Charles Norman at Taki’s Magazine has a piece entitled “A Secret History of Right-Wing Rock Stars“; it’s definitely worth a read over your Friday morning breakfast. As a musician, I often experience the common assumption that I’m automatically a Leftist. I remember a former Fine Arts colleague expressing shock when she learned I was a conservative Republican; a music teacher in a comedic power pop band couldn’t possibly be conservative!
Another anecdote: there’s a group of poets and far-Left activists in Columbia who host a weekly poetry open micweekly poetry open mic, for which I’ve played as the featured musician a number of times (they have a featured musician play a short set, then a featured poet, then open it up to all comers). They’re a mix of aging Boomer hippies—the ones that never quite cleaned up and became striving yuppies in the Eighties—and radical chic SJW college kids. Twice now, I’ve opened for a transgender “woman” who “transitioned” from being a man; pretty much all of her “poetry” consists of angry screeds against the doctor who shouldn’t have “looked between my legs, but within my heart” when he was born.
The last time I played for them was around June 2017. I was in the midst of a songwriting dry spell, and told the host as much. He said (to paraphrase), “how could you not be artistically motivated in this political climate, with this president?” He was clearly energized in opposition to President Trump, and assumed I would be as well.
The point of that story is that, despite my very public expression of my political and social views in this medium and others, these folks just assumed I was one of them because I’m a flamboyant performer with funny songs. Of course, as I wrote last Friday, I try to keep my politics out of my music to the extent possible. Mission accomplished, I suppose.
(Incidentally, the entire time I played that gig, I was worried about the very tasteful “Trump” sticker on the back of my van. At best, I wanted to avoid “getting into it” verbally with a strident social justice warrior; at worst, I didn’t want to come back to a slashed tire. Was that paranoia on my part? I know a Leftie at a GOP meeting wouldn’t have need of the same fear—but would he experience it, nonetheless, groundlessly? These questions are the price of a progressive Left that advances its ends by any means necessary.)
But I digress. Many musicians I know are left-of-center, even here in the rural South, and artistic types often buck up against whatever the prevailing cultural norms are. Of course, in our age of culturally dominant progressivism, not expressing cloyingly simplistic statements like “love is love” or “hate has no home here” is itself an act of rebellion. As Gavin McInnes says, being conservative is punk rock.
As such, Norman’s piece was eye-opening and interesting. It really is a “secret history” of not-so-secret, but oft-forgotten, conservatism among post-war rockers. Norman focuses on Brit rocker Morrissey of The Smiths, who I’ve always perceived of as some kind of icon for jaded Gen X-ers and “Born this Way” homosexuals. But ol’ Morrissey has made waves lately with some controversial comments about foreigners and Muslims.
What was more shocking was David Bowie’s flirtation with fascism. Bowie has always had a knack for reinvention, and his career was built on actual and perceived ambiguity, both in terms of musicality and sexuality. Ziggy-era Bowie was renowned for his androgyny; a musician buddy of mine calls him “Britain’s favorite closeted heterosexual.”
Norman points out that writers, eager to shoe-horn Bowie into their own political cosmos, try to explain away Bowie’s political views as “strange”—that is, the innocent follies of a wacky artiste, not to be taken seriously. That’s the approach taken in a lengthy Politico piece on Bowie’s politics.
So, were Bowie’s unorthodox political views the follies of artistic youth? He backpedaled hard later in life—prudent, if you’re linked to fascism, and not unlike Democrats renouncing their former Klan membership—and probably did denounce those ideas.
Does it matter? David Bowie wasn’t trying to get anyone killed. He made a lot of great music that brings everyone together (that comedic power pop band I mentioned earlier, The Lovecrafts, was united musically by one shared influence: the Thin White Duke).
Music is for everyone. There is an odd comfort in knowing that some of the greatest rockers of the twentieth century supported immigration restrictionist MP Enoch Powell. Otherwise, just enjoy their musical output.