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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The things I believe in

I was thinking about something when I started a new Pandora radio station based around Elvis Costello, and some Jackson Browne songs appeared.

I like his music. It feels mournful. (Aha! And AllMusic backs me up on that: Wistful, Bittersweet, Plaintive, Melancholy, Earnest, Brooding)

But I have in my head that he was the reason his wife committed suicide, because he was abusing her. I don't know where I first heard it, but I've believed it for years. And I just found this posting on a message board: "I try not to let personal information color my impression of music, but the tabloid accusations of Jackson Browne's wife-beating made it hard to take his political and personal musings seriously. These stories were denied by Browne and by the alleged victim, Darryl Hannah, herself. I don't know if Joni Mitchell has disowned (or reaffirmed) 1994's "Not To Blame," a song in which the former lover not only accused Browne of beating Hannah, but of driving his first wife to suicide."

So maybe it's pretty well-known and believed. At any rate, I, like that poster, have a hard time listening to him with that background information.

I get into this a lot with Tim, who believes that sometimes the immensely talented live on another plane of existence, and that their gifts to the world outweigh their personality failings. Does talent transcend human foibles? Now I forget his big example, but it's a blues man, whose cocaine habit--or general nastiness--drove him to slap his wife around. I'm thinking the "Shades of Blue" guy, or Charles Mingus, but perhaps not, and I don't want to defame.

Or like Martin Luther King, who changed the history of this country, but cheated on his wife.

I just can't look past something like that. MLK doesn't get an out just because he moved millions. It was still really, really shitty of him to cheat on his wife. And I don't believe someone has to be of pure heart and spirit to create perfection, but I don't want to let anyone off the hook to act like a decent human being just because they have talent. Where does that leave those of us with little or no talent like them? I may never move the world, but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't at least try to be a good person.

In rereading this, I wonder if I sound hopelessly naive, but I think I have to believe it, in order to live my life according to my principles.


Blogger Lesley said...

I agree with you, so count me naive, too. I get really irritated watching biopics, like "The Aviator" and "Ray", b/c these movies ultimately spotlight an overwhelming greatness in people who are just wealthy freaks or drug-using cheaters .... all with the excuse of lauding their talent or vision. I know there's no perfection, but...I have a hard time watching actors whose personal lives are so tragic and so visible.

Have you ever read the short story "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin? I'm betting you have -- but that story kind of helped me get my head around the kinds of things you are talking about here.

7:58 AM  

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