Tom Morello has unleashed a blazing new song, “Marching on Ferguson,” titled after the Missouri suburb where a police officer shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. The Rage Against the Machine guitarist, performing as the Nightwatchman and backed by a three-piece band, also gave a taste of what he might’ve meant in an interview earlier this year when he compared his upcoming material to Jimi Hendrix.
“Carving up that golden calf with a blowtorch and gas mask,” Morello can be heard singing in the brief videos below, “I’m marching on Ferguson, I’m marching tonight.” That’s punctuated by whoa-oh-oh-oh backing vocals and a fiery solo that begins with Morello’s teeth on his “Arm the Homeless” guitar, in a stage trick straight out of Hendrix’s playbook (as you can see André 3000 demonstrate in a trailer for Hendrix film Jimi: All Is by My Side). It’s unclear how much of the song is missing from the beginning of the fan-shot clips available so far, but still, by the time Morello exhorts, “I’m burning,” it isn’t hard to concede his point.
Morello’s new song follows a number of other musical commentaries on Ferguson, led by Lauryn Hill‘s breathtaking “Black Rage (Sketch),” which was written long before Brown’s shooting but was released as a call for peace in Missouri. Killer Mike was one of the first from the music world to comment on the events, and he has remained among the most vocal. Common sent a video message to the protesters in Ferguson and asked for a moment of silence in Brown’s memory at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Morello’s debut of “Marching on Ferguson” came at the Jail Guitar Doors’ Rock Out! Benefit at Los Angeles’ Ford Theatre on September 5. Launched by Billy Bragg in the United Kingdom and brought to the United States in partnership with the MC5‘s Wayne Kramer, Jail Guitar Doors is a nonprofit that provides musical instruments to help rehabilitate prisoners.
“I want to make the craziest guitar record that anyone’s ever heard,” Morello told Billboard in January. “The idea is that this is the Hendrix of now.” Good to see that, given the song’s combustive lyrical content, Morello hasn’t lost sight of his recent years’ Woody Guthrie influence, either.