Why Don't Entertainers Perform for Prisoners Anymore?
Updated: Dec 5, 2021
I was watching the last episode of season 13's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia when the character Mac McDonald performed a powerful interpretive dance for his Father in prison to convey that he was coming out as gay.
As the credits rolled, I realized that I was only watching a TV show, but I wondered aloud, Why don't entertainers perform for prisoners anymore?
I didn't know the answer. Before the Sunny Episode, I believed that performers in the 50's and 60's used to perform at prisons all the time, but I could only come up with Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison as the sole example that I could recall.
So I googled List of Performances at Prisons. and an article at Paste Magazine came up.
10 Performances at Prisons That Matter
1. Johnny Cash 1968
2. Glen Sherley 1971
3. B.. B. King 1971
4. Jerry Garcia and John Kahn 1982
5. The Cramps 1978
6. Black Uhuru 1982
7. The Sex Pistols 1977
8. Binary Star 1990's
9. Frank Sinatra and Count Basie 1960's
10. Fugazi 1990
Now the article was from 2016 (and much longer and more thorough), but other than Binary Star, who met at the penitentiary themselves, its been over 30 years since that Fugazi show.
So I then googled Social Justice Concert at Prison
First Result? March 27-31, 2017
Apparently Common has had multiple concerts at prisons over the past few years.
As I did more research, the question came up between recording in prison vs. using prison as an aesthetic...
You know what? I changed my mind. I guess I put a new fold in my brain, but right now it's time for bed. I am afraid that the long answer is that most artists just pretend to care about certain aspects of social justice, but they don't care at all.
If that really is the answer, I don't think I want to know that.