Miscellaneous Rumbles

How do we treat bad men’s art?

27

Yep, that's the guy. And no one was more surprised than my family when the news broke. One small saving grace, my late father (who had befriended him and who brought him into our home all those times) did not live to see what became of the guy he once called a friend.

It would've really upset him.

28

It would've really upset him.

Ya think?

But there you go. Monsters in the skins of decent men.

29

Sometimes in music I think you can hear what kind of person is performing.

Louis Armstrong and Dean Martin are the best examples of that. So much joy and warmth in their voices. If those two turn out to have been pedophiles and bullies, then all is lost. But I think we're in the clear by now.

30

Sometimes in music I think you can hear what kind of person is performing.

Louis Armstrong and Dean Martin are the best examples of that. So much joy and warmth in their voices. If those two turn out to have been pedophiles and bullies, then all is lost. But I think we're in the clear by now.

– Afire

To quote Duke Ellington speaking about Louis he “was born poor, died rich, and never hurt anyone along the way.”

31

I've found an interesting factoid regarding the information we can find, both in books and now mostly online, regarding the accomplishments of the 'authors' of these accomplishments and that's that the more time that passes between their accomplishment(s) and today, the infamous aspects of their lives fades away and is not regarded as important to their history as a person.

A good example of this ignoring the sometimes quite disgusting behavior of a person whose accomplishments have made them famous and often revered, is in the world of sports. There are many examples that are recent and even ongoing but I'll give you a fine example from the past, where most folks who saw this player play have passed away as well, so we're only left with written [in several forms] records. Ty Cobb, a baseball player with a stored career from 1905-1928 was as famous as they come, setting setting many, many records that stood for countless decades. He was reported as not being very popular amongst his teammates and thought himself better than anyone else. He was in many ways the best at the time, Babe Ruth notably giving him a run for his money for fan favorite, but he was very much a bully. If you've watched many movies or news reels of baseball from the '30's and '40's you'll see incredible heckling from the crowds. During the last game of a series in New York in 1912, he had been heckled quite crudely all year from a man sitting a dozen rows behind his dugout. Cobb finally had enough and while we don't know exactly what the man had been saying, Cobb went into the stands and beat the crap out of that fellow, who had only 2 fingers. He beat and kicked him while his teammates held back the fans. If that happened today, it would be all over the internet and baseball would toss him for a lengthy suspension & hefty fine, and the victim would launch a successful lawsuit. Cobb was suspended indefinitely but his teammates went on strike, but 11 days later he was back on the field.

The point is, history, as often recorded, seems to follow the old adage of "don't let the facts get in the way of a good story" or in this case, Cobb's statistics and revered reputation. This is the type of story that creates the conundrum of does the questionable 'activities'/behavior of an accomplished person override their accomplishments. The case in other posts has drawn the comparison between bad behavior and criminal behavior as how to settle the OP's question. The issue with that is what's criminal today wasn't necessarily criminal when these historical dates are being discussed. In Cobb's case, today's standards for public behavior would find him in jail and most likely out of baseball but that didn't apply in his day.

History tends to side with the accomplishments while conveniently ignoring the moral character of the participants, and the further in the past the story or event, the more common ignoring the truth is. "Christopher Columbus discovers America" was a good myth perpetuated for centuries but was a crock and finally debunked, but it took a good fight and eventually the internet to kill it.

32

I read an interview with Rene Martinez (SRV's tech) who also toured with Dylan. Martinez didn't mince words about calling Dylan a racist, didn't want him on the same bus with him etc... Dylan still ended up with a Nobel Prize. Go figure.

33

well, the Rolf thing is even more awful than i expected.

the Dylan thing is very disappointing, especially considering that he did a lot of anti-racist art.

on Jaco, from everything i've read he started out as a decent guy other than having a big ego. it wasn't until Zawinul got him into cocaine that he turned into an insane monster. he eventually was beaten to death by the bouncer in a Florida club.

34

Sometimes in music I think you can hear what kind of person is performing.

Louis Armstrong and Dean Martin are the best examples of that. So much joy and warmth in their voices. If those two turn out to have been pedophiles and bullies, then all is lost. But I think we're in the clear by now.

– Afire

i've always felt this way about John Sebastian. from my first hearing, he always projected warmth, kindness, and love in an exceedingly ugly time (1969-72). because of this, he was the first artist i ever wanted to emulate. i will always regret my inability to attend the CA Roundup when he attended...getting to shake his hand and tell him "thanks" would have been a highlight of my life.

and the Duke quote...what better eulogy could you ask for?

35

i've always felt this way about John Sebastian. from my first hearing, he always projected warmth, kindness, and love in an exceedingly ugly time (1969-72). because of this, he was the first artist i ever wanted to emulate. i will always regret my inability to attend the CA Roundup when he attended...getting to shake his hand and tell him "thanks" would have been a highlight of my life. -- macphisto

Sebastian is indeed a good guy. He loves to tell stories. How can you go wrong with a raconteur?

37

This is a worthwhile question for any person with a conscience to contemplate. I don't think there's an absolute answer, but there are other questions that arise along with it that are also worth examining. For example, if you decide that Michael Jackson is too much of a pariah, is all of his creative output ever off limits? What about the early Jackson Five hits when he was just an abused little kid himself? And if we decide that's ok, where is the dividing line, and how do we determine that?

From all accounts, Richard Wagner was a horrible person --- not only an anti-Semite, but possibly a pedophile as well. But the music he created is sublime, and helped change the course of music itself. Without Wagner, there would be no Bruckner or Mahler. Do we expunge any mention of Wagner from history and never perform his music again? Or is the fact that he is now dead and performances of his music by living people who, one hopes, are better people --- enough to make it ok?

I suspect it will largely be a matter of personal choice, but the discussion is worth having. For example, as a kid, I loved Bill Cosby's stand-up comedy, and memorized many of his routines from albums. They were part of my younger self's development. I can't hear them the same way anymore, which is a shame, but I don't think I have the right to tell anyone else they can't listen either.

One perspective I have --- again, this is how I see and understand it, I'm not trying to force it on anyone else --- is that all human beings have a higher and lower nature. Our highest selves are always one with the Source, from which all creativity, Beauty and Delight flow. In all of our life choices, we are aligning ourselves with some part of the spectrum from noble, expansive, inclusive and benevolent to fearful, selfish, mean-spirited, dishonest, and manipulative. Few of us can say we've never acted from those lower places --- although hopefully we learn from the consequences, and evolve along the way into being capable of aligning with our better natures more and more of the time.

It has always been my experience (shared by many others too), that when I'm at my most creative, music is coming through me, not from me. I feel as though I'm like a radio receiver, and the more I can tune in to the "source frequency," the more clear and free of "static" the resulting creation will be. When a person creates something of beauty, they are in those moments aligned with their best self and with Source Energy (or whatever name you choose to give it), even if in other parts of their lives they are aligning with baser and lower vibrations. That doesn't mean they get a free pass to avoid consequences for harm they do to others ---but it does at least offer the possibility of some kind of redemption.

I would suggest that is possible to see a person's creative work as an offering to the world from the best part of them, even if their other choices in life are disgusting and reprehensible, and they are rightly shunned, imprisoned, or otherwise punished for their harmful actions.

I can still enjoy hearing Jimi Hendrix's version of "Hey Joe," even though I have refused to perform the song with bands because of it's apparent message that infidelity justifies murder. I want my talents, such as they are, to be in service of something better and higher than that. But I only get to decide for myself. While I understand the impulse to make someone a "non-person" because of some violation of the social code, I don't support it. I feel we are better off as a society in having the choice of experiencing what might be good or worthwhile in someone's creations, while at the same time having their heinous actions on record as a cautionary example. The final judgment of whether a person's good actions or contributions to the world outweigh their mischief or evil --- or just misguided --- actions is rightly the province of a higher Court. In the meantime --- or should I say the kind-time --- we each have to make the best choices we can based on our understanding at the time.

38

I like that perspective, Parabar. Thank you for articulating it.

39

I've been watching this thread with great interest, and I did a lot of self debating on the subject. I was drafting a response, but then read Parabars post, and he absolutely nailed my sentiments on this topic. Thank you for your elegant and thoughtful response Parabar, I echo your thoughts and opinions wholeheartedly.

40

in principle i agree; however, in reality it's awfully difficult to put some things out of mind. i adore Jim Gordon's drumming, but it's a bit hard to listen to him knowing that he went insane and beat his mom to death with a claw hammer.

41

It seems like (for me at least) there's a sliding scale that takes into account the value of their artistic contribution, the terribleness of their transgression, and the proximity of the two -- farther apart is somehow more palatable..

So Jackson's 70s work, which really was pretty epic, gets a pass, while his 80s work doesn't, both for proximity and because the value scale tips.

As an aside, Proteus, before you say "nothing new has come up" re Jackson, you may want to check out the documentary that has everybody currently talking about Jackson. But fair warning, it's not easy to watch. It's pretty messed up.

Anyway, getting back to the point, most times I'm able to successfully find a way within that admittedly sloppy mental framework to get over it. I can listen to The Who. I probably could listen to Pete Townshend still, but don't want to.

And then there are some cases where I just can't. I cannot hear a Gary Glitter song anymore without my skin crawling. Maybe subject matter is a factor too.

I should make a chart.

42

This is part of a much larger issue involving people from all walks of life. Mark Antony was right, the evil men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones. How do we react to friends and others that are shown to have done reprehensible things?

As an example, I had a neighbor. He was a doctor, a gynecologist. He was a great neighbor, helpful and friendly. Once, my niece began having sudden and severe female issues around Christmas-time. Her OB was on vacation and she wasn't able to get quickly in to see the Doctor taking call for the OB. I called my neighbor and explained the situation. He got her in that day and she was in surgery the next. Had they not acted that quickly, she would not be with us today. He literally saved her life.

A few days later, we saw on television that he had been arrested for child molestation ... of his granddaughter, the daughter of his own daughter that he had molested when she was a child.

What he did was absolutely indefensible. No question. He ended up going to prison and rightfully so. But he was still my neighbor and the person that had saved my niece's life. I decided that while charges were pending and when he got out, I would be a friend. Didn't mean that I approved of what he did, but I was not the one that would enforce the punishment for that. I do pass judgment but not in the criminal justice world. But I also wouldn't let me be around my daughter/granddaughters.

How does that apply here? I can separate a person's accomplishments (usually) from less savory portions of their lives and appreciate them for what they are. Doesn't mean that I approve of them or what they did. Wagner as an example: I find some of his music dreadfully boring. Other pieces I find exhilarating. But that is on what I perceive to be the intrinsic worth of the music itself. His reputed anti-Semitism does not enter into it for me. Had I been forced to listen to it hour after hour while those around me were marched to their death, I probably would feel much differently but that is by association, not the music itself.

I recognize that others cannot separate the two but, in large part, I do.

43

I like Parabar's theory of having a higher and lower nature and he feels sure that his art comes from the higher, which I'm sure it does, for him, but it makes me wonder about people with a stronger lower nature and are these particular artists creating from their higher or lower nature? Just gotta wonder.

44

there's a line there somewhere, but honestly i can't place it precisely. sometimes people's transgressions, though nasty (Clapton's vile racism, Steve Stills' gargantuan ego, Mark E. Smith's all-encompassing awfulness) are outweighed by the relative depth of badness divided by the quality of their work. sometimes they're utterly irredeemable...i doubt anyone in Great Britain listens to their Lostprophets CDs any more (if you don't know what i'm talking about, DON'T look it up or you'll be sickened). and sometimes it falls in the middle; i reckon Jagger could be called a sex pest, but to my knowledge everything he did was consensual and free of Ryan Adams-style coercion. for me sex crimes are worst, perhaps because murder is morally comprehensible.

i am fortunate in that i never cared for most of the artists currently in the sex-pest A-list. i can take Led Zep and Jacko or leave them alone, never liked Adams or R. Kelly, and haven't voluntarily listened to Berry, Jerry Lee, or Ike in decades.

i also dump artists for political reasons. though i haven't totally dumped Morrissey yet, his continuous racism makes it awfully difficult to even think of him despite my deep love of The Smiths.

the one area i'm pretty tolerant is drugs/alcohol. no doubt this is in part because i like drugs and consider them more harmless than not, and it's also true that if i cut out all of the substance-abusers i'd have 70% less music to enjoy.

– macphisto

Sorry to burst your bubble, but after spending 30 years in the alcohol and drug abuse field, and having done a lot of field work prior to that I have seen the enormous harm drugs do.

45

This thread got me wondering. If a "lost tape" of Charles Manson was found, and it was collection of really good material, like the best of the best, how would it be accepted today?

46

Hitler was fond of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana

47

Hitler was fond of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana

– WinnieThomas

He wasn’t a shabby impressionist himself. He was just responsible for about 80 million dead humans.

Now, the art happened BEFORE he declared war on the whole world, so do the paintings get a pass?

48

Sorry to burst your bubble, but after spending 30 years in the alcohol and drug abuse field, and having done a lot of field work prior to that I have seen the enormous harm drugs do.

– WinnieThomas

not to be overly contentious (or burst your bubble LOL) but every single member of my nuclear family was a stone alcoholic, and my erstwhile BFF destroyed his life with crack cocaine. still and all, for the non-susceptible there's little harm; i took cocaine maybe 10 or 12 times in the 1980s, didn't think it was any fun, and put it down. and though drunks are among my least favorite sort of humans, the vast majority of drinkers are not drunkards or addicts. in any case, i certainly hope you aren't trying to imply that getting high is equivalent to child molestation.

49

This thread got me wondering. If a "lost tape" of Charles Manson was found, and it was collection of really good material, like the best of the best, how would it be accepted today?

– J(ust an old Cowboy)D

there are a number of semi-official Manson albums ("semi-official" because California law forbids criminals profiting from their crimes and such proceeds are divvyed up to the victims), most of which are derived from a couple of batches of cassette tapes that came out of Spahn Ranch c.1970 while the Mansonites were on trial and the Family members still free were trying to raise money for their defense. they have a small and devoted fan base that seems split between lovers of "outsider" music and Charlie fanboys. i've heard a couple because i have a long-term interest in the Family as part of the dissolution of the 60s counterculture (i also spent about 3 months last year doing a deep dive into Altamont); there are a couple of musical fragments that are mildly interesting, but Charlie was a poor singer whose melodic/chord tropes are exceedingly simplistic. it's quite weird to think of his rather unlikable music as the lure that brought the girls in.

but anyway, my point was that to the extent his music is accepted, it's only as a data point on the Family story arc or a serial killer artifact a la Gacy's clown paintings and very few people are accepting in the least. when the first Manson album, LIE, was released in 1970 they couldn't even sell them in underground record shops, much less at EJ Korvette's.

whether that's due to the awfulness of Manson or the awfulness of his music is an open question. personally, i'd be more interested in hearing the music of Vernon Howell aka David Koresh, who was allegedly a fairly talented guitarist.

50

I like Parabar's theory of having a higher and lower nature and he feels sure that his art comes from the higher, which I'm sure it does, for him, but it makes me wonder about people with a stronger lower nature and are these particular artists creating from their higher or lower nature? Just gotta wonder.

– Suprdave

I'm convinced intention has a lot to do with it. For example, Coltrane was always reaching for something higher, trying to channel the Supreme through his music. Not everyone can hear it or feel it, and high-source music can express pain and suffering as well as joy and exultation, though hopefully in a way that transmutes pain into joy. Like the blues, f'rinstance.

But if you find yourself moved by a piece of art --- a musical composition, a painting, a sculpture, a film, a novel, a poem, or whatever, it can only have its source in the higher realms, even if the person who created it was otherwise terrible, and perhaps not even fully aware of what they were channeling in the moment of creation.

The lowest vibrations are not capable of creation, only destruction and chaos, so even the most modest act of creation represents a step toward our higher nature, whether consciously or unconsciously.


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