Last night (November 3rd) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Rage Against the Machine were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Hip-hop OG and Body Count frontman Ice-T ushered the band in; RATM guitarist Tom Morello accepted the award solo on the group's behalf. Vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk did not even attend — meaning the group obviously did not perform at the show. The ceremony was livestreamed on Disney+, which would have made for a fun juxtaposition had they played.
In his induction speech, Ice-T said of RATM: "You can't impress me with normal stuff. You gotta impress me with stuff like sueing the U.S. State Department for using their music in Guantanamo Bay for torturing. Who does that? Rage Against the Machine does that. Or how about 1993, pulling up at Lollapalooza butt naked with duct tape, protesting against the PRMC [Parents Music Resource Center]? Who does that? Rage Against the Machine does that. I respect the hell out of this band."
In his acceptance speech, Morello alluded to differing opinions within RATM regarding their induction into the Rock Hall before talking about their history and their radical politics, as well as encouraging the audience to form their own bands. Read his full speech below.
My name is Tom Morello, and I am one quarter of Rage Against the Machine. I am deeply grateful for the musical chemistry I've had the good fortune to share with Brad Wilk, Tom Commerford, and Zach de la Rocha. Like most bands, we have differing perspectives on a lot of things, including being inducted into the Rock Hall. My perspective is that tonight is a great opportunity to celebrate the music and the mission of the band—to celebrate the fifth member of the band, which is Rage Against the Machine's incredible fans. The only reason we are here and the best way to celebrate this music is for you to carry on that mission and that message.
The lesson I learn from Rage fans is that music can change the world. Daily, I hear from fans who have been affected by our music and in turn have affected the world in significant ways. Organizers, activists, public defenders, teachers, the presidents of Chile and Finland have all spent time in our mosh pit. When protest music is done right, you can hear a new world emerging in the songs skewering the oppressors of the day and hinting that there might be more to life than what was handed to us. Can music change the world? The whole aim is to change the world or at a bare minimum, to stir up a shit load of trouble.
When Rage started, we rehearsed deep in the San Fernando Valley. This guy passed by our place regularly and one day asked, what are you guys doing in there? We said, we're a band. He asked to hear us and we said, sure. He came in, sat down. This was the first guy to ever hear the music of Rage Against the Machine. We played him a couple songs. After we finished, we asked him what he thought. He paused, stood up and said, your music makes me wanna fight.
Throughout history, the spark of rebellion has come from unexpected quarters: authors, economists, carpenters. But as Salvador Allende said, there is no revolution without songs. So who's to say what musicians might or might not be able to achieve with revolutionary intent when the bouncing crowd makes the Richter scale shake? Personally, I'd like to thank my wife Denise, and my kids who remind me daily that the world is worth fighting for.
And thanks to all the musicians and change makers who helped shape the band's collective vision range has also been fortunate to have so many talented coworkers and co-conspirators who have believed in the band: from Michael Goldstone, the guy who signed us and insisted the first radio single be an unedited song featuring 17 cuss words, to the greatest guitar tech of all time, Slim Richardson. Thank you and thanks. And deep appreciation to the hundreds of others, from those who put up flyers to those who have moved mountains to amplify the message and the music. What I hear in the music is this: that the world is not going to change itself.
But throughout history, those who have changed the world in progressive, radical or even revolutionary ways did not have any more money, power, courage, intelligence or creativity than anyone watching tonight. The world's changed by average, everyday ordinary people who have had enough and are willing to stand up for a country and a planet that is more humane, peaceful and just, and that, and that is what I'm here to celebrate tonight. Fans often ads, but what can I do? Well, let's start with these three things. One, dream big and don't settle. Two, aim for the world you really want without compromise or apology. And three, don't wait for us.
Rage is not here, but you are. The job we set out to do is not over. Now you are the ones that must testify. If you've got a boss, join a union. If you're a student, start an underground paper. If you're an anarchist for a brick, if you're a soldier or a cop, follow your conscience, not your orders. If you're bummed out, you didn't get to see Rage Against the Machine, then form your own band and let's hear what you have to say. If you're a human being, stand up for your planet before it's too late.
So tomorrow, crank up some Rage and head out and confront injustice. Wherever it rears its ugly head, it's time to change the world, brothers and sisters, or at a bare minimum to stir up a shit load of trouble. And finally, special thanks to my mom, Mary Morello, a retired public high school teacher, a proud Rage Against the Machine fan and a lifelong radical who turned 100 years old a couple of weeks ago. She's watching at home tonight, but she asked me to tell you this: History, like music is not something that happens. It's something you make. Thank you very much.