Jackson Browne, Quiltman and Allies: Counterculture Heroes Still Here/Still Allies/Still Resisting

Poster by Cree Miller.

Last August, I was at the Monkey Clan’s annual Scott Lake wilderness campout in the Cascades. I awoke at night with a distinct feeling of dread. It was fire season and I thought it may be that the fires came and consumed my and my friends’ cabins that were then surrounded by fires. So, I got up in the middle of the night, walked to my truck and drove to where I could check my phone messages.

Sure enough, something big had gone down. The first message was from JoDe Goudy, the visionary, young Chairman of the Yakama Nation and my brother Quiltman’s nephew. A wildfire, likely caused by brush burning, had destroyed Quilt’s house – a house built by his grandfather in the 1930s that was the longest continually lived in house on the Warm Springs Nation. It was an American Indian Movement (AIM) museum. The walls were covered in historic photos and posters from Quilt and his allies concerts and actions over the years. Quilt lost everything, including centuries-old sacred objects…and more minor things like many copies of his music CDs.

John Sinclair and Florida activist Dona Knapp at Quilt’s pre-fire house.

I left the campout and drove to hook up with Quilt and see what I could do to help.

Immediately plans were made to rebuild. JoDe wanted to rebuild as frugally as possible, so it could be a model for addressing the crisis in Elder Housing in Native communities all over. (JoDe and allies have been building tiny houses for tribal members in need up in Toppenish, the HQ of the Yakama.)

Soon, lots of Quilt’s friends started stepping up. Sadly, looters started sifting thru the ruins. So, a crew was put together to clear the site. And Quilt decided to rebuild with Hempcrete and he and son TeeWahNee attended a workshop on how to do that.

Quilt’s good friend Jackson Browne stepped up and decided to hold an “Honoring Quiltman” concert to help out. Quilt, John Trudell and Jackson have been pals for close to 40 years and have done dozens of benefits for worthy causes thru the years. Jackson and John Trudell (who walked on a couple year ago and we all miss deeply – especially now in Trumptime) were roommates, cellmates and allies for decades.

Quilt’s and my good friend, Mi’kmaq Native Paul Delehanty and I headed down. The two concerts at Pechanga, CA were superb, sold out shows. Trudell and Quilt’s band Bad Dog preformed first with Joel Rafael superbly filling in for his friend John. Jackson noted that “if I close my eyes, I hear John.” High praise, indeed! Bad Dog was on fire and Joel is that good!

Jackson had noted that everyone there was “family” – that the musicians were long-time friends. It was a mellow, respectful crowd of about 1000 in the cozy theater. Many of what TeeWahNee, who has joined his dad in Trudell’s band Bad Dog, called the “Trudell Tribe” were there. Jackson was “chatty,” as he noted – delightfully so. The chance to reconnect and meet new allies was a fine bonus for us all.

I spent the entire day greeting and spending time with old allies and meeting new ones. By the time I joined Paul at our seats to settle in for the show, my good-natured pal had already made friends with the neighbors. All had been Jackson fans most of their lives. Most did not know Quiltman or even of John and Bad Dog, but knew if Jackson was behind it, they wanted to know. I quickly told some of the story and the show began.

Jackson introduced the band, told of his long friendship with John and Quilt, how happy he was that Bad Dog had stayed together post-John and continued to do his meaningful works and then walked off. Quilt shouted “Jackson Browne for President!” as Jackson disappeared stage right. As the crowd cheered, a disembodied voice behind the curtains said, “I don’t think so.” The band launched into a rousing version of John’s “Crazy Horse.” It was on.

Jackson’s managers Buddha and Cree Miller did the heavy lifting behind the scenes. They are unsung heroes behind many worthy benefits. Working with Jackson and his friends gives them plenty of experience. They took care of the myriad details, while Jackson took care of the content. Jackson’s legendary road crew quickly arranged a stage where no break was needed between acts and also accommodated ALL the musicians for an unforgettable encore version of John Trudell and Jesse Ed Davis’ “Rockin the Rez.”

All our new friends were blown away by Bad Dog, not only John’s skillful poetry, but many commented on Mark Shark’s guitar work. Their work is available on-line.

Then Jackson, with no break at all, and his superb band played an exceptional set.

Jackson’s Set List. Photo by Paul Stanford.

Jackson tells the story behind it all in this excellent article from the San Diego Union Tribune.

I haven’t been writing much of late. The entire, ludicrous 2016 Election and resultant Trump spectacle write itself (or sometimes I think Vince McMahon is writing it!) And, there is not a lot I can add.

So, I’ve decided to write more about the Counterculture, counterculture pals I find more than worthy and all the great changes we have fought for and often brought about – our hits AND misses. (Trudell and our buddy John Sinclair – who both got constantly labeled with it – never liked the term “Counterculture.” But, it works for me as shorthand – anyone got a better one?)

At the concerts, we were talking about how pathetic it is that seemingly ALL institutions in the country are now run by toxic narcissist Baby Boomers. How this all came about on the Woodstock Generation’s watch is baffling and embarrassing. Wavy Gravy isn’t president! Nor is Jackson! (Not that they would ever wish to be.)

So we threw around some guesstimates. There are likely around 70 million Baby Boomers. At best, around 10 million were part of the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Movement, Peace Movement, Gaian Ecological sensibilities, communal sensibilities, etc. that underpin the counterculture at some point in our lives. Many more got into the music, if not the changes the music required.

Ten million is a lot, especially when you are in the bubble. But, alas, we just never had the numbers to really bring it on. And, once abortion was legal, the Draft abolished and tons of good-paying non-profit jobs came around, we lost a lot of the more dilettantish members. We also lost quite a few to me first New Age pseudo-spirituality.

But, many carry on. And Jackson is one of the best. In addition to being one of the best singer-songwriters of our generation, he has been there for it all. Jackson has raised millions for worthy causes thru his, his great friend/ally Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby, Carole King, Willie Nelson and others’ efforts over the decades. I am forever grateful to all of them for their help with our efforts to save the Ancient Forests and their dedication to Justice for all.

Jackson has always been true. Even when his career took a hit due to his monumental efforts to take on Ronald Reagan over his murderous assault on Central America, Jackson did not back down. At his Quiltman concerts, he sang a version of “Lives in the Balance” that includes a fabulous new verse written by his two young back-up singers from their perspective as people of Faith. He also brings them up front to sing much more than back-up on the song. It’s great to see an artist so secure that he will add verses written by others to his seminal songs.

He also has added the second verse from Glen Campbell’s terrific version of Jackson’s iconic “These Days.”

“I’ve stopped my rambling
I don’t do too much gambling these days
These days

These days I seem to think about
How all the changes came about my way
And I wonder if I’ll see another highway”

One weird thing is that we all had to go thru portable metal detectors and searches to get into the concert. That was a first and I’ve been to dozens of benefits with these guys! We were already deep inside a casino which has more “hardened” security than just about anywhere to begin with! I assume it is because Jackson has been getting Death Threats due to his pro-DACA new song “The Dreamer” which he did at the shows. I cry every time I watch the video.

Jackson Browne has long been part of the American Indian Movement. John Trudell was the spokesperson for the 1969-71 nineteen month Indians of All Tribes Alcatraz Occupation and the only chairman AIM ever had. It was 45 years ago today that AIM began the Wounded Knee Occupation, protesting government corruption, the murders of traditional Natives and demanding that Treaties be honored. It was great to see how many of the old guard are still here and were able to make the shows. Though time has taken many of the greats from us, their legacy of courage and our gratitude remains.

My and Quilt’s good buddy Max Gail showed. We always have a good time. Max was also part of AIM from early on. He was on the 1978 Longest Walk and whenever the walkers showed up at a small town, the local cops would get rather flummoxed. Then Max would step up front and due to his classic role as Sgt. Wojo on the great progressive TV show Barney Miller, the cops would relax and soon would be arranging churches for the walkers to stay overnight in and showers and laundry facilities. Max, my friend Marty Emhardt and Paul all left as great, new friends.

Quilt noted, “Seen many old friends and made a buncha new ones.”

Haulapai Native Arthur Simmons, me, Quilt’s daughter Sweetwater, Max Gail and the great guitarist Mark Shark breakfasting at the venue’s coffee house. Photo by Karen Rudolph.

Jackson and his and John Trudell’s pal (and sometimes cellmate from AIM and No Nukes days non-violent Civil Disobedience arrests) Wavy Gravy and their allies at the SEVA Foundation have helped over 4 million blind people regain sight in over 20 countries…

…I guess I could go on citing dozens of such efforts by Jackson. (When he can, he even adds a $1 donation for every ticket to his shows.) As I noted, I am forever grateful for his help on saving the forests. At one forest benefit in the 90s, Big Timber showed up with hundreds of protesters screaming and revving chainsaws outside the gate. It was rather terrifying as we listened to it all backstage before the show. John Trudell, Quiltman, Mark Shark and Jackson powered thru it. John started it off, slyly assumed the classic Hollywood Indian pose with palm raised facing outward and said, “We come in Peace,” then launched into a rousing version of “Rich Man’s War.” Bonnie Raiit performed last and she sympathetically, but firmly, engaged the protesters from the stage in what I consider to be one of the most heroic things I have ever witnessed!

Baby Boom Elders

One day, Quilt showed up at the Longhouse to drum and sing at Sunday Services and the Elder Women spiritual leaders came out and said to the crowd, “We want to introduce you all to our new elders – Milton and Gail.” It’s not something you can lobby for, nor is it something you can reject. You just rise to the occasion. It’s a civilized Way of Life.

Before that, years ago, John and Quilt formed Tribal Voice and went around the Indian Country and held assemblies at local Native schools. I was lucky to attend some. The audience was rapt, none of the usual Assembly shenanigans and John would tell the youth to “be proud…society tells you are no good, but you are.”

Then, John would do his poetry and Quilt would sing Native songs. I have met some, now in their 30s and 40s, who were at those events as youth. One even told me, as her friends nodded affirmatively in unison, that she was contemplating suicide until John and Quilt gave her hope.

John Trudell once told me “White people don’t have many Elders. Seems they have a lot of oldsters instead.” He also said that Wavy was the only white elder he knew. Well, his old roommate Jackson Browne would likely qualify now; he does for me and all our allies, even if he seems to never age – at least when he shaves. I find it downright saintly how Jackson is going about life, though that view would certainly embarrass him.

I will continue to write about the counterculture, some of my friends who are fine members of it and those I don’t know, but respect for all the good they have done and are doing.

And, we all are on board for supporting younger people who are stepping up. Before the concert, Tim Goodrich, one of the founders of the Iraq Veterans Against the War and now a Peace and Ecology-minded Torrence, CA City Councilor stopped by on his way back from speaking at the CA Democratic Party Convention in San Diego. Tim, a Bernie supporter within the party, and other younger generation allies succeeded in preventing an endorsement for pro-War Sen. Diane Feinstein’s reelection bid.

Some of us Boomer activists are still here. We’re older and somewhat wiser and we are not going away…yet. We’ll keep working for Peace, Mother Earth and a more just society. We will continue to fight for what is right and we will support the younger generation as they try and right the ship.

Thanks to all. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of Quilt and T’s new house. T and I are going to work on the details and likely have a launch work party/campout on site. To donate to the project: send a check to:

Milton Sahme
PO Box 855,
Warm Springs Nation, 97761

MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com