Monday, September 12, 2016


JoelhB53 left the following as a comment, but I think it's worthy of some prime air time.

Here's a conversation we can have ... at what point does a musician's odious political views make listening to him/her impossible? I just found out that Eno refused to allow an Israeli ballet troupe to use one of his songs because he hates Israel. Of course, my favorite opera composer is Richard Wagner, and my favorite choral piece is Carmina Burina. Both the Furher's faves!

And, America's second biggest asshole, Mike Love, deserves our disdain always.

I was once told in confidence that Chrissie Hynde was an anti-semite. I don't think I've reached for a Pretenders album since. But maybe it's because I only really love the first Pretenders album, so it isn't much of a loss.

When Ted Nugent's solo debut came out on Epic in 1975, I thought it was one of the best hard rock albums of the time and continued to love it until the late 80's. Then, I started paying attention. "Stranglehold" just doesn't cut it for me anymore. And last year, some friends and I got together to play some music, and we did a Nugent song, at the request of the guitar player. I didn't want to, but chose not to explain why and just played the damn thing.  I still have the debut record, by the way, but it's been relegated to storage, or what I call the minor leagues. (The major leaguers are in my home, nicely alphabetized on shelves.)

And while this example isn't quite on the same level, I once a read an interview with Graham Parker where he claimed he had never written a bad song. I had already been not listening to most of his 90's output due to more than a few "no bad songs," but that statement made me hate "Heat Treatment" for a year.



jeff said...

I’ve had this discussion with friends for years about Frank Sinatra, maybe the best vocalist ever, but perhaps not the world’s greatest human being, and John Lennon, who apparently had issues with Jews. Their music may be unsurpassed, but there’s always a part of me that attaches a warning to the sentiments they express.

But really what came to mind when I read the post were those who saw music as a vehicle for spreading righteous politics and their music suffered terribly for it. Jackson Browne comes to mind there. Some of his earliest political stuff was unlistenable, and when George Harrison started using his music as a kind of lecture pulpit not for Bangladesh but religion I became agnostic.

I remember interviewing Country Joe in the ‘90s. His fixin to die right rag was one of my favorite political songs, but he was into wrtiting about nurses during the Vietnam War at that time and he played me a song he had written about them. Oy, the horror.

Noam Sane said...

I'm done with Cat Stevens/Yusef Islam, have been for years. I don't want to hear his name(s), let alone his music, and I can't stay quiet when I someone mentions him to me, or online.

Rushdie had to basically live as a recluse for years, in fear of his life, and when Stevens - an artist himself! - was asked about the fatwa - when he was asked his opinion on killing a human being in response to his or her art - his response was: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

He's had multiple opportunities to clear this up, and to the best of my knowledge never has, though to me this is a one-strike-you're-out situation.

So yeah, hop on the Peace Train and go fuck yourself.

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

A very vexing topic. Off the top of my head, the ratio of well-adjusted artists to douche-y artists seems to be very lopsided in favor of douche. But then again, the douche-y behavior of others gets repeated in conversation more often than good behavior does. As the Bard noted "...the evil that men do lives after them while the good is oft interred with their bones."

I'm willing to cut some artists across the aisle miles of slack (Clint Eastwood) when it comes to politics, while giving others absolutely no leeway (Ted Nugent). On the other hand there are some fellow politcal travelers I wouldn't give the time of day to (lookin' at you Allan Konigsberg).

Here's one I've been struggling with over the last few years: Keith Richards. I've been a huge fan of his music and persona since....forever. But HIS douche-y behavior - slagging Mick, slagging Led Zeppelin, slagging the Beatles - has definitely put a chill on my thinking. (Keith, I know this probably upsets me and let's work it out).


Anonymous said...

Jeff reminded me indirectly of my Jackson Browne boycott. It started with the stories surrounding his abuse of a woman, then intensified when his people went after Joni Mitchell after she wrote a song based on the abuse.

Steve Stills' non-music related persona was an issue for me for a long time, but lately both he and I seem to have gotten over it.

Alan said...

It is hard to separate the artist from the art, but sometimes just necessary. Picasso the misogynist, Dali the fascist, Disney the creator of happy fascism, Dylan the misanthrope and ungrateful plagiarizer (see: Elliot, Ramblin' Jack), ... the more you know about professional athletes as people, the harder it is to watch sports, ... Chet Baker the asshole (heroin-fueled, but still), Lars Ulrich the whiny zillionaire, all the Hollywood Republicans (Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, Ahnold, et al., and if you go back a few years, the scumbags who testified against their friends to HUAC), ... the list, sadly, is inexhaustible. There is a line to be drawn somewhere, and we each do it. You hold your nose and listen/watch looking for transcendence in the art, until the person's shit becomes too much.

Shriner said...

Eh, an artist's politics -- I honestly do not care. Seriously -- I can disassociate the art from the artists when it comes to their political rantings (same with actors...). Liberal or Conservative -- I couldn't give a shit. Does it make my toe tap? Bring it on!

Racism -- is a bit iffy. I'm not going to listen to overly racist lyrics because the subject *really* doesn't appeal to me and would probably avoid the artist for fear it was in more of their work. I won't necessarily listen to Christian music either for the same reason.

But if the artist physically abuses women (Chris Brown, I'm looking *right at you*, you dick), that's a line I will draw and make a point to avoid them (and freely tell others they should do so as well!) You don't get a pass for beating a woman half to death.

That said, I tend not to go looking for the worst in people. If I didn't listen to music that objectified women, I'd probably have to toss out a huge chunk of my collection.

But yeah, Cat Stevens/Yusef Islam is an asshole. I've never forgiven him for that.

Michael Giltz said...

The better the art, the easier it is to ignore the artist making it.

Michael Giltz said...

No, I can't be that pithy. You always want to separate the artist from the art. Otherwise you'd go crazy crafting a personal morality/ethics or political litmus test. That way lies thinking the purity of Pete Seeger is always superior to the messiness of Bob Dylan. I just don't care about someone's personal ugliness/ethics/reprehensible behavior. Is Charles Manson's music really that good? I'd give it a spin. It's just a LOT easier to separate the two when someone is long dead (Wagner) of course or their offense minor. Even when it's not, I have no problem listening to Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam and celebrating the fact that his music is far superior and loving and all-embracing than the man. The joke's on him. And I am NOT getting rid of my "Joanie Loves Chachi: The Complete Series" DVD set.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I'm a little disappointed in Eno, but I have a harder time with Frankie, Johnny, and Ted.

I can never fully separate the artist from the art. You can't.

I can appreciate Sinatra, but I can't be a fan. I used to be a "John" guy, but now I'm with Macca.

Ted is a piece of shit, so he has completely negated any musical redemption.

I think I like SMiLE! best because Mike hated it. The only good thing Mike ever did was punch out Murry.

I admire anyone who manages to get by with any grace at all.

itsok2beright said...

I believe these artists can be broken into three categories.

1. Those artists who use their music as a vehicle to voice their protests and political beliefs, such as many of the Vietnam era artists. These musicians are willing to put their money where their mouths are, and deserve the most respect.

2. Those artists that write pop tunes and mass appeal songs, yet publicly go out and shoot their mouths off when nobody really cares about their opinions; Ted, Bruce, Chrissie Hynde, etc. These are actually the worst in my opinion, since they are not willing to risk their livelihood by writing political/protest songs, but will use their popularity to sway others political opinions. Yes, some of their songs can be protesting something, but most are mass appeal, high dollar songs.

3. Then there are the artists who quietly separate their personal life from their music. They may be closet racists, fascists, anarchists, or whatever, but they are private and do not use their popularity to throw it in your face, nor do they make it part of their music. I am on the fence with this group, since I wouldn't knowingly support one of them if their political/sexist/racist views are at complete odds with mine.

Sal Nunziato said...

"Those artists that write pop tunes and mass appeal songs, yet publicly go out and shoot their mouths off when nobody really cares about their opinions; Ted, Bruce, Chrissie Hynde, etc."


Not sure where to begin, so I'll keep it simple.

Don't you mean "you" don't care about their opinions? And also, can you give me examples of when Bruce has "shot his mouth off" without backing it up? I just can't accept lumping an artist who donates his time, sets up food banks at every one of his shows, and consistenty stays topical, whether you agree with his politics or not. The man supports veterans, the homeless. I mean, are you blaming him for writing songs with mass appeal? Nugent publicly stated he wanted to kill our president. This scum is the same as Bruce Springsteen?

jeff said...

hmm, bruce as a guy who just shoots his mouth off: after 9/11, The New York Times published short profiles of nearly every person killed in the attacks, and if the story mentioned that the person was a Springsteen fan, Bruce picked up the phone and called a surviving family member, just to comfort them and tell them how sorry he was. He did it with no fanfare; just because that's who he is. Then he wrote a quiet little song called "You're Missing," about one person missing another, and which I think captured the sense of loss better than just about anything written about what happened that day.

This is aside from a body of work that gives a voice and hope to people who feel they have none and who despite his enormous fame is still very connected to the world around him and the one from which he came.

itsok2beright said...

I see by mentioning Bruce, I touched a nerve. Well, it was many years ago, but so were many of the other comments in the responses to your question. But, during the Iraq war, he and many others were outspoken Bush-Bashers. He was front and center with REM, Dave Matthews and The Dixie Chicks being relentless with their negative comments about Bush.

Yes, citing the positives Bruce has done for the community is important to view him as a person, but the same can be said about some truly deplorable people. They sometimes do positives for the community. Admittedly, Bruce has done much more.

He has been politically quiet recently, but so have many of the other artists that have been mentioned in this post. Is there a statute of limitations on political comments? I personally still hold it against him.

Ok, sorry Sal, I know this is not fb, so, I'll take the next shots from you and Kissellof (sp?) and let it go.

Sal Nunziato said...


These are not "shots" at you, they are replies to your statement. I don't think you hit a nerve with Bruce, I just don't agree with your saying. It's a pretty strong statement to say shoothis mouth off when he's done more for less then just about any artist out there. This is an about me defending Bruce cause I like his music and you don't. And I'm not sure why being front and center with other artists who are against the Iraq war is a bad thing?

Sal Nunziato said...

Sorry about the typos I am dictating.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm....this is an easy one for me. I don't care about an artist's personal life, including their politics, so I respectfully disagree with Buzzbaby. I listen to music (and view art) based on personal esthetics that are neither informed by nor considerate of the creator's personal life. I like the visuals I like, and am attracted to the music I like, based on my idiosyncratic interaction with the world, which is partially informed by biology and upbringing. Whether Picasso was a prick, or Lennon a bully, I would not be able to glean that from looking at or listening to their creations. The foreign music and instrumentals I have -- and there're a lot! -- tell me absolutely nothing about the artists' leanings, and I apply the same criterion to songs with words I do understand. I have Skrewdriver's first (apolitical) album, which is as catchy early punk as one could hope for. They turned into neo-Nazis from then-on, but, perhaps not coincidentally, their music became uninteresting in the process (perhaps the curse of running out of musical ideas after that debut?). My favorite songs are "Day In The Life" and "Working Class Hero", so I can appreciate Lennon's talent regardless of his messy life (which, truthfully, seemed to encompass the stumbling steps we mere humans take as we mature, more than any evil presence). I suppose I just cannot imagine -- literally -- losing interest in the whatever attracts me to Cat Stevens' music once I find out something shitty about the guy who made the music. I don't celebrate Christmas (and am atheist) and am not gay, but I love the beauty and sincerity of Xmas & gospel music, and have some Pansy Division, so it would seem odd to me to separate how I treat those differences from me, from how I treat other artists'/genres' from me. Nugent's a nutjob, but, lucky for me, I generally don't go for the meathead rock he purveys. What I like about the Springsteen I like is immaterial to his political beliefs (which I happen to share). Finally, on this subject, I wanna add that if singing some words makes me uncomfortable because they express some point abhorrent to me, then I just skip singing along to those songs; I don't have to throw out the baby(artist) with the bathwater(song).
But I want to add another point, in response to what was implied by itsoktoberight. I am not of the mind that, because an artist has fame, they therefore automatically lose their Constitutional right to have and express their opinion. I see this kind of thinking mostly/solely from the Right, and it's disingenuous because what they're REALLY saying is that they don't like that this famous person is in a position to have influence others with an opinion that THEY (the Right) don't agree with. I suspect that if the Hollywood and music crowd bent conservative rather than liberal, these complainers wouldn't give it a thought. So, be honest about your complaining instead of cloaking it in righteous proletariat rags. Making money doesn't disqualify you from continuing to have the political leanings you had when you were starving on your way up. In fact, it'd make little sense to be any other way; if your belief is that everyone should be included (politically, economically, etc) and share the bounty of this country, it only makes sense that some would work for that goal once they got in a position to influence it.
C in California

jeff said...

I'm not sure I understand what the problem is with Bruce's political involvement, which has been consistent over the decades. It was ok for artists to be opposed to the Vietnam War but not the Iraq War? So it's then simply that they don't agree with your point of view?

M_Sharp said...

I don't usually pay much attention to any entertainer's political stance, but it helps when they're committed and knowledgable about the issues, and express themselves rationally.

Ted Nugent's violent rhetoric does it for me, he's been a washed up asshole for a long time. Why any conservative would want his support is beyond me.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Does anyone still think Bill Cosby is funny?

jeff said...

Well, Gloria Allred will be laughing all the way to the bank.

buzzbabyjesus said...

"Well, Gloria Allred will be laughing all the way to the bank."

What does that mean, exactly?

peabody nobis said...

The lead singer of the Dixie Chicks made one comment at a concert, and they were made scapegoats of the Iraq anti-war movement. That she was proven right seems not to have made the news in some circles...

jeff said...

That's she's going to make a lot of money representing people suing Cosby? It's not a comment on whether or not the women are telling the truth if that is what you are suggesting..

buzzbabyjesus said...

Sorry, I failed to see the relevance.

But does it make Cosby less funny? I grew up on his records. My friends and I could recite entire routines. "The Chicken Heart" was a favorite.

Now I have trouble hearing the one about slipping Crazy Mary a "spanish fly".

The artist makes the art as self expression, if that self is horrible, the art is tainted.

Chris Collins said...

To quote Little Steven, "What is more personal than your politics?" "Politics" is nothing more than the way we relate to each other. It's the way we want to structure our society. I see almost no difference between a love song and a song about the Iraqi war. Both are about interpersonal relationships. One is just on a much larger scale. Funny that you posted "41 Shots (American Skin)". I remember distinctly that when that song came out the Police Union accused Springsteen of "exploiting" an incident from "the past" in order to "fatten his wallet". A friend of mine pointed out that every single heartbreak song of all time could reasonably be described the same way, if one desired to frame it that way.

In other words, your politics is who you are. And sometimes who you are is VERY important to your art, and sometimes it's not. I still listen to Phil Spector records, even though he's a clearly insane and terrible human. Mostly because I don't think his art was very personal in nature. Whereas I can't watch John Wayne swagger around the screen acting like a tough guy without thinking about how he avoided WWII (When actors like Jimmy Stewart fought bravely) then spent the 60's denouncing the Vietnam protestors, propped up by his status as a war MOVIE hero. Because his art feels like hypocrisy now.

People are messy. Personal foibles don't bother me as much as hypocrisy does. Lennon made it pretty clear in a lot of his songs that he was lacking as a human in many ways. He also made it clear that he was a glorious talent. But I find "Getting Better" , with its ugly but honest lyric about beating his "woman", more easy to listen to than "Imagine", which rather self-righteously points the finger and asks "you" to "Imagine no possessions".

I love those Beach Boys records, even though Mike Love is a terrible human. I love Bruce Willis and Clint Eastwood movies, although I don't share their worldview. I even have a soft spot for Kid Rock. I can disagree with you and still appreciate your art. I can even hate you and appreciate your art. I can even AGREE with your worldview and still want you to shut the fuck up sometimes and still appreciate your art (Hi Susan Sarandon!) I just want my art to be honest.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Paul wrote "Getting Better"(maybe that line is about his buddy's treatment of Cynthia).

Chris Collins said...

buzzbabyjesus- you're right! but i'm pretty sure the line WAS about John and Cynthia. That's why it was in my head.

Sal Nunziato said...

"Getting Better" is actually a co-write. According to "Revolution In The Head," the end all tomes on Beatles' tunes, "McCartney invited his partmer to his house in St. John's Wood to write the lyrics with him--hence the allusions to angry youth, problems at school and woman-beating."

Dr Wu said...

Brian Eno's letter published by David Byrne - and a response by his friend. As I was unaware until it was mentioned above, I found this interesting. Thought others might also.

Chris Collins said...

What about this:

I once heard Little Steven talk about how much Paul Simon angered Bishop Desmond Tutu and those who were in the anti-Apartheid movement by going to record "Graceland" and breaking the cultural boycott of South Africa. He worked against the concerted efforts of people who had dedicated their lives to ending Apartheid. I haven't been able to listen to the album the same way ever since. It's still brilliant, but it's tainted for me.

Can the birth of an artwork effect how you appreciate it?

Jeff in Denton TX said...

It's rare that an artist's politics will affect my opinion of their music. Queen and Linda Ronstadt both "played Sun City" during the apartheid regime and I remain a fan of both despite this. Many older country musicians leaned way rightward (Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard), but I can still enjoy much of their work despite my own left-leaning inclinations.

I do agree with BBJ that Bill Cosby's work has been tainted by his actions ("Chicken Heart" was a childhood favorite of mine as well). Part of this may also have to do with his prior public image, sanctimonious statements and hypocrisy.

Ted Nugent is a has-been whose music has not been relevant for at least 35 years now. His loony racist diatribes are just about the only reason anyone under the age of 40 has even heard of him.

Most of the time, if the art holds up, I can listen or watch. I can still enjoy films like "Chinatown" and "Take the Money and Run" and listen to songs by The Mamas and the Papas in spite of the predatory behavior (or at least allegations of such in Woody's case) of the artists involved.

Anonymous said...

Least we forget Johnny Ramone