Humanosity says what do you do when the creator of music that you love espouses views that you find abhorrent? Is it possible to separate the author from their creation? In recent times Morrissey has promoted the views of a white nationalist party but it seems not to have affected his career as a musician. Is it possible to separate the artist from the art?
Take for example the case of the Los Angeles-based culture writer Melissa Mora Hidalgo. She could often be found on stages throughout Southern Californi, crooning heartfelt renditions of his outsider alternative-rock hits, including those from his star-making turn as leader of 1980s Brit-pop quartet the Smiths.
Hidalgo, the author of the 2016 book “Mozlandia: Morrissey Fans in the Borderlands,” says that from an early age she was drawn to the singer, “both the music and the look. My fandom was really about the songs, the music, his brattiness. I loved that. And as a butch, as a queer woman, I wanted my hair like his. I wanted to look like him.”
However, for her, his embrace of white nationalism has gone way beyond his initial reputation as a provocateur.
When Morrissey closes out his tour at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 26, in support of his recent album, “California Son,” Hidalgo won’t be there. “I don’t have it in me,” she says with a sigh. In recent years, Morrissey has pushed a political and social agenda that she can no longer ignore.
For those who haven’t been aware of Morrissey’ political journey, here are a few recent quotes to get you up to speed. In 2010 he said to the Guardian, “Did you see the thing on the news about [China’s] treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can’t help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies.” Responding to Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, Morrissey told German magazine, Der Spiegel, “I hate rape. I hate attacks. I hate sexual situations imposed on someone. But in many cases, one looks at the circumstances and thinks that the person referred to as the victim is merely disappointed.”
A vocal supporter Brexit Morrissey has expressed his allegiance to For Britain, a far-right political party. Earlier this year, he reposted a video on his website by an anonymous pro-Brexit blogger who rants on “social justice morons” and “white discontent.” This same far-right blogger has railed against “rapes and terror attacks which have resulted from mass immigration.”
In May, for his performance on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” Morrissey pinned a For Britain pendant on his lapel. It was a subtle gesture, but by the next day, his critics had taken notice.
Speaking to The Times, British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg said that wearing the For Britain button on “The Tonight Show” may not have meant much in America, “but in the U.K. it represented him doubling down on troubling statements that he’s made. And when someone doubles down, then you have to start to believe that they actually mean what they’re saying. It’s not something that they’ve inadvertently blurted out. With Morrissey, we’re past the inadvertent blurting stage.”
Bragg adds, “He really needs to be held accountable for what he’s said. They seem to me to run contrary to everything that the Smiths ever stood for.”
Do the Fans Care?
However, it seems that the fans have started to notice and in the words of a veteran music journalist Dorian Lindskey
“People would put to one side this mounting evidence of these nationalist, racist beliefs,” Lynskey says. “But as soon as he started aligning himself with current politicians on the nationalist right, people’s patience just seemed to snap.”
Now, he adds, Morrissey “seems to have whittled it down to the hardcore fans that just love him and don’t care what he says.”
It’s not just Morrissey, I grew up listening to and loving Michael Jackson’s music. Is it all right to play his music now? There are many more examples I could cite as the world of art and literature is filled with examples of authors, painters, scholars whose personal lives and beliefs are abhorrent but yet the work they produced continues to inspire. As I asked at the beginning – is it possible to separate the artist from the art?