It takes a lot to put yourself out there every day – to fight the verbal barbs of the internet community day in and day out, to brazenly express your opinion, even if you might experience unwanted backlash. No one knows this truth better than dance music journeyman Tommie Sunshine. Aside from putting music out regularly over the course of a few decades, he’s also become quite engaged in the latest uprising of social activism that we’ve seen sweep our nation, and beyond.
One night, we were reading a string of his passionately charged tweets, and decided to ask him to elaborate in a one-on-one interview. The end result was an in-depth look at his upbringing, dance music, and the state of the world we live in today.
TMN: Hey Tommie, thank you so much for taking some time to sit down with us tonight. Throughout the past year, we’ve noticed how big of a role activism has played in your career, and we’d love to get some insight on that. First off, tell us how this all started for you:
TS: The main reason why this of all things connects with me personally is – when I was 12 years old, I was lucky enough to have a cousin who sat me down on a family vacation. He ran with all the big figures of the 60′s. He went to school with Abbie Hoffman at Michigan State, and he was a huge part of the revolution of that time. At 12 years old, I was lucky enough to get this crash course from him of books, films, and albums.
He was like, “track down all these things, and when you read the books, if you don’t understand them, read them again in two years. And keep reading them until you get it. Once you get it – keep reading them. As you get older, there will be things that you won’t believe you missed that.
“Listen to these albums. Digest the artwork. Like, listen to the lyrics. Feel the music and understand it.” He was like “same thing with the films. Really watch these until you get what’s going on here.”
There was too many to mention, but by the time I was 14, my musical landscape was Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead and Jimi, and The Doors. Which, in the 80′s, it wasn’t that far out of the 60′s. Classic rock radio was still playing it, so I wasn’t so much of an outcast for listening to the music.
Where I hit the road bumps was…here I am living in super upper middle class suburbia, southwest of Chicago, reading William Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Tom Wolfe. I was completely stewed in all this counter-culture. What I was reading was so far ahead of what my life experience was at that time, but one of the biggest things that impressed upon me, was the thing that they were all fighting for the most. Besides Vietnam, which was the obvious thing, what all of those kids were trying to do was fighting for racial equality. At that point, in the 60′s, most white people in America didn’t even really think of black people as so much as human.
This was a real tough time. When we discussed all this, he did not instill a romanticized view of the 60′s revolution, he was very candid about the fact that they fucking blew it. He explained to me how they blew it. How it went into the 70′s, and all these things they fought for, they forgot about.
All the people who were young and fought for that went and got high paying jobs, became the same gluttonous pigs that their parents were, and forgot about everything they were trying to change.