photo by Mike Machian
words by Michael Todd
Dr. John Walker is an Okie from Nebraska.
Born and raised in Oklahoma, the longtime Lincoln musician first left his home state after completing his undergraduate degree, and he earned the title of “Dr.” at Brown University, an Ivy League school. The philosophy professor would eventually move to Lincoln, where he’d teach for 33 years at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
But perhaps more importantly for this story, Dr. John Walker earned the title of “legendary Nebraska musician” through his more than 40 years and counting of playing music. He first found folk music through songwriters and protest singers like Pete Seeger, and as he admitted in the Build Our Energy barn, his own protest song about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline was inspired by another musical touchstone, Merle Haggard: “The melody is a blatant ripoff of ‘Okie from Muskogee.'”
Walker wrote “Windmills Not Oil Spills in the Sandhills” for a concert at the Zoo Bar in August 2011 with speaker Randy Thompson, the Nebraska rancher who has served as a symbol for one of the cause’s mottoes “I Stand with Randy.”
“I live on the earth. I have descendants who are going to live on the earth,” Walker says. “[The proposed pipeline] just strikes me as horrendous, and it’s something I viscerally respond to.”
He chose the song as one of two to record for Stopping the Pipeline Rocks, a benefit album powered by renewable energy and a record produced to fight the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Order your copy of the benefit album here, and watch the first video released from the sessions below:
Michael Todd is Hear Nebraska’s managing editor. He’s proud to be a Nebraskan from Alliance. Reach him at email@example.com.