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The Nightwatchman is the alter-ego and solo act of Rage Against the Machine, ex-Audioslave and Street Sweeper Social Club guitarist Tom Morello, which he created in 2003 as an outlet for his political views while playing non-political music with Audioslave.
Morello created the identity of The Nightwatchman, to offer the public a pseudo-Bob Dylan of the 21st century when a desire to return to political activism in his music struck him in 2003, after over a year of playing non-activist rock in Audioslave. Morello describes The Nightwatchman as "the black Robin Hood of 21st century music" and "a reaction against illicit wars, a reaction against first strikes, torture, secret prisons, spying illegally on American citizens. It's a reaction against war crimes, and it's a reaction against a few corporations that grow rich this illicit war while people beg for food in the city streets." More specifically, he later elaborated that the format was inspired by long-time activist Billy Bragg. Morello first saw him performing at a concert c. 1994, playing "fearlessly" before a crowd of 8,000 people in a tent alongside big-name rock bands of the time. The Nightwatchman first began playing political acoustic folk music in a Los Angeles coffeehouse before a small crowd, and soon after went on Billy Bragg's Tell Us the Truth tour.
“ "The Nightwatchman is my political folk alter ego. I've been writing these songs and playing them at open mic nights with friends for some time. This is the first time I've toured with it. When I play open mic nights, it's announced as The Nightwatchman. There will be kids there who are fans of my electric guitar playing, and you see them there scratching their heads." ”

—Tom Morello

The Tell Us the Truth tour was supported by unions, environmental and media reform groups including Common Cause, Free Press and A.F.L.-C.I.O. with the ultimate goal of "informing music fans, and exposing and challenging the failures of the major media outlets in the United States." He has compared The Nightwatchman to Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. He initially had no plans to record, but later recorded the song "No One Left" for Songs and Artists that Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11. In The Festival of Bonnaroo in 2007 The Nightwatchman performed Guerilla Radio to protest George W. Bush.

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