Phish drummer Jon Fishman dedicated last Tuesday’s Episode 73 of his radio show, The Errant Path, to “the woman’s right to choose and the original outcome of the Roe v. Wade argument,” which established abortion as a constitutional right in the year 1973.

“In this episode,” which aired last week ahead of the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. I will be playing a lot of music which has the abortion issue front and center in its content and examines the issue from the point of view of how it affects women, how it affects men, [and] how it affects people of different socioeconomic status,” the politically active musician began before admitting, “This is definitely gonna be a political show. It’s gonna be an opinionated show, but here’s the thing, I know this is a super emotional issues for a lot of people, and I have a lot of emotions around it myself—I have experience with it myself, as do probably many listeners out there—and I’m not here to address it in an attacking way. I’m here to present my side of the argument, what I think is a solid pro-choice side of the argument. I’m just a musician in a band with a little conduit here to the public on my little show.”

He went on to acknowledge that he understands not everyone wants to hear his opinions, adding that nonetheless there is a time and place for music and art to become political.

Believe me, I know, there are many of you out there that would gladly say, “Well shut the f— up there drummer boy and just play your drums. We don’t wanna hear your opinions,” and you would be right. … Here’s the thing, though. Generally, I am big believer in the idea that there has to be room in this world for music for musics sake, and art for art’s sake, but sometimes an issue is important enough to us personally that we become willing to allow our art to express, perhaps in a more direct manner than usual, our feelings on the topic.  For me and obviously for most of the artists featured on tonight’s show, a woman’s right to choose is just such an issue.

He then expressed that his passion for the subject comes from a combination of his own experience and his concern for his three daughters.

I have put a lot of thought into it, and I really have heard the other side of the argument, and some, admittedly, have an initially compelling impact. However, in this show, through song and spoken word, I will try to make the argument that at the end of the day the rightest and fairest solution to this deeply divisive conundrum is to let the woman choose—not the state, not her husband, not her boyfriend, not God, not the church, not anyone else.

The songs featured throughout the program had varying degrees of relevance to the show’s theme. The first two songs were selected because the artists had “Roe” in their name. After playing a couple tracks, Fishman hopped back on the mic to address his audience. “This show is taking a decidedly pro Roe position,” he reiterated. “Roe Roe Roe your boat, not someone else’s boat.” He then took a minute to address some arguments for the pro-life, or “anti-choice” position, as he called it, reading a message he received after posting a pro-choice meme in which the writer said there could be no such thing as a safe abortion because two people are involved and one is always killed.

“I think all of the arguments about where life begins and all that are just all red herrings. It really just doesn’t matter. You’re either ending a pregnancy or not,” he began. He then argued against the notion that the law should privilege the unborn because they have no voice of their own, drawing a comparison to death row inmates.

Often they have no voice, they have no recourse … That is something where if you give that person a voice, you’re not taking it away from anybody else. By opposing a woman’s right to choose, you are. … [At] the end of the day, this way of thinking defeats the purpose of giving voice to the voiceless because by doing so this way, you’re just creating a different voiceless entity in the equation. You’re still gonna end up with one of them being voiceless. You’re just switching which one is voiceless, and that seems pointless.

After an impassioned monologue, Fishman apologized for going on so long, calling it the “longest voice break I’ve ever had.”

Next, he moved on to songs about “the effects of poverty on this issue” and “the role that religion plays in a lot of the debate.”

A lot of the argument and justification which tried to impose restrictions on woman’s healthcare from the outside could not happen without the role of religion. Religion allows for an end-around sometimes to reason and logic and allows double standards and hypocrisy to come into play in the justifications of things that the women in a lot of these songs are expressing frustration with, and men—we’re gonna get to the men later.

After playing songs including “La Femme Fetal” by Digable Planets, “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore, and “Just A Girl” by No Doubt, Fishman discussed how the male perspective has shaped the conversation around abortion, referencing a Boston Globe article that criticized several songs from the ’90s for coopting abortion as an issue of male dominance and masculinity. The drummer got extremely personal, sharing his own difficult experience accompanying his girlfriend to get an abortion.

“I held her hand and it was the hardest day of my life,” he said. He recounted how, like the men in the songs, he couldn’t help but make the experience about himself.

On that day, we were approaching the clinic … We’re walking to the clinic and I kind of had this attack of conscience or nervousness whatever it was, and I go ‘I don’t know if I can go through with this.’ And she looks at me and she goes, ‘You don’t know if you can go through with it?’ and that just sobered me right up. … As men, we get wrapped up in our feelings about it. In that little tiny moment I made it about me, mistakenly, and she brought me right out of it … so I supported her, and that was the right thing. … That experience left me feeling even more sure that at the end of the day, it has to be her choice. As a man, I’m never gonna be faced with that choice. I’m never gonna bear the consequences of it.”

After a few more songs including “Lost Ones” by J. Cole, “Penny Royal Tea” by Nirvana, and “The Mother” by Brandi Carlile, Fish concluded the program, which usually lasts two hours, after just one hour, citing the “heavy topic” as his reason for keeping things short. “Here’s to hoping for a more female future,” he said before signing off. “My name is Jonathan Fishman, this has been The Errant Path Episode 73 dedicated to Roe v. Wade.”

Listen to Episode 73 (and other episodes) of The Errant Path on Phish Radio via SiriusXM here. Catch new episodes of The Errant Path Tuesday evenings on SiriusXM Phish Radio (Ch. 29). Check out the list of songs played on Episode 73 below.

The Errant Path with Jon Fishman – Episode 73 (Roe v. Wade) – Song List

  1. “Fyah Bun Dem” – Da Fuchaman, Roe Delgado, Yam & Banana
  2. “Carmen Fantasy: Habanera” (arr. G. Anderson and E. J. Roe) – Anderson & Roe
  3. “Sally’s Pigeons” – Cyndi LAuper
  4. “Rosie Jane” – Malvina Reynolds
  5. “My Body Politic” – Caitlin Cary, Shirlette Ammons
  6. “The Pill” – Loretta Lynn
  7. “Play God” – Ani DiFranco
  8. “Bad Reputation” – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
  9. “La Femme Fetal” – Digable Planets
  10. “You Don’t Own Me” – Lesley Gore
  11. “F.D.K. (Fearless Doctor Killers)” – Mudhoney
  12. “Oasis” – Amanda Palmer
  13. “Just A Girl” – No Doubt
  14. “Lost Ones” – J. Cole
  15. “Pennyroyal Tea” – Nirvana
  16. “To Zion” – Ms. Lauryn Hill, Carlos Santana
  17. “The Mother” – Brandi Carlile
  18. “The Future is Female” – Madame Gandhi
View Song List