Behind the Lyrics - The Nightwatchman (Tom Morello)



2020 was such a dramatic year. So much happened, and I think 2021 will also continue that era of change. For better or worse is up to us.

These are the thoughts that were raging through my mind New Years' Eve. Okay, I admit it. It wasn't the best year for me, and I hadn't realized it until my winter break. I was sitting on my couch, wine drunk, ranting about all the social justice issues in the world that could be resolved if others would just be kind.

My husband is my rock. He smirked at me and put on Tom Morello's The Nightwatchman. I think most people have heard of Tom Morello or at least Rage Against the Machine, but I have talked to quite a few of my alternative music fan friends, and most of them had not heard of his Nightwatchman stuff.

I think the best way to tell you what his independent work is like is by telling you a story. Tom Morello met Johnny Cash one time, and they were discussing music. Cash said, "You don't gotta be loud, son, to be heavy as shit." This is what influenced The Nightwatchman.

The song I want to look at is "One Man Revolution". If there is a song of his that has gotten kinda big, it is this one.

"One Man Revolution" - The Nightwatchman

[Verse 1] On the streets of New York The cabs don't stop On the street where I live They called the cops Found a noose in my garage Now how 'bout that So tonight I'm in the bushes With a baseball bat [Chorus] 'Cause I'm a one man, I'm a one man I'm a one man revolution I'm a one man, I'm a one man I'm a one man revolution The time is nigh, the day is dark There's only one solution I'm a one man, I'm a one man I'm a one man revolution [Verse 2] On the streets of Havana I got hugged and kissed At the Playboy Mansion I wasn't on the list On the streets of Cape Town Shit's ready to blow I don't know how to get there But I'm ready to go [Chorus] 'Cause I'm a one man, I'm a one man I'm a one man revolution I'm a one man, I'm a one man I'm a one man revolution The time is nigh, the day is dark There's only one solution I'm a one man, I'm a one man I'm a one man revolution [Verse 3] Sacrifice and neon lights Slaveships don't wait Love many, trust few And don't be late In my nightmares The streets are aflame And in my dreams It's much the same And on the streets of L.A They know my name And if you've come this far mister Maybe we're one and the same [Chorus] I'm a one man, I'm a one man I'm a one man revolution I'm a one man, I'm a one man I'm a one man revolution The time is nigh, the day is dark There's only one solution I'm a one man, I'm a one man I'm a one man revolution


What works with Morello's Nightwatchman work is it is in a "folk" music format. Stripped down. No loud apps, screaming fans. Just a man with a guitar and perhaps a harmonica. There is no bullshit to hide behind, so it is genuine and honest. People love that. Music is supposed to be an authentic form of ourselves. So, even if your honest opinions may piss someone off, in the long run, you have truly gained far more with your honesty.

This song could be an anthem for 2021. It only takes one person to care an awful lot for change to begin. Imagine if we all looked at one another and saw what we have in common or what is different.

This song has lines like "On the streets of New York/ The cabs don't stop/On the street where I live/ They called the cops". These lines highlight an issue of class. Race is absolutely a discussion to be had, but class issues affect everyone.

I grew up in a harsh small town in the rustbelt. We didn't call the cops because the cops didn't do a thing. We couldn't get certain businesses because stealing and looting was so common.

On another verse, he mentions issues again, "On the streets of Havana/ I got hugged and kissed/ At the Playboy Mansion/ I wasn't on the list." It is almost a posing of a silent question. Did he really want to be invited into the Playboy Mansion when he clearly was loved and adored by real people? What do we gain when we sell our soul to money?

Overall, the Nightwatchman's work appeals to a vast majority of people. I think one of the main strengths is the authentic music presentation paired with the scenarios leaving audiences with silent questions.

He answers these questions by declaring he is "a one-man revolution". However, what will we be?

Until next time.

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