Tom Morello’s Upbringing:
Tom Morello, the lead guitarist for Rage Against the Machine
and Audioslave, was born May 30, 1964, in Harlem, New York. His mother is a white American teacher and activist, and his father was a Kenyan who fought for the country’s independence from the British. Raised in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, he picked up the guitar at age 17, inspired by his love of punk and metal.
Rage Against the Machine:
After graduating from Harvard
, Morello briefly joined the band Lock Up. But by the end of the ‘80s, Lock Up and Morello had parted ways. Morello quickly teamed up with singer Zack de la Rocha, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk to form Rage Against the Machine, one of the premier protest bands of the 1990s. It was with Rage that Morello become famous for his furious scratch-style guitar solos, a canny mixing of hip-hop and metal. Morello’s expressive, combative guitar was able to replicate the sounds of wailing harmonicas and turntables – indeed, his instrument proved as defiant as de la Rocha’s cadences.
After Rage Against the Machine went on hiatus in the wake of Zack de la Rocha’s departure, Morello (along with Commerford and Wilk) joined forces with Chris Cornell, formerly of Soundgarden
, to become Audioslave. Although they had the usual strengths and weaknesses of any supergroup
– instant name recognition but an air of familiarity – Audioslave managed to make three commercially successful albums. Morello continued to refine the distinctive guitar phrasing that helped make Rage so memorable, but Cornell’s interest in moody mid-tempo songs served as an interesting counterpoint to his thrash-heavy style.
Axis of Justice:
Around the same time as Audioslave’s formation, Morello got involved in a non-music project as well. With System of a Down
frontman Serj Tankian, Morello organized Axis of Justice, a nonprofit whose mission, according to its website, “is to bring together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice.” Axis of Justice has organized protests, concerts, rallies and walkouts to promote the group’s agenda.
Since the collapse of Audioslave after their 2005 album, Morello has remained involved in music. Creating an alter ego named the Nightwatchman, Morello recorded his first solo album, One Man Revolution
, in 2007. As opposed to the guitar-driven hard rock for which he’s known, the Nightwatchman is acoustic-based folk music that recalls Bob Dylan
’s earliest protest songs. His second album, The Fabled City
, came out in September 2008.
Key Tom Morello Songs:
“Bulls on Parade” (with Rage Against the Machine)
“Testify” (with Rage Against the Machine)
“Cochise” (with Audioslave)
“Set It Off” (with Audioslave)
Tom Morello Discography (as the Nightwatchman)
One Man Revolution (2007)
The Fabled City (2008)
Tom Morello Trivia:
- After graduating from Harvard, Morello worked in Senator Alan Cranston’s office before pursuing music as a career.
- Tom Morello has many similarities to Barack Obama. Both men have white mothers and Kenyan fathers, they both attended Harvard and have spent time living in Illinois.
- He has appeared in two of director Jon Favreau’s films, Iron Man and Made, and had brief cameos in Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Voyager.