Sue Jeffers' dad probably had no idea what he was starting when he gave his daughter a copy of Abbie Hoffman's Soon To Be a Major Motion Picture as a high school graduation present.
Ohio native Jeffers hails from the historically significant city of Kent, drives a hybrid car, puts a lot of time and energy into her local peace coalition, and has recorded five albums on her own label, FBI Records. While many of her songs focus on political and social ills, she also writes about affairs of the heart and other everyday topics that all music fans can relate to, no matter what their party affiliation. And despite her focus on activism, she emphasizes that she is a musician first.
"I do find music is a good way to communicate with folks that might not otherwise listen to me if I just gave a speech," she says, "but music is more part of who I am, and I just can't imagine not singing or playing. The music isn't just a vehicle to get out a message."
However, the music and the message have been intertwined her entire life. Piano lessons began at age five, and guitar in fourth grade, and shortly afterwards, her fundraising efforts for UNICEF put her on the organization's float with a crown on her head in a hometown parade. As a high school student, she helped get a levy passed before heading off to college as a flute major.
Her life has been nonstop ever since. She still manages to hold down a day job (to pay for the hybrid car) while playing between 50 to 100 shows a year. Her music has been included on compilation albums by Indiegrrl and the 1999 Musicians For Peace project.
And like many passionate activists, Jeffers has been cuffed, booked, and locked up. While protesting President Reagan's "star wars" program in front of Cleveland's NASA building in the 80s, she was one of 21 activists arrested. While in the holding cell, she kept up everyone's spirits with an impromptu rendition of a bluegrass anti-nuke song that turned into a cell-wide square dance. When the cops dragged her to a smaller cell away from the others, she just sang louder. Then they made the mistake of putting her in a cell with a telephone.
"We called a couple of newspapers and TV stations," Jeffers remembers, "and then started singing again until the residents down a ways suggested we shut up so they could go back to sleep!"
Her voice will not be silenced. She was banned from one Open Mic because of her views, but she finds more doors open to her because of her determination to sing her mind. Her tour schedule includes peace rallies, Earth Day celebrations, and more coffeehouses then she can keep track of.
Of her most recent album, One Man's Ceiling is Just Another One's Door, the Stonewall Society wrote: "Not any sort of repeat of other artists' style or work. Sue Jeffers owns her music in the traditional style of those she is influenced by. And she does them both honor and growth."
Jeffers manages to avoid burnout by reaching out to those she inspires. "We have a pretty good group of folks here in Kent who support and keep each other going," she says proudly. "It helps to organize with loved ones."
Besides, failure is not an option. "Just like I can't imagine not doing music," she adds, "I can't imagine not singing out."
Catch up on projects both political and musical at www.fbirecords.com.
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