As a trailblazing social commentator, Bill Hicks was also a standup comedian who transcended conventional notions of what most consider funny. A bluntly rational truth-seeker who made people uncomfortable for a living, his confrontational style of perceptive dark humor also made him a target of corporate censorship in the early ’90s. His fiery improvisational rants — like those heard on these two newly issued discs — were widely perceived as a threat to an elite network of prevailing dark forces who profited from lying to the docile and easily duped public. “You’re free to do as we tell you — go back to sleep, America.”
Though he was a major star in the UK, Hicks’ appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night With David Letterman” were repeatedly edited from said programs by sponsors and network executives, while his less incendiary material was “sampled” (read: stolen and recorded) by sellouts like Dennis Leary.
Hicks, who died in 1994 of pancreatic cancer, made people simultaneously laugh and think by audaciously tapping into their sense of reason and irony. He told the truth about marketing, drug laws, cigarettes, the steady erosion of one man/one vote democracy, imperialism, materialism, sexuality, religion and himself. His astute observations about truth in advertising, the obscenely corrupt music industry and, in particular, the insatiably oil-drunk military-industrial complex/ weapons manufacturers are as vital, razor-sharp, and necessary today as they were when he was alive during the Gulf War era.
Like other left-leaning voices (Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader, etc.), Hicks’ penetrating opinions were kept out of mainstream debate, leaving us with right-wing establishment whores like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh saturating our airwaves.
Hicks’ impassioned messages can inspire logical heads to action and, at the very least, a more constructive, compassionate and critical way of thinking. It’s a tragedy that he’s not here now to comment on the last presidential election, Enron, the war, etc. We need guys like this to step forward and speak the truth. These Rykodisc releases, like all of Hicks’ albums and comedy specials, are essential. Check out www.sacredcow.com and www.billhicks.com.
E-mail Dimitri Monroe at firstname.lastname@example.org.