My aim for this article is to be as concise as possible. This is not an essay, or a thesis, this is an expansion and exploration of a thought rumbling around in my mind for a while now.
My sister told me one one day that the lead singer of a band I liked in high-school was now in prison for something extremely disgusting and depraved. The lead singer of the Lost Prophets was sentenced to 35 years in jail for pedophilia. Immediately this made me sick and I got rid of all the music I had from them. Then I heard something that made me think, there was one article I read that mentioned the royalties from his music, it was then the question formed in my mind.
Will it ever be “ok” to listen to music that came from a horrible person? Regardless of what you assume my musical tastes are, I’d bet it makes you wonder. What artists are shitty people? Classical music came to my mind next, albeit I was listening to WQXR at the time but still, I had another thought. Were there composers that were horrid displays of humanity? And what about other musical genres?
I did some searching for the names of some violent and sometimes murderous composers as well as musicians and here they are, Frank Sinatra (Jazz/Lounge), Carlo Geswaldo(Classical Vocal), Varg Vikernes(Norwegian Black Metal), Spade Cooley(Swing), John Lennon(pop-rock/psychedelic rock), Jim Gordon(Blues/Psychedelic/Hard Rock), and the list goes on. Each accused or convicted of assault, battery, abuse, murder or attempted murder they have made music that many have acclaimed as; fun, mystifying, beautiful, or sick (in the good way). They may not all be equal in their negative traits but none was a saint.
But after finding the names, a simple thought came to mind. If music sounds good to your ears you should be allowed to enjoy it, HOWEVER, if that artist still profits from their work then you’ll just have to make that choice for yourself. Classical songs are some of the easiest to forget about the composer. It is more than likely you can hear the music played and conducted by people usually very far removed from the poor examples of humanity that were the originators.
But if finding out about a musicians sordid pasts turns your stomach to where you hear the music differently, then move on. This is the 21st century, there are tonnes of musicians on sites like Band Camp, Soundcloud, and OC Remix. So don’t fret, if you learned something about a musician you liked and now cannot listen to their work without thinking of their wrong doings there is no shortage of new and beautiful music for you to find.
Some may have tried to repent for their pasts, so it really is a personal thing whether you choose to enjoy their music and forget the person or forget their music exists. Some argue that music, once let out into the world, transcends the connection to it’s creator and becomes the peoples.
We can’t choose who can tap into the deep well of musical awe, but we can choose what we listen to.