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Songs far too relevant

Singer-songwriter Libby Roderick is finding her old anti-war songs are once again quite timely

Posted: Friday, May 02, 2003

Anchorage songwriter Libby Roderick wrote "Dancing in Front of the Guns" on a January day in 1991. She had been invited to a peaceful protest a few days before the beginning of Operation Desert Storm, and she needed a song.

"We're facing the guns again," the track begins. "We have faced them before / Humanity's longing after so many deaths / for something more human than war."

This spring, Roderick found herself singing "Dancing in Front of the Guns" during a short tour of Oregon. It was a few days before the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and she hadn't changed any of the words.

"I wish there had been much of a difference," Roderick said. "It has, unfortunately, been extremely relevant."

Roderick will play her first Juneau concert since 2000 at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 2, at Northern Light United Church.

"Most of the kind of groups that sponsor somebody like me are in agreement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who posited that there will be no peace without justice," Roderick said. "And the task for any government is to figure out how to meet human irrationality with rationality, intelligence, justice, vision and humanity. Most conflict has buried at its heart, hurt. And we need to really listen deeply to what's happening to other people in the world instead of trying to control them."

Roderick built up a following in Alaska and the Lower 48 while touring constantly from 1989 to 2001. She's been on a sabbatical of sorts since then and plays about six shows a year. She writes, helps students with "whole-life coaching," works with university faculty in Anchorage and runs her own record label, Turtle Island. Her Web site is www.alaska.net/~libbyr.

Roderick's most recent album, "A Meditation For Healing," came out in 1998. She has no plans for a new album, but has some new "country-gospel" songs. She also recently played with Bay Area jazz guitarist John Hoy.

Libby Roderick

in concert

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 2.

Where: Northern Light United Church.

Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the door and available at both Hearthside Books locations.

Sponsor: Juneau People for Peace & Justice.

Roderick has lived most of her life in Alaska and is known for her activism around the state and her writing on Alaska Native issues. She was a finalist for the 1998 Alaska Woman of Achievement Award. Her activism began with a realization when she was a college student at Yale in the early 1970s.

"I can remember the night in college when it dawned on me that I was an American," said Roderick, born when Alaska was still a U.S. territory. "I was cramming for my American history exam, and I really, truly had not understood that. And when I did, a lot of things became clear to me about the nature of the Alaskan character."

Roderick was once a reporter for KMIO-TV in Anchorage and the Anchorage Daily News. She said she didn't get wrapped up in the embedded, television coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but she did try to play an active role in the war debate.

She walked in a Washington, D.C., peace march the weekend before the bombing started. She was flying to Europe on the day the air war began.

"Our places as citizens of a democracy is to participate very vocally in the debate that should be happening over the future of U.S. foreign policy," Roderick said. "Particularly with respect to this idea that has been floated out of the White House that it is OK to use pre-emptive force to try and make the world look the way we think it should.

"History shows that it doesn't work and that violence generates more violence," Roderick said. "It may not happen now. It may happen 30 years from now when we can no longer remember why we put Saddam in power in the first place."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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