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Watch: Ry Cooder Appears on PBS's "Tavis Smiley"; Talks with PRI's "Smiley & West" About "Election Special"

Ry Cooder: "Tavis Smiley," September 2012
Ry Cooder, whose latest album, Election Special, is a wake-up call as the 2012 US Presidential race is in full swing, was the guest on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS on Monday—fittingly, Labor Day—to discuss the new album, the specific stories behind some of its tracks, and the broader political and social climate that compelled him to create it. Watch the episode below.

"Some things you can’t so easily translate into song form," Cooder tells Smiley of the project, "but I feel that it’s an opportunity to make a point by showing an atmosphere or showing a character that can give you another point of view on things."

In the interview, Smiley references a recent New York Times article about the project, an interview between Cooder and Times writer James C. McKinley Jr., which you can read at

Cooder and Smiley continue the conversation about Election Special on the weekly PRI radio show Smiley & West. On that program, Cooder explains to Smiley and his co-host, Dr. Cornel West, how listening to an earlier segment on their show from late last year inspired him to write one of the tracks on the album, "Kool-Aid." Listen to the song and the complete conversation at

On Election Special, which he produced, Ry Cooder plays mandolin, guitar, and bass and wrote all of the songs, co-writing one with his son, Joachim Cooder, who plays drums on the record. Mojo gives it four stars, saying: "Ry has proved equal to the crying need of the times." The Guardian gives the album four stars as well, calling it "an entertaining, thoughtful and bravely original set." Rolling Stone, in its four-star review, exclaims: "A guitar great takes a shot at political satire and hits the mark."

To pick up a copy of Election Special, head to the Nonesuch Store, where, for a limited time, CD and vinyl orders include an exclusive campaign-style button and bumper sticker.

Watch Ry Cooder on Tavis Smiley here:

Watch Guitarist Ry Cooder on PBS. See more from Tavis Smiley.


Wake up Mr. President Obama ! Ry Cooder is a national treasure & deserves his due !

Great interview with the master. Many thanks.

We need more Ry Cooder in the world: well spoken, humble, generous, truthful, brilliant and brave.
Thanks Ry, thanks Nonesuch.

God bless Ry Cooder, who has always drawn the water from a deep well.

Well, there an't much water left in the well, well, well,.. BLESSINGS!!

even over here theworld seems to be in a dire state;
i doubt if barack obama can do a lot about it;
its the bankers shitstem...
some tracks of pull up some dust nail that just as well...
hmmm tracked a goya rangemaster...
allard van der starre

high class honesty from a master of his art-as always. steve shier.

I am a huge fan of Ry Cooder. Have nearly every one of his records on my music studio wall. I just wish he'd tour or do a concert of a retrospective of his work like UFO Has Landed, on Paladium.

I'd give ANYTHING to see him or meet him in person to thank him for all the great listening and enjoyment he's given me.

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