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LEBANON: A rockin' American messenger of 'peace and love'

July 11, 2008 |  8:54 am

Pattismith

This time, the U.S. envoy to Lebanon was not a politician or a security official but a messenger of "peace and love" straight from the world of American rock.

Coming to Lebanon to sing for the "regeneration" of the city of Beirut and to voice her rejection to war, the U.S. singer and poet Patti Smith performed this week in Lebanon a mixture of antiwar and rebellion songs, including "Because the Night", "Gloria" and "Helpless."

The celebrated 1970s rock icon turned political activist performed near the old Phoenician port at the opening of the Byblos music festival, one of numerous music events taking place this summer in Lebanon after violence has subsided in the country and tourists have started to flood in again.

"To all mothers and children who lost children, all unnecessarily in war, which seems to me in our time something we can make obsolete," Smith said before dazzling the audience with "Qana."

The song is pointedly political. It's about the children who died in an Israeli air strike on a Lebanese village during the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Here are some excerpts:

There's no one in the village, not a human nor a stone... Children are gone and a mother rocks herself to sleep. Let it come down, let her weep… Some stayed buried, others crawled free... Little bodies, tied head and feet, wrapped in plastic, laid out in the street… The new Middle East… The dead lay in strange shapes… Wine to blood, Oh Qana, the miracle is love.

At one point, Smith wore a kaffiyeh, a scarf with black and white patterns that has become a symbol of the Palestinian upheaval.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Credit: Patti Smith performs in Byblos, Lebanon. Credit: Associated Press

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