Top 5 Musicians Whose Art Trumps Their Politics
Once again we have yet another example that if a musician opens his or her mouth without the benefit of a guitar or piano close by, trouble is usually not far behind. In this case it's Rockin' Randall Hank Williams Jr., who compared this year's Obama/John Boehner "golf summit" to Adolf Hitler hitting the links with former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends Monday. #facepalm
This statement by Bocephus, bless his heart, is idiotic for a number of reasons. First, Hitler's considerable tally of alleged health problems - including Parkinson's disease, amphetamine addiction, syphilis and monorchism (one testicle) - means he probably didn't play much golf. Second, Netanyahu was born in 1949, four years after Hitler died, so it wouldn't have been much of a match anyway.
Lastly, if even the Fox News hosts can't throw you a lifeline (co-host Brian Kilmeade: "I don't understand the analogy"), you know you fucked up. ESPN pulled Hank Jr.'s long-running "Are You Ready for Some Football?" Monday Night Football introduction from last night's Indianapolis-Tampa Bay game, and has not announced whether it will reinstate the singer or, as has been suggested on Twitter, replace him with someone like Kid Rock or Pitbull.
Since then, Hank Jr. has apologized, or at least said his comments were "misunderstood." It sounded like a pretty clear example of pure jackassery to us, though, and since Rocks Off set a Twitter search for Bocephus earlier this morning, his name has come up more than 1,200 times (including retweets). The tenor of tweets has been more or less the same: Hank needs to shut his racist/ignorant mouth and stick to making music.
Which, by the way, he's still quite good at. Rocks Off has the feeling Bocephus is going to keep right on saying whatever the hell he wants, Monday Night Football, ESPN, Obama and everyone else be damned. But if he cares, ol' Hank is now enshrined on our list of artists whose ill-advised, misinterpreted, or downright boneheaded political pronouncements have not prevented us from enjoying their music one bit.
5. Cat Stevens: The British singer-songwriter's late-'70s conversion to Islam and changing his name from Cat Stevens (birth name: Steven Georgiu) to Yousuf Islam is his own business. But he touched off a firestorm of criticism in 1989, when his comments were interpreted to support the fatwa against Salman Rushdie after the latter's The Satanic Verses had many Muslim clerics calling for the author's head. Islam said he was merely recounting the Koran's prescribed punishment for blasphemy, but that's not how the media saw it.
The repercussions lasted for years, and are probably what landed Islam on a U.S. government no-fly list in September 2004, when his Washington-bound plane was intercepted in Bangor, Me. (he was flying to a scheduled meeting with Dolly Parton), and he was flown back to the UK the next day. Be that as it may, Rocks Off is willing to bet that even the Homeland Security agents who took him into custody had "Wild World" and "The First Cut Is the Deepest" on their iPods. They may have blissed out to "Morning Has Broken" at Starbucks that very day.
Since the Rushdie incident, Stevens/Islam, who performed "Peace Train" for the first time in two decades in the wake of 9/11, has won numerous humanitarian awards, and was allowed into the U.S. for a radio promotional tour in 2006.
4. Sinead O'Connor: Sinead O'Connor effectively killed her career when she tore up that picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live, which happened 19 years ago this week. She hasn't stopped saying exactly what's on her mind, emerging as a pundit of sorts in recent years as the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal has intensified in her native Ireland and elsewhere around the globe. She proposed an alternate Catholic Church in an op-ed piece for Ireland's The Independent this past July, writing "Christ is being murdered by liars" and "what is being sold by the Vatican is not Catholicism at all."
More importantly for our purposes, when not becoming an ordained minister herself or being domestic - O'Connor has four children and got married for the fourth time last year - has kept right on recording music and even touring once in a while. (One of these days, Houston.) None of her post-SNL albums has seen much U.S. chart activity, but we recommend 1997's Gospel Oak EP and the cannabis-laden old-school reggae covers of Burning Spear, Lee "Scratch" Perry and Peter Tosh on 2005's Throw Down Your Arms.
Furthermore, listening to O'Connor's haunting voice tackle traditional Irish music on 2002's Sean-Nos Nua is truly not of this Earth; there's also "The Foggy Dew" from the Chieftains' 1995 LP The Long Black Veil. More recently, O'Connor recorded a version of her "This Is to Mother You" with Mary J. Blige and newcomer Martha B as a fundraiser for girlsarenotforsale.org in 2009, and is said to be working on a new pop album for release next year.
3. Hank Williams Jr.: Ol' Hank's comments Monday were especially unfortunate, because a couple of years ago he released one of the best songs to date about the ongoing economic downturn/recession/crisis, the devastating "Red, White & Pink Slip Blues," where he refrains from pointing the finger at anyone besides whatever corporation it is that's just moved its manufacturing operations to Mexico.
Regardless of his politics, "Pink Slip" has the same kind of lyrical candor - "We're gonna need that truck/ When they come to take the house away" - that makes Bocephus unique among his generation of country musicians (and since then), whether he's talking about his star-crossed family history ("Family Tradition"), the frequently dissolute lifestyle of a musician ("OD'd In Denver," "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound") or perhaps his favorite subject of all, livin' it up in Dixie ("Country State of Mind," "That's How We Do It In Dixie").
Also, he's got a keen ear for covers (Warren Zevon's "Send Lawyers, Guns & Money," Georgia Satellites' "Keep Your Hands to Yourself"), and no matter how stupid some of the other things that come out of Hank's mouth may be, Rocks Off could never, ever, ever hate the man who sang "Texas Women."