Mike Stout is a socially conscious singer/songwriter and community leader. Over a thirty-year period Stout has lead crusades against local and global economic injustice rallying people with his music and organizing them to take action. His songs illustrate social inequalities and call on people to act against them. Mike Stout began his musical career in New York City in 1968 playing his protest songs at Café Wha, the Bitter End, the Gaslight and Gerde’s Folk City. In 1977 he came to Pittsburgh and found a living as a steelworker at the late great Homestead Works. Joining the union he quickly rose to become its head grievance man and he fought for the rights of thousands Homestead steelworkers. Using his guitar, voice, music, and rhythmic verses he rallied his co-workers at union meetings. Together they challenged the corporate attorneys and won more than $12 million in lost wages, severance pay, pensions, unemployment benefits and trade adjustment settlements for about 3,000 displaced workers.
With the devastating closings of dozens of Western Pennsylvanian mills in the 1980’s, Mike led the way in seeking aid for the thousands of displaced and disenfranchised steelworker families. His group’s activist protests against home foreclosures and the investments of Western Pennsylvania financial institutions and corporations in foreign manufacturing plants were controversial and resulted in arrests. But these acts drew international attention to the plight the steelworkers and led to the granting of community and government aid. With thousands of families losing unemployment benefits and facing foreclosure, Mike along with 4 or 5 other activists and 60’s rockers organized a benefit rock concert that drew the attention of CBS, NBC, the AP, UPI and the international press. With the funds raised by the concert several community food banks were established and they laid the foundation for the formation of the Great Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Mike also led the formation of other organizations that help the poor and now serves on the boards of Just Harvest, the Steel Valley Authority and Battle of Homestead Foundation, and Pennsylvanians United For Single-Payer Health Care (PUSH).
After the mill closings, Mike picked up his guitar and started writing songs. He has recorded 10 CDs in the last 12 years and has performed across the United States and Europe. In 2002 Mike traveled to the coal and steel regions of Poland and Germany to meet with union activists and performed at several large music festivals. He carried his guitar and his anti-globalization message to Silesia and the Ruhr where workers are also feeling the effects of global restructuring. In 2003, 2005 and 2007 he performed at the Whitsun Youth Festival in Germany for thousands, and toured 6 German cities in 2005 and 2007. Thousands in Europe who believe in his message have purchased his CDs. He performs frequently at labor conventions, rallies, and picket lines. Mike’s working class-consciousness has broadened to concerns for global spirituality and compassion.
Mike’s latest 11-song CD, Break the Chains, continues his messages denouncing war and violence, his love for the Appalachian Mountains, sounding the alarm about global warming, and hailing the heroes and heroines of American working class struggles for justice.
Mike Stout draws on his solid history of successful activism to call us to action. He has been called “the World’s Grievance Man”.
Concert Preview: Stout of heart -- and opinion
Friday, March 19, 2004
By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mike Stout doesn't beat around the Bush. He's mad as hell about the war in Iraq, and he's not gonna take it anymore.
On his eighth politically charged, self-released album, the 54-year-old Pittsburgher wages a shock and awe campaign that he calls "War and Resistance." The opening salvos will be launched tomorrow in a CD release party with activist singer-songwriter Anne Feeney at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.
There's nothing subtle about Stout's approach to songwriting, no middle ground in his leftist ideology. In the Woody Guthrie tradition, his songs reflect contemporary issues without resorting to journalism. They're more like partisan op-ed columns that grab political opponents by the throat and don't let go.
"I think the trick to doing it like an op-ed piece is to not preach," says Stout. "You tell the story from the heart, not from the head. Whether the issue is the war or unemployment or social justice, you make [the song] a hard-hitting piece that people can relate to from the heart."
Stout fleshes out his editorial opinions with a band of brothers who have for decades waged war against local musical timidness. Co-produced by Fred Nelson, former guitarist for Pittsburgh's raunchiest hair band, Triple X, recording sessions at Soundscape Studios included Triple X drummer Chris Procopio, The Granati Brothers' Hermie Granati and jazz saxophonist Robbie Klein.
"This album was a major breakthrough for me," says Stout. "The musicians came in with their artistic visions and helped to reinforce what I was trying to say.
"Rachel Corrie," written for the American social activist who was run over by an Israeli vehicle in the process of knocking down a Palestinian house, reflects in music what Stout says in words. "I think it's a solemn song," he says, "a folk requiem. That's why I used violins and cellos."
While "Homestead Town" was co-produced by Nelson and Matt Herrington with a homespun bluegrass ambiance, much of the music explodes with bunker-busting fury equal to Stout's lyrics.
"I think people [at the show] can expect to hear a lot of truth and have a good time," he says. "Part of the time it will be quiet and laid back, but I'm gonna rock their socks off, too, because I have some of the best musicians in town playing with me."
Blue-collar rocker sings with cause in his heart
Saturday, June 23, 2001 By Scott Mervis, Weekend Editor, Post-Gazette
There are a lot of guys out there who pass themselves off as blue-collar rockers, but Mike Stout is unquestionably the real thing.
The singer-songwriter, who releases his new CD, "Working Infinity ... Love from the Bottom," at the Club Cafe tonight, was not only a steel worker for 10 years, but he also was the last grievance chairman at the Homestead Works. In that role, he fought to win more than $10 million in lost wages, pensions and other benefits for 3,000 displaced workers.
At the same time, this self-proclaimed musical lobbyist, who played the folk clubs in New York in the late '60s, was writing issue-oriented songs and performing them at picket lines, rallies and labor conventions.
On his fifth album, Stout remains as topical as the headlines. "Phila-POSH and Moran" is a folk-rock song that addresses the Right to Know law, calling for workers to be informed of what chemicals they are using on the job. "Armies of the Working Class Poor" is an attack on retail companies that sell products made in sweatshops.
Songs like "I Will Be There" and "The Day Has Come" are working-class anthems in the Tom Joad mode.
"I'm always trying to promote different ways of doing things," says Stout, who now works at the employee-run Steel Valley Printers. "I don't think the same old ways work, and I'm trying to promote the peace and labor movement and the justice movement.
"I don't care what movement you are, guerrillas in some foreign country or Martin Luther King, if you don't talk about the poor, you don't talk about the bottom, you'll never pull society forward. I try to reflect that in my music."
Stout, an avowed Springsteen fanatic who saw the Boss eight times on the last tour, sings with gritty passion and is backed by an all-star local lineup, including Reb Beach (Winger, Alice Cooper), producer/guitarist Buddy Hall, B.E. Taylor, Kenny Blake, Pete Hewlett and Jeff Thurston.
Tonight's record release party is a benefit for the "living wage" campaign, which would require employers awarded city contracts to pay workers at least $9.12 an hour. It was approved by City Council and is about to go before County Council.
It's the latest in a long line of causes that Stout has adopted. And the issues never stop coming. He says that with the global concerns rising to the surface now and the new administration in the White House, "I don't think I'm going run out of material anytime too soon."
Official website: http://www,mikestoutmusic.com/