To millions, he’s Rage Against The Machine’s (and Audioslave’s) Harvard educated, Grammy Award winning rock n’ roll God on a powerful social activist mission. To others, he’s the founder of one of the greatest hip hop rock duos, Street Sweeper Social Club. To his alter-ego, he’s The Nightwatchman. And to two, Tom Morello is simply daddy.
TOM MORELLO comes from a rich history. He’s the grandnephew of Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya’s first elected president) — and he is the son of Mary Morello, an influential schoolteacher and a crusader in the anti-censorship campaign (Parents for Rock and Rap). Coming from a bloodline of extreme intelligence, political alertness — and human and Constitutional rights campaigning, Morello has been fighting injustices pervasively insinuated throughout the human race. He has been doing it for over 30 years — and on a loud, musical platform.
Morello has been a gift to the mass – using his musical art to serve as a vocal messenger for the 99% who reside on the lower rungs of the world’s population — those without the power to belt out visible cries when their realities of relentless inequalities and injustices surface. His message has generated solidarity among our citizens and educational meat for our youth. And his method of delivery and its kick-ass, memorable and recognizable heavy riffs have garnered multiple Grammy Awards along the way. His teachings and his fights are deemed and demonized as militant, radical and socialist to entitled Corporate America; and to the rest of us — it’s been pure sonic bliss.
Bred how he’s been bred, it is no surprise that Morello carries with him a sturdy moral fabric and an innate responsibility to serve. He has always stood up for the heavy underdogs, whether it’s been labor workers, various proletariats ( — or The Chicago Cubs).
Today, he has two heavy loads on his plate: to leave a better world for his boys and to raise two strong union men. And he intends on doing so through strong parenting.
Morello is who he is today – someone with an unquantifiable level of moral code and human success – likely because of the way he was reared. And now that he and his wife Denise have produced a succeeding generation – we can bet their DNAed integrity will be transferred down. Kids mimic adults — and their parents in particular.
And what is Morello’s constructive blueprint on doing so? LET’S ASK HIM.
How would you define a successful child and a successful adult?
I would say that a successful child is one that is confident that they are loved. That is above all us. I don’t think it has anything to do with academics or behavioral markers. Simply a child that takes for granted that they are emotionally safe in knowing they are loved and cared for.
And how do you plan on doing that?
First and foremost, it’s being present. I had tremendous love and support from my mom and her side of the family. I didn’t meet my father until I was 34 years old — so with my kids, I’m trying to make up for that — make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself in that regard. I prioritize THEM. And, sometimes that means turning down work, being extra tired; but when they ask, “Daddy, can we do BLANK with you?” – the answer is always yes. Like I know I’m busy or in the studio – but you know what? You’re only four once. And I want them to have that confidence that they know that they’re the most important thing to me.
And how would you define a successful adult?
I think is someone who lives authentically. It has nothing to do with finances or career or education or anything; it’s someone who is able to be the person they feel they were meant to me.
What would you say are 3 values you intend to teach your boys? And how do you plan on doing it?
Well the great surprise of parenting is that your children teach YOU values. It’s the other way around more often than not. But one thing I think as a parent you have to be conscious of — is that while you can try and instill morals and values – they’re their own people. They’re not pets or projects. They’re individuals who are going to shape their own destiny. So you do your best to try and model..rather than telling them they must be Presbytarian or must fight for human rights — you MODEL that.
As far as 3 values, I would hope that they were KIND. I would hope that they were FIERCE in PROTECTING THE UNDERDOG and I would hope that they were OF INDEPENDENT SPIRIT.
What would you say are your guiding words on making your kids proud of their heritage and culture?
hmm…well, my kids are of diverse heritage. It’s only been in the last year or 18 months….I’m not sure what what age you’re supposed to start teaching kids about civil rights. Because they’re part African but light skinned – it’s been important for us to instill the richness of their heritage. They’re Kenyan, they’re Italian, a litte French. To understand the important stories of the people who came before them. I don’t just emphaize that their relative was Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya’s first president), I emphasize that their great grandfather was a piano player. and that their great grandmother was a nurse and that their grandmother was a teacher. The mosaic of lives and experiences of their family. I think it’s important that they know all the stories. From the sucesses and the failures and the richness of their history. Not just the glossier highlights.
How do you juggle hands on parenting with your career?
Well everyone has different circumstances and one thing you have to be careful of is sometimes “celebrities” talk about what great parents they are because they have the finances to be home with the kids as opposed to those who provide for their kids by going to work 12 hours a day. How do I prioritize? I’ve greatly curtailed my touring because I just don’t want to be away from them. And I look at it through my own prism. I went 34 years without seeing my father and these kids, I am INTERWOVEN into every day. It’s just a choice and it means making financial and career sacrifices. And personal sacrifices. But I am blessed to be able to make those choices. To have that tactile contact with the kids every day.
And you’ll coach Little League?
I am living my DREAM. My first and greatest aspiration was to be a baseball player – not a musician. And now I play baseball everyday – and they look so cute in their uniform! The other parents in the league…. I am shaming the other dads, because we pretty much have Tee-ball practice everyday. We have more hours on the field!
You’re TIGER WOODSING them already![laughs] EXACTLY. It’s so richly satisfying. I try and have a lot of unstructured play time. I also try and do stuff like daddy’s adventure club, go around the yard and try and find 5 different kinds of leaves — or 2 things that they don’t know what they are. Or go hiking and look for coyote trails. Daddy’s sports class which covers baseball and basketball. Daddy’s music class, photography class. Scheduled things that they sometimes like or don’t like. But almost every day we have an activity of just them and dad!
Always, with powerful, humble and energizing words …..Thank you, TOM!
GET EXCITED MORELLOIAN ADHERENTS: HE IS CURRENTLY IN THE STUDIO WORKING ON A BIG ROCK SOLO RECORD.
AND STAY TUNED READERS. In the coming weeks we have an interview on parenting with our next RAD DAD, SIR SIDNEY POITIER!