Cover of Evil Empire

From Evil Empire and 33 other releases

“Vietnow” was the final single for Rage Against the Machine’s Evil Empire album. Officially it is only the third single from the album, as “Down Rodeo” was a promo release only.

The cover photograph of an elderly lady seen from the back, carrying a boombox radio and walking down a mountain was taken by the Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide in the Sonoran Desert in 1979. The original photograph is called “Mujer Ángel” and has also appeared in the black-and-white photography book Canto a la Realidad: Fotografia Latinoamericana, 1860-1993 as compiled by Erika Billeter.

The song’s lyrics concern right-wing AM radio shows, hosted by people such as Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North and Michael Reagan. The verse riffs bear a resemblance to “The Wanton Song” by Led Zeppelin, whom Tom Morello has cited as a major influence.

“Vietnow” also contains numerous references to Christianity. Among these are “shut down the devil’s sound”, “undressed and blessed by the Lord”, “evil angel’s lists”, “is all the world jails and churches” and “your saviour’s my guillotine, crosses and kerosene”. Part of this is presumably due to the Christian right, and the abundance of right-wing radio show hosts.

The lyrics “is all the world jails and churches”, are perhaps influenced by the works of American novelist James Baldwin. Baldwin’s 1953 novel Go Tell It on the Mountain includes the character Roy Grimes arguing with his mother and commenting, “You think that’s all that’s in the world is jails and churches?” At least one of James Baldwin’s books is contained on Rage Against the Machine’s Evil Empire liner notes.

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Turn on tha radio, nah fuck it turn it off
Fear is your only god on the radio
Nah fuck it, turn it off
Turn it off, turn on tha radio, nah fuck it turn it off

MetroLyrics Full lyrics at MetroLyrics

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