This guitar has words on it

Ransom Riggs

In the annals of rock history, sometimes it's what you write on your guitar, rather than with your guitar, that makes a lasting impression. The most famous example of this has to be Woody Guthrie's famous acoustic, on which he had scrawled "this machine kills fascists." I got to thinking about this two days ago, while standing amidst 65,000 sweaty Arcade Fire fans in 100 degree heat to watch The Arcade Fire headline the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival -- it was worth every droplet of sweat -- when bandleader Win Butler played several songs wearing a guitar on which he had emblazoned "sak vide pa kanpe." According to Wikipedia, it's a Haitian proverb meaning "an empty sack cannot stand" in Creole, apparently a reference to extreme poverty in Haiti, the country of origin of Butler wife and bandmate, Régine.

Other guitar-borne messages you might find interesting:

"¢ Sheryl Crow has performed several times with "NO WAR" written on her guitar.

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"¢ The guitar player for indie rock outfit Explosions in the Sky was detained briefly in 2003 at an Amsterdam airport when authorities discovered he had "This plane will crash tomorrow" scrawled on his guitar. Creepy story: the band released their album, which featured strangely elegiac artwork of an angel casting a beam of light toward a biplane in a red-orange sky (pictured). The kicker: the album was released on September 10, 2001.
"¢ There have been a number of parodies/tributes to Guthrie's "fascists" guitar over the years. Singer David Rovics toured with a guitar on which was written "this guitar kills CEOs" (in support of his album Halliburton Boardroom Massacre); singer Cameron Gill wrote "this machine kills hipsters" on his axe; and the mohawked guitarist of The Bicycles sports a guitar with "this machine kills fashions" written on it.

Below: Win Butler of The Arcade Fire smashes his be-messaged guitar on Saturday Night Live.