Devo singer and bassist Gerald 'Jerry' Casale, pictured performing at CBGB Music and Film Festival in New York City on 12 October 2014. Photo: Getty Images

By Gerald V. Casale
6 December 2018

(Noisey) – In 2018, 15 years after becoming eligible, Devo was nominated for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. The honorees will be announced a week from today. I was immediately struck by the timing of our sudden recognition: When Devo formed more than 40 years ago, we never dreamed that two decades into the 21st century, everything we had theorized would not only be proven, but also become worse than we had imagined. For me, Devo has been a long journey littered with broken dreams, but the nomination compelled me to put things in perspective. I know that many are called but few are chosen.

Forty-eight years ago, on 4 May 1970, as a member of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), I was front and center being fired on by my fellow Americans in the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University, as we peacefully protested President Nixon’s expansion of the cancerously unpopular Vietnam War into Cambodia without an act of Congress. I was lucky and dodged the bullet, both literally and figuratively, but four students were killed, and nine more were seriously wounded by the armed, mostly teenaged, National Guard troops. Two of the four students killed, Alison Krause and Jeffery Miller, were close acquaintances of mine. Less than a year earlier, as an Admissions/Curriculum counselor to incoming students, I had admitted them to the Honors College program.

May 4 changed my life, and I truly believe Devo would not exist without that horror. It made me realize that all the Quasar color TVs, Swanson TV dinners, Corvettes, and sofa beds in the world didn't mean we were actually making progress. It meant the future could be not only as barbaric as the past, but that it most likely would be. The dystopian novels 1984, Animal Farm, and Brave New World suddenly seemed less like cautionary tales about the encroaching fusion of technological advances with the centralized, authoritarian power of the state, and more like subversive road maps to condition the intelligentsia for what was to come.

As I started working with my Kent State poet friend, Bob Lewis, a philosophy emerged, fueled by the revelations that linear progress in a consumer society was a lie. Things were not getting better. There were no flying cars and domed cities, as promised in Popular Science; rather, there was a dumbing down of the population engineered by right-wing politicians, televangelists, and Madison Avenue. I called what we saw “De-evolution,” based upon the tendency toward entropy across all human endeavors. Borrowing the tactics of the Mad Men-era of our childhood, we shortened the name of the idea to the marketing-friendly “Devo.” We were not left-wing politicos. We were more informed by Jungian principles of duality in human nature, and we realized human flaws spread out across the political spectrum. Hence: “We’re All Devo,” an idea from which we did not exempt ourselves. [more]

We Are Drowning in a Devolved World: An Open Letter from Devo

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