It is September 12, 2000. The atmosphere inside Los Angeles’ Grand Olympic Auditorium is electric. Inside, thousands of people have gathered to witness local heroes Rage Against The Machine play the first of two sold-out shows. There’s however, a strange feeling in the air too. Rumors abound that Rage are about to split, and that these gigs will be their last. And considering the widely reported internal tensions that frequently surrounded the band, the possibility that the word on the street was true simply can’t be ignored.
All told, after months of speculation, the most groundbreaking, incendiary and politically-driven band of the 1990’s finally ground to an inglorious halt.
Pundits point to the group’s revolutionary DNA as reason the split was eventually inevitable. According to Slate, Both vocalist Zack de la Rocha and guitarist Tom Morello were the sons of interracial couples who divorced not long after their birth, and both were raised by their white mothers in conservative white suburbs during the Reagan years. De la Rocha was struck by the disparity between the prosperity of white Orange County and the poverty of Hispanic East Los Angeles, where his father, a Chicano artist, lived and worked.
Meanwhile Morello, whose Kenyan ambassador father disappeared from his life before he could walk, was raised in the Chicago suburb of Libertyville before attending Harvard and moving to Los Angeles, where he worked, for a time, as a male stripper. Both young men were, through their fathers, related to actual revolutionaries: De la Rocha’s grandfather fought in the Mexican Revolution while Morello’s great-uncle was Jomo Kenyatta, the leader of the Kenyan independence movement. He is therefore current Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta’s cousin.
Tom Morello is best known for his unique and creative guitar playing style, which incorporates feedback noise, unconventional picking and tapping as well as heavy use of guitar effects. He is also revered for leftist political views and activism. Rolling Stone magazine has ranked him number 40 in the Magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.