Following in the footsteps of musicians like Stephen Stills, Bonnie Raitt, Chrissie Hynde, Jimmy Buffet, and Carole King (who in 2002 serenaded Fidel Castro with a personal rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend”), guitar legend Jimmy Page made a pilgrimage to Cuba this week.
To Led Zeppelin’s former guitarist, the visit probably seemed not only fitting, but long overdue. After all, Cuba was the first nation in the hemisphere ruled by bearded long-hairs. In 1960, Jean Paul Sartre hailed Cuba’s Stalinist rulers as “les Enfants au Pouvoir “ (the children in power). Fidel Castro spoke at Harvard in 1959 on the same bill as pioneer beatnik Allen Ginsberg.
It’s not difficult to see why Page would be taken in by the Cuban mystique. Remove the wispy beard and beret from the Fidel’s counterpart, Che Guevara, the late revolutionary icon whose visage adorns posters and t-shirts, and you’ve got a likeness of Jim Morrison of The Doors. Remove the cowboy hat from another late revolutionary icon, Camilo Cienfuegos, and you’ve got a likeness of The Grateful Dead’s Gerry Garcia. Circa 1959, Raul Castro with his blond shoulder-length locks was a ringer for Joe Walsh from the Hotel California days. These Cuban Stalinists were on the cutting edge of fashion. They pre-empted the Haight Ashbury look by a decade.
Castro’s captive (literally) media reports that Jimmy Page’s visit: “included tours of historic sites, and purchases of souvenirs such as the famous photograph of Che Guevara.”
This is no surprise given the entertainment industry’s fixation with Che. In an interview with the BBC last year, Oscar and Cannes-winner Benicio del Toro explained the painstaking intellectual exertion that inspired his Che-mania: “I hear of this guy, and he’s got a cool name, Che Guevara! Groovy name, groovy man, groovy politics! So I came across a picture of Che, smiling, in fatigues, I thought, ‘Dammit, this guy is cool-looking!’”
In all likelihood, similar intellectual toil inspired Jimmy Page’s recent souvenir shopping spree in Havana.
For his role as Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh’s movie “Che,” Benicio del Toro was recently honored by the peace-loving crowd in Hollywood and Cannes. For headlining their Concert for Peace, Jimmy Page was recently honored with the “Global Peace Award” from the United Nations’ Pathway to Peace organization.
But anyone familiar with the truth about Che knows that these peace awards given in his memory only perpetuate the lies surrounding his real legacy.
“We reject any peaceful approach,” the militant revolutionary once declared. He was also quoted as saying, “Violence is inevitable. To establish Socialism rivers of blood must flow. If the nuclear missiles had remained [in Cuba] we would have fired them against the heart of the U.S. including New York City. The victory of Socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims.”
Other quotes from this “peaceful” revolutionary include:
“Hatred is the central element of our struggle.”
“Hatred that is intransigent….Hatred so violent that it propels a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him a violent and cold- blooded killing machine… My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any surrendered enemy that falls in my hands! We must keep our hatred alive and fan it to paroxysm!”
Jimmy Page might be interested to learn that many Cuban youths listened to smuggled Led Zeppelin music in the 60s and 70s. Rather than meet with his Cuban fans, Jimmy was hosted by apparatchiks of the Stalinist regime that jailed and brutalized these Cubans en masse.
In a famous speech in 1961, Che Guevara characterized the very “spirit of rebellion” as “reprehensible.” “Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of governmental mandates,” commanded the KGB –mentored Guevara. “Instead, they must dedicate themselves to study, work and military service.”
Page’s adulation of Cuba and the Castro regime is especially ironic given what we know of the treatment of Cuban “roquero” during the revolution. Charlie Bravo recalls the process: “When Castro’s goons caught me with a Led Zeppelin record, they led me to a stairway alright—but at bayonet-point and this stairway hardly led to Heaven. Instead, it led down into a dark jail cell.”
On the orders of Jimmy Page’s smiling hosts, Charlie was joined by tens of thousands of Cuban youths. A few years earlier, the hundreds of Soviet KGB and East German STASI (“consultants”), who flooded Cuba in the early 60s, found an extremely eager acolyte in Che Guevara. By the mid-60s the crime of a “rocker” lifestyle—long hair, blue jeans, etc.–or effeminate behavior got thousands of youths yanked off Cuba’s streets by secret police and dumped in prison camps with the words: “Work Will Make Men Out of You” emblazoned above the front gate, and men with machine guns posted on the watchtowers. The initials for these camps were UMAP, not GULAG, but the conditions were quite similar.
Today, the world’s largest image of Jimmy Page’s souvenir icon, Guevara, adorns Cuba’s headquarters for its KGB-trained secret police, a gang of Communist sadists who jailed and tortured at a rate higher than Stalin’s own KGB and GRU. Many of their victims were guilty of the crime of listening to music by Jimmy Page. Is Page unaware of these inconvenient facts of history? Or does he simply not care?