British Singer-Songwriter and Activist Billy Bragg’s Creativity Derives from Conviction and Honesty

Billy Bragg’s career as a singer-songwriter is equally as busy as his political and social activism. Bragg’s vision of a better world is heard in his music and seen in his actions. Bragg has been consistent and demonstrated integrity from his early days in a punk band until today, and this is what his fans love about him – they know exactly who he is and where he stands. During the Miners’ Strike in UK from 1984-1985 Billy Bragg played many benefit shows in support of the striking miners in their fight with then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Bragg has been a long-time supporter of the Labour Party but has never been a party hack. He has been critical of Labour when he did not agree with their direction, and he has publically supported both the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats at different times.
Bragg’s early demo tapes were ignored by the music industry, at this early stage Bragg needed to find a way to use is natural gift of the gab to have someone hear him out while he presented his demo tapes. One day Bragg pretended to be a television repair man to get into the offices of a record company. The plan worked, Bragg made an immediate impression and was made an offer to record more demos for a music publisher, which was eventually released as a record in 1983.

Here are 15 quotes and song lyrics from Billy Bragg to inspire social and political engagement:


“You can experience a download, but you can’t download an experience.” – Billy Bragg


“A virtue never tested is no virtue at all.” – Billy Bragg


“Freedom is merely privilege extended, unless enjoyed by one and all.” – Billy Bragg


“Peace, bread, work, and freedom is the best we can achieve.” – Billy Bragg


“The most important thing for anyone, I think, is to be engaged, whether you’re an artist or a journalist is to be engaged in the process at some level.” – Billy Bragg


“I never met a politician who didn’t want to be a guitar player in a rock band. I’ve got the opportunity to say what I believe in.” – Billy Bragg


“All musicians start out with ideals but hanging on to them in the face of media scrutiny takes real integrity. Tougher still is to live up to the ideals of your dedicated fans.” – Billy Bragg


“I’m celebrating my love for you with a pint of beer and a new tattoo” – Billy Bragg


“A patriot is someone who cares what happens in their country.” – Billy Bragg


“Were it not for the Clash, punk would have been just a sneer, a safety pin and a pair of bondage trousers.”


“If there is a single trait in our character that has historically set us apart from other nations, it is our determination to limit the authority of those who rule over us.” – Billy Bragg


“I try and write honestly about what I see around me now.” – Billy Bragg


“That’s what I’m about — getting engaged. Too many people don’t wade in the mud with the politicians.” – Billy Bragg


“So, in some ways, the political songs tend to be a bit more like reportage, whereas the love songs tend to be like novels, you can pick them up off the shelf and go into them any time.” – Billy Bragg


“At some point in your life you have to engage with the fact that you are part of a society. Yeah the individual is the most important facet in society but unless every individual is the recipient of free health care, free education decent affordable housing and a proper pension then only the rich and powerful will be individuals and the rest of us will be exploited by them.” – Billy Bragg

Author: Phil Zavackis


Phil Zavackis is a freelance writer living in Toronto. He has recently finished a screenplay titled ‘105 Degrees & Rising’, which is about the Fall of Saigon in 1975.