Thomas Baptiste “Tom” Morello (born May 30, 1964) is an American musician, singer-songwriter and political activist. He is best known for his tenure with the band Rage Against the Machine and then with Audioslave. As of 2016, Morello is a member the supergroup Prophets of Rage. Morello was also a touring musician with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. He is also known for his acoustic solo act called The Nightwatchman, and Street Sweeper Social Club. Morello is also the co-founder (along with Serj Tankian) of the non-profit political activist organization Axis of Justice, which airs a monthly program on Pacifica Radio station KPFK (90.7 FM) in Los Angeles.
Born in Harlem, New York, and raised in Libertyville, Illinois, Morello became interested in music and politics while in high school. He attended Harvard University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies. After his previous band Lock Up disbanded, Morello met Zack de la Rocha, and the two founded Rage Against the Machine together. The group went on to become one of the most popular and influential rock acts of the 1990s.
The Nightwatchman is the alter-ego and solo act of American musician Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Street Sweeper Social Club and former Audioslave). Morello began performing as the Nightwatchman in 2003 as an outlet for his political views while he was playing apolitical music with Audioslave.
Morello created the identity of The Nightwatchman, inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joad album, when a desire to return to political activism in his music struck him in 2003, after over a year of playing non-activist rock in Audioslave. Morello describes The Nightwatchman as “the black Robin Hood of 21st century music” and “a reaction against illicit wars, a reaction against first strikes, torture, secret prisons, spying illegally on American citizens. It’s a reaction against war crimes, and it’s a reaction against a few corporations that grow rich [off] this illicit war while people beg for food in the city streets.” More specifically, he later elaborated that the format was inspired by long-time social and political activist/musician Billy Bragg. Morello first saw him performing at a concert c. 1994, playing “fearlessly” before a crowd of 8,000 people in a tent alongside big-name rock bands of the time. The Nightwatchman first began playing political acoustic folk musicin a Los Angeles coffeehouse before a small crowd, and soon after went on Billy Bragg’s Tell Us the Truth tour.
“The Nightwatchman is my political folk alter ego. I’ve been writing these songs and playing them at open mic nights with friends for some time. This is the first time I’ve toured with it. When I play open mic nights, I’m announced as The Nightwatchman. There will be kids there who are fans of my electric guitar playing, and you see them there scratching their heads.”
The Tell Us the Truth tour was supported by unions, environmental and media reform groups including Common Cause, Free Press and A.F.L.-C.I.O. with the ultimate goal of “informing music fans, and exposing and challenging the failures of the major media outlets in the United States.” His Nightwatchman persona has been compared to Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. He initially had no plans to record, but later recorded the song “No One Left” for Songs and Artists that Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11. At the Festival of Bonnaroo in 2007, The Nightwatchman performed “Guerilla Radio” to protest George W. Bush.
The Nightwatchman – One Man Revolution In February 2007, he announced a solo album, One Man Revolution, which was released on April 24, 2007 in the US and May 7 worldwide. The Nightwatchman’s first headlining gig was played June 17, 2007 at the House of Blues in Dallas, Texas. Morello has toured since the CD was released and said he plans to tour the U.S. again in the fall. After seeing an early screening of the Michael Moore film Sicko Morello wrote the song, “Alone Without You” which featured in closing credits of the film and also with a music video directed by Moore in the DVD release. The song was also made available as an iTunes bonus track for One Man Revolution. Morello toured in support of the album as the opening act for Ben Harper During this tour, Morello joined Harper onstage on several occasions for a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War”, on which he plays the electric guitar in the style for which he’s best known. Other prominent musicians who Morello shared the stage with during the One Man Revolution tour includes, Serj Tankian, Perry Farrell, Jon Forema.
The Nightwatchman – The Fabled City is the second studio album by The Nightwatchman, the alter ego of Tom Morello. It was released on September 30, 2008. The album was released under the Nightwatchman’s new full title: Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman.
The album The Fabled City was released on September 30, 2008. Two songs off the record, “Midnight in the City of Destruction” (about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina) and “King of Hell” (written about Guantanamo Bay), had previously been leaked on The Nightwatchman MySpace or performed during live sets.
“The template is half Dylan and half Hendrix. It’s going to be half acoustic and half electric. Not only will there be the no sell-out, acoustic, three chords and the truth part of the show, but also, with the band I put together called the Freedom Fighter Orchestra, there will be more insane electric playing than I’ve ever done with Rage or Audioslave because it’s not confined to a three-and-a-half-minute song”