Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When Great Art Happens By Bad People

This is a very sad story, so please -- try not to laugh.

Okay, so a while ago (possibly a year or two) I was hanging out over at a certain political blog I frequent (whose name I won't mention, but its initials are Eschaton) and I was, as was my wont, perhaps having an inordinate amount of fun at the expense of a certain egregiously stupid and offensive regular (whose name I won't mention, except perhaps to refer to him as Sparky).

In any event, I don't specifically recall what particularly egregiously stupid and offensive thing Sparky had claimed on this particular occasion, but whatever it was, I was moved to reply "As Gertrude Stein famously observed of something else, 'interesting if true.' "

Sparky responded (and I paraphrase absolutely accurately) "Gertrude Stein was a notorious apologist for Hitler and the Nazi regime and you ought to be ashamed of yourself blah blah blah" and I replied (and I paraphrase myself) "Hey, if Satan herself had something apt and amusing to say on the subject currently under discussion, I would feel absolutely no compunction about quoting that either, and now please to be pissing off."

Sparky, who amongst his other faults is the kind of person who really can't take a hint, kept throwing up my alleged love for Gertie, She-Wolf of the SS over the next several months, and finally I responded (and I paraphrase myself again)

"Shit, Sparky, there are scads and scads of artists over the span of human history who led less than exemplary lives.

"Why, in your own classical music field alone, Don Carlo Gesualdo -- composer of the most sublime madrigals of the late Renaissance -- was a well-known murderer (who killed his unfaithful wife and her lover in their bed); Opera biggie Richard (The Ring Cycle) Wagner was a notoriously virulent anti-Semite who influenced Hitler and the Holocaust; and in the 20th century, your favorite (boring) serial composer Arthur Berger was well known in academic music circles for having never picked up a check."
(That last allegation I totally made up, but it gave me enormous pleasure for obvious reasons).

In any case, shortly thereafter, Sparky retired from the Eschaton lists; today he posts his increasingly even more egregiously stupid and offensive opinions over at his own (barely noticed by any sentient mammals) blog, which I will not link to, but if you Google I, Sparky, Against All the Liars and Phonies in the World, you might be able to find it.

As I said, this was a very sad story, so please -- try not to laugh.

That noted, it occurs to me that we are still left to deal with the central theme of all of the above, which is that if we're going to decline to partake of the artistic endeavors of all of the artists over the centuries who have been real sons-of-bitches, then basically we're not gonna have much left to divert us of a cold winter's evening.

So let us conclude then with two recorded artifacts that kind of prove the point.

From sometime in the early '90s, please enjoy "On the Shoulders of Freaks," by brilliant comic songwriter Henry Philips...

...which addresses the subject rather explicitly ("Salvador Dali's surreal paintings were God sent/You'd never know he ate his own excrement.")

And even more pertinently, from 1967, here's currently incarcerated Phil Spector's insanely gorgeous production of the Ronettes' "I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine."

That Ronettes song, if memory serves, was unreleased until the Spector Back to Mono box set came out in the mid-70s.

And I remember that the first time I heard it, I thought it was one of the most uplifting things ever achieved by a human being.

And I will stipulate that, re-hearing it today, while knowing that Spector is in fact a killer by whatever definition you care to have, I have not changed my opinion of it one whit.


Anonymous said...

Hello all...no, please remain seated,

As an admirer of Mr. Duncan Black, I applaud your Eschaton-ical endeavors.

On your broader theme...Jerry Lee Lewis. As a man...I mean, really. As an artist? Well, killer.


Anonymous said...

Stan Kenton. I have a lot of friends who worship the guy and the big band era in general. I haven't heard them bring Kenton up quite so often since his daughter's autobiography was published.

Seriously, isn't it more often the case that we're bowled over that an artist we like is also a class act?

buzzbabyjesus said...

"Seriously, isn't it more often the case that we're bowled over that an artist we like is also a class act?"

It is for me. I don't mind troubled, but assholes annoy me.

Jim Morrison is one reason I hate The Doors.

Brooklyn Girl said...

There are shitheads in show business?

Hannes A. Jónsson said...

Are popstars people too?

pete said...

Sometimes the fact that an artist's assholishness shines through in his music doesn't matter (Bob Dylan) and sometimes it does (Van Morrison).

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

welp, pretty sure richard thompson wasn't thinking of my good friend Salvador when he said
good things happen to bad people Man!

Anonymous said...

Hey! That "Sunshine" song sounds familiar!

Beth Orton covered it -- without Spector's wall-of-sound of course. Since I don't read the fine print on cassette packaging, for the last twenty years I thought that was Orton's song...

And I can't listen to The Doors, either. It is just too obvious that Morrison was really full of s**t. Hasn't aged well.

GLLinMO said...

Decades ago I learned to separate artists from their personalities, preferences, etc. Now - I am more amused by their differences from mine. Makes like more interesting. Bloody murderer's are more difference to reconcile - but primarily for the post-eposidal isues.

As long as the asshole of the world do not unite - I feel were all safe and more amused. Hell - at times it's fun to play the asshole role.