Ronnie Radke is no Elvis Costello, and that’s not a slight against the Falling in Reverse frontman.
Costello is one of the most consequential, and yet still underrated, singer/songwriters of the modern era. And yet Radke is one-upping the “Alison” crooner in a critical arena that has little to do with music – at least on the surface.
Costello made waves this week when he revealed he’s “retired” one of his early, classic songs to keep the woke mob at bay.
“Oliver’s Army,” from the singer’s superb 1979 album “Armed Forces,” contains the following verse.
There was a Checkpoint Charlie
He didn’t crack a smile
But it’s no laughing party
When you’ve been on the murder mile
Only takes one itchy trigger
One more widow, one less white n-word
Costello explained recently that the term “white N-word” didn’t refer to a person of color, but he’s still mothballing that lyric along with the entire track.
I believe I was wide awake when I wrote the song about career opportunities, but sadly that two-word slang is a historical fact. It was a derogatory term for Irish Catholics, which I sang to make the point. One dreads to think how the officer class spoke about people of colour. Perhaps I’d express the same idea differently now. I’ve tried changing that verse, but after 44 years I’m done singing it. I’ll sing (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding instead.
What did Adam Carolla say about Cancel Culture? You retreat, they encroach. Costello just retreated rather than defend one of his very best songs.
Radke, with less musical gravitas than Costello, is doing the opposite.
The singer is directly taking on Cancel Culture, noting how he’ll never apologize for things he’s said in the past that are now considered wrong. Falling in Reverse’s most recent song, “Zombified,” features searing lyrics like:
“Oh no they’ll never let go / Of something you said 10 years ago / They’re cancelling you / And they won’t stop till everybody’s / Zombified.”
The song speaks to both the times and Radke’s view of a woke, unforgiving culture.
“I’ll never apologize, because something I said 10 years ago was literally okay then … ” [If] I said something in the ’90s that’s not okay now, it’s unacceptable, come on. It doesn’t make me a bad person. What would make me a bad person is if I continued, even knowing it’s not right. There’s just a fine line you gotta walk. It just feels like you have to walk on eggshells. It’s hard to be any type of celebrity nowadays.”
He understands the fear many have about saying the wrong thing – past or present. He also vowed to push past that fear, suggesting others do the same.
It’s not ironic that Radke did some bad, bad things in his past. Actions, mind you, not words or insults.
As a younger man Radke served two and a half years in jail in connection with the shooting death of an 18-year-old man in Las Vegas. Radke didn’t pull the trigger, but his presence on the scene triggered battery charges from the incident. He later failed to follow his probation rules and got sent away in 2008 as a result.
He turned his life around as a free man, though, going sober and earning the trust of his fellow musicians. One key moment? He joined the Warped tour and shared his new approach to music.
“I think sober is the new black. That’s the cool thing now. I’m trying to make it the cool thing,” he says. “I used to believe in getting wasted and going on stage … I want to try to lead by example. I’m not Mr. Goody-Good or anything, but I’m not stupid.”
Now, he’s taking on Cancel Culture and, perhaps, inspiring others to do the same. For Costello, though, it may be too late.