Tom Morello breaks out the Takamine and joins the Hollywood picket line as he plays Woody Guthrie for striking union members

Tom Morello, pictured on the Hollywood picket line with striking WGA and SAG-AFTRA members
(Image credit: Tom Morello / Instagram)

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine recently turned out in support of striking WGA and SAG-AFTRA members, as he joined the Hollywood picket line with an acoustic guitar in hand, delivering a short set that included a cover of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land.

Speaking to the NME, Morello said it was a historic moment for the labor movement in the US. “They’re making history here on the sidewalk in front of Paramount Studios and I’m here to support them and express my solidarity,” he said. “I’ve made music throughout my entire life to be played on picket lines and on the front lines. So today is just one more day at the office with regards to that.”

Morello has a history of picking up the acoustic and joining in with protest movements. In 2011, he joined Occupy Wall Street protesters with his Gibson J-45 ‘Black Spartacus’ slope-shouldered dreadnought (a guitar that might be just as famous for the song it inspired, Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine) and played a number of his Nightwatchman tunes.

Besides the Guthrie classic, a clip of which you can see below, Morello’s set on Monday, August 14 reportedly featured his solo Nightwatchman work once more, with Union Song and Union Town reportedly getting an airing, and Hold the Line – from his guest-studded 2021 album, The Atlas Underground Fire – also on the set.

The writers and actors of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are on strike together for the first time since 1960. Back then, it was over improved rights, pensions and healthcare for screenwriters. Now, it is over various disputes over residuals for streaming and the threat of AI replacing creative talent. 

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Rage Against the Machine’s sound might be animated by Morello’s avant-garde noise techniques and big, primal, post-Sabbath electric guitar riffs, but he has always made the argument that folk music is the heaviest genre of them all. 

Speaking to Guitarist in 2020, Morello said he discovered metal first, then, punk. Years later, artists such as Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Bruce Springsteen turned him onto folk. 

“I realized that folk music is the heaviest of all, because the right couplet, matched with the right minor chord, can keep you up five nights in a row,” he said. “In order to convey what I want to as the agitprop folk troubadour in The Nightwatchman, that’s going to require an acoustic guitar. That’s still a very important part of my musical life.”

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.