Throughout R.E.M.’s career, its members sought to highlight social and political issues. According to the Los Angeles Times, R.E.M. was considered to be one of the United States’ “most liberal and politically correct rock groups“.
The band’s members were “on the same page” politically, sharing a liberal and progressive outlook. Mike Mills admitted that there was occasionally dissension between band members on what causes they might support, but acknowledged “Out of respect for the people who disagree, those discussions tend to stay in-house, just because we’d rather not let people know where the divisions lie, so people can’t exploit them for their own purposes.“. An example would be when Peter Buck noted that Michael Stipe was involved with P.E.T.A., but the rest of the band were not.
R.E.M. helped raise funds for environmental, feminist and human rights causes, and were involved in campaigns to encourage voter registration. Through the late 1980s and 1990s, the band increasingly used its media coverage on national TV to mention a variety of causes they felt were important. One example is when the band attended the 1991 MTV VMAs, during which Stipe wore a half-dozen white shirts emblazoned with slogans including “rainforest”, “love knows no colors”, and “handgun control now”.
From the late 1980s, R.E.M. was involved in the local politics of its hometown of Athens, Georgia. Buck explained to Sounds in 1987, “Michael always says think local and act local—we have been doing a lot of stuff in our town to try and make it a better place.”. The band often donated funds to local charities and to help renovate and preserve historic buildings in the town.
Memphis Train Blues