I know that rock stars and actors are people. I know they are real live people with families and their own opinions and that the person they portray on stage is just a character. I know this. Most of the time if the character they are in public is a misogynist or a jagoff, you can ignore it because that’s just their stage persona. That’s not the real them. But what do you do when they’re not really playing a character? What do you do when they’re an honest to goodness wanker?
Case in point: Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, with their public peace and love and harmony façades, were not nearly as peaceful and loving in private. These men were physically abusive to the women in their lives. They mistreated their wives and girlfriends emotionally. They took advantage of the people around them on a regular basis.
Another example: I was always a big fan of the Eagles of Death Metal—a band fronted by Jessie Hughes. You may have heard of them because a year or so ago they were playing in a Paris concert venue when terrorists shot of the place. The band was barely able to escape. Weeks later Mr. Hughes told a reporter that “until nobody has guns everybody has to have them, because… I want everyone to have the best chance to live.” Okay I can give him a pass on that statement because he was just put through a distressing situation and he probably has some PTSD happening and yeah I don’t agree with him, but he was traumatized so I ignored it.
This summer, the lead singer of the punk band The Dickies verbally attacked a woman in the crowd because she held a sign up that read, Teen girls deserve respect, not gross jokes from disgusting old men! Punk shouldn’t be predatory! The Dickies are known to be misogynist and childish and vulgar, but the stuff he said to this girl was over the line. I’m not going to repeat what he said because why should I give his words any more press than they’ve already received? Screw that dude because he is not what the punk scene should be about.
Anyway, in early July Jessie Hughes took to his Instagram account to defend The Dickies and what the frontman said to this woman and wrapped it all up in a freedom of speech issue:
The Dickies forever! The Dickies for all time! Long live freedom of speech and long live the notion that rock ‘n’ roll is all about saying whatever the [expletive] you want! Especially if it’s offensive to people who are weak cowardly and can’t stand for anyone else to be free! …and PS a safe zone is a place that exists in your home not at the place you voluntarily drive to and walk into and sit in an audience of that exists in a public place… The enemies of free speech must be stopped at all costs!
I’m not going to quote much more because it is hard to read on many different levels. (I fixed the bit up above so it was readable.)
So needless to say I do not agree with what Mr. Hughes said there and I do not feel like he should get a pass for saying it. Okay rock ‘n roll has a history of being misogynist and rude and disrespectful to women. Does that mean that kind of attitude should continue? Does that mean we should all turn a blind ear to songs denigrating women or we should ignore when people treat women second class citizens? Absolutely not! If you don’t say something to someone who is being abusive, then you are allowing that treatment to continue. I believe SILENCE EQUALS VIOLENCE.
So back to my original question: What do we do when our heroes are wankers? One of the reasons the situation with Jessie Hughes bugs me so much is because I met him about a month before the Paris attack outside of a show in Cleveland and he was a super cool dude and super approachable and nice and welcoming and he gave me a hug and not all rock ‘n rollers are like that. But I cannot ignore the hate he spews on social or mass media. He doesn’t get a pass for that. But what do I do? Have you ever been in this situation before? Do I throw all his music out? Do I delete it from my iPod and stop buying his records? Do I separate his music from his real-life persona and keep listening to his songs?
Did people burn Hendrix and Dylan and Beatles records when they found out those dudes were abusive? Should they have? Do we need to investigate our rock stars before we invest our money in them?