’s a force. You can use music for its good side or even its bad side. For me, I choose to create music that is from my good side, and some people out there think it’s from an evil side. It really depends.

Perhaps the best thing about Wainwright’s music is its transformative power. Whether he is helping people through personal struggles or speaking about the problems of an entire generation, he uses his power in a way that can propel real change. Here’s to hoping his music helps spark what my generation needs: an event, a real action that will not only unite the leadership in the youth, but also the other artists and the speakers who can reach the masses with their voices and paintings and writings.

According to Wainwright, “Music is powerful because it captures what is happening.” The fight for civil rights—all civil rights—that’s what happening. So let’s give ‘em something to sing about.