Rock ‘n’ Roll vs The World: The Stigma of Rock Music

Rock music isn’t the issue in society, it’s the laziness in understanding real problems people have.

A few years ago I found myself in a challenging position of constantly having to explain myself to people why I admire and appreciate artists such as Marilyn Manson. The more I would publicly express my admiration Manson (the singer), the more it instigated questions of “how could you be a fan of such a horrible person?”, or “you like Marilyn Manson? the man that promote school shootings and violence?,” and every time someone would say a statement like that I would find myself dumbfounded by why people, especially those of my own age, would believe the propaganda surrounding his name. No, this isn’t a defensive piece on Mr. Warner (his real name is Brian Hugh Warner), and all his actions,  or a heated argument on why Rock music is actually saintly because that is not possible of any human being or any genre of music. This is an argument on why rock music, and rock musicians, such as Marilyn Manson, are constantly berated as the scapegoat for issues that are obviously personal, and more political than anything. Before we delve in, however, I want to make an obvious statement that I don’t condone everything Marilyn Manson says and does, nor any rock musician or person on this planet.

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Marilyn Manson by: Lionel Deluy

This is a rant about how a person’s, and more importantly an artist’s,  personal choice of consumption of drugs or controversial behaviour tends to represent a person who supports their art — many people outside of the rock music community misinterpret not only the musicians intentions, but act as if the fans get a heads up/or a say in their every choice and therefore give it a stamp of approval. This is also a rant on how media chooses to put rock artists under a magnifying glass and choose to ignore pop artists poor choices, actors poor choices, politicians poor choices, and so forth. Ultimately, this is a very heated rant on why I am sick and tired of rock music fans being clustered as “uneducated, aggressive, drug consuming and lawbreaking” people!

To begin this discourse, I want to bring my back my example of Manson, as he was a scapegoat for one of the biggest “rock music” tragedies in the past millennial era. The Columbine High School Massacre is noted to be one of the deadliest high school shootings in US history, if not the deadliest. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot, mangled and massacred 21 fellow students, and then shot each other as murder-suicide mission. Aside from the dully-noted fact that the two suffered from depression and other mental illnesses, it was said that the two were fans of Manson, and were encouraged by his music.

Although there isn’t actual proof of this, other than the someone being informed that the two were allegedly a fan of Manson, the media ran with this story placing the entirety of the massacre on the musician. The media follow ensuite by ripping apart his lyrics, finding a way to create a narrative from Manson’s albums to say that the two, in fact, got the idea from his music, when really there is no such songs or proof encouraging youth to go shoot people who have belittled him. What is the truth in Manson’s music? Satire.

Layers upon layers of satire, and mockery of the right-wing gun-loving Americans, which had clearly gone to the head of stations such as Fox news and were then left with Manson’s face being plastered as the reasoning for such a tragic event. For the next several years and every mention of the terrible school shooting, His “scary” image is thrown as the poster for the reminder that rock music will corrupt “poor children” likely Eric, Dylan, and the 21 children that died that day in 1999.

Nevermind the fact that the duo are the cause of the event, nevermind that it was so easy for them to get bullets at k-mart and steal guns from their parents, nevermind that they had journals full of how they wanted to die and if they weren’t to be put out of their misery they would take others with them, that definitely doesn’t grab the attention of folks,  nor does it work for the American media narrative of placing the blame of horrific events on pop-culture, especially the “drug-fiend” rock music.

Growing up in a conservative home, myself, I took the time to ask my parents what they remember of the Columbine Massacre and as I expected, my parents simply responded: “Didn’t Marilyn Manson have lyrics about how to shoot up a school?”.  Well done American media, well done.My family knows nothing about Manson other than the rumors they heard in the nineties and the few “scary” pictures they have seen of him floating around the tv and online. Therefore they carry the common misconception that he is this terribly-violent-teen-violence-drugs-advocate that does nothing but create havoc, and those who listen to him are also this viciously-violent-teen-violence-drugs-advocate, so together we are the reason why the word is off its hinges. Basically, every closed-minded ignorant ideology people have.

Despite my obvious anger, I feel as though it is important that I remind you all that I am not angry about the fact there are people in this world who simply don’t like rock music, metal music, and more, I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I am fully aware that artists like Marilyn Manson are…well, a lot to take in, I am angry at the fact at people’s sheer laziness at understanding, understanding does not mean supporting or accepting. It just means you are able to acknowledge that everyone appreciates different sorts of art, music, styles, and so forth.

Acknowledge that we are individual creatures who feel a sense of belonging in different subcultures and if one’s appearance or subculture is different than yours, yes even drastically different, it does not make them the villain or the perpetrator of violence, even if the one (out of millions) in that subculture commits a crime of mass destruction, it does not mean that everyone who listens to that type of music, or dresses in that way, will follow the path and harm others. This goes accordingly with the stigma that all rock music fans are drug users, or that they are all homeless and choose to live off social welfare or whatever another wild story that comes from media, these assumptions, and stereotypes, to put plainly,  piss me off.

To be able to understand the “Marilyn-Manson-School-Shooter-Advocate” story or the “Everyone-That-Listens-To-Rock-Music-Uses-Drug” analogy, it’s of great importance to understand how/when the stigma of rock music came about. Since the creation of this genre, it was immediately labeled as “devil” music, never having the opportunity to be seen as the blessing that it really is. The second music became a little less “clean”, there was an onset of instant moral panic within society, suddenly there were dozens and dozens of crazy stories and misconceptions of people who listen to that genre and/or play that genre.

With a little research, I immediately found some reasonings to why this came about. According to one source, it goes back to the Medieval period, when music that was not church music nor followed the church’s rules, it was immediately deemed the devil’s music. It is stated that “The augmented fourth, sometimes called “the devil’s interval”, is created by sounding ti (or si) over fa,” although it’s been difficult to exactly pinpoint why they labelled it that in that era, it has been said that it sounded like a cry or a siren, and to them it could have been satanic.

In the Modern day, this interval was banned from church music because of the historic fear of it sounding “satanic”, as well its frequent use death metal music. The augmented fourth is very hard to sing unless the vocalist employs a false chord technique, also known as a scream or a growl which is often used in death metal music.

Now that’s just the technical “boring” stuff, let’s crack into the birth of modern-day rock and roll. When rock music is celebrated for its iconic revelation, the credit is given to artists like Elvis Presley. However, when right-winged-Christians want to scrutinize and place a blame of corruption of music — also known as the creation of Rock music, the burden tends to fall on artists like Chuck Barry. But, really the blame is behind ignorance, racism, and misjudgment — hmm….. remind anyone of anything? For those of you who don’t know, Rock and Roll stem from African-American music styles of gospel, jazz and rhythm & blues from as early as 1920’s. So right away, we can already tell where this is going, the true stigmatization antidote of Rock and Roll is, well, racist.  Some could argue that since Rock music was stolen by white people — what else is new — that the reason why people have labeled rock music as “devilish” is actually that of “provocative” musicians such as The Beatles, Buddy Holly, etc. Here’s an excerpt from a Christian Magazine and why they call it devil music:

Modern electronic-rock music, inaugurated in the early 1960s, is, and always has been, a joint enterprise of British military intelligence and Satanic cults. On the one side, the Satanists control the major rock groups through drugs, sex, threats of violence, and even murder. On the other side, publicity, tours, and recordings are financed by record companies connected to British military intelligence circles. Both sides are intimately entwined with the biggest business in the world, the international drug trade.

The so-called “rock stars” are pathetic puppets caught in a much larger scheme. From the moment they receive their first recording royalties, the groups are heavily immersed in drugs. For example, much-admired “stars” such as John Lennon of the Beatles and Keith Richard of the Rolling Stones, were heroin addicts. Richard had to obtain blood transfusions, replacing his entire heroin-laced blood supply, in order to get a visa to enter the United States. (Tony Sanchez, Up and Down WIth the Rolling Stones, p.319)

Between 1963 and 1964 the Beatles and the Rolling Stones laid siege to Western European and American culture. This two-pronged invasion from England was well-planned and well-timed. America had just suffered the shock of the assassination of President John Kennedy, while in the streets the mass-based civil rights movement had just held a Washington, D.C. rally, led by Martin Luther King, of 500,000 people. The rock counterculture would be used as a weapon to destroy such political movements.

(Phau, The Satanic Roots of Rock)

Let’s pretend that I see the reasoning behind Mr.Phau’s argument, if I had to agree with anything being said, I could say that there some rock artists who glorify the usage of drugs, I’ll give him half a point for that, but it doesn’t subdue my anger, and if anything it just peeves me more.

Why is it so easy to put full blame on artists when pharma companies are much larger advocates for drugging children? It’s much easier to get a prescription for antidepressants than free cocaine at a rock concert? So why is it that more people aren’t enraged by how quick doctors are to sign a child up with ADHD medication, or anti-anxiety medication, why aren’t more parents boycotting Tylenol and Advil than they are from letting their children buy records that make them happy? It is the laziness of not wanting to stop and think a little harder that allows such a mass number of people to believe drug references and mentions in rock music to be the blame or even perforator of worldwide issues, such as school violence, drug addiction, etc.

Indeed, there are the odd number of rock stars  who do place drugs on a high pedestal and I understand that it could influence a large amount of youth in wanting to try drugs to be a part of certain image, as for some reason the cocaine/heroin scene does connect to the rocker scene, but again, rock musicians and/or the genre of rock/hard rock/metal/heavy metal/etc should not be the total blame for those things, as there are many massively well-known artists who say “don’t do what I did” and “learn from my mistakes and drink responsibly”.

 

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Photo courtesy of Maia Valenzuela

 

For example, artists such as Kurt Cobain , who had been the media scapegoat for when needing a person to blame for “influencing youth to engage in suicide and drugs”, had spent the entirety of his career saying “don’t be like me, just listen to my music — or don’t even do that”, he has always stated that he wished people didn’t talk about his drug usage because he does not wish to glamorize it. And yet, he’s still at blame. To the point he killed himself?

Furthermore, I find artists who have struggled with addictions or troubled pasts to be more honest than anyone about why one should not try hard drugs, or overdo the drinking and if anything has enabled me to find sobriety. Unlike right-winged education on real-life struggles such as mental health (addiction included), these artists show us what happens when you make a few bad decision and are actually educating the public on their expense, they provide us an example of “what not to do”, and that is my response to those who for some reason feel as though it is an entertainer’s job to raise their children. For most, myself included,  music is a healthy alternative to drugs, in the sense, it gives people a sense of escape and comfort.

Music has always been political, it is another platform for us to share our concerns, to share our insights and loves, to push us and move us, so why is it the second it no longer fits the “normal” agenda it is at blame for mass destruction? More importantly, why do the same people choose to ignore that people who follow their mind frame, are also — if not more, destructive? I thought the purpose of art/music is the expression of human creative skill and imagination, I mean that sure is the dictionary definition of art. So why are those artists — not celebrities, but artists, constantly used as scapegoats for issues they have nothing to do with? Well, the answer I’ve concluded is sheer and utter ignorance — not breaking news, just a reminder of the hypocrisy of it all because it honestly just angers me.

Now for the cherry on top, all the hatred, anger, dangerous behavior actually comes from the opposite “team” in this argument. Rock and Roll fans? they rally, yes. They push a large vulnerable group in society to form their own opinions, they encourage youth and adults to stay true to themselves, which creates some sort of volatility, but danger? The hatred and anger are typically at things like the government and closed minded people, begging for those groups to lay off those who want to express their love of art, and love. Now the groups that oppose? they are the ones who protest outside of shows, terrorizing families and people who are just grouping together to share their love for music. Those groups are the ones that spend precious time and money to ridicule and tear down those who seek comfort poetry and rhythm of the music, so who’s the real problem in this picture?

To conclude this rant, I want to take a moment to remind anyone who is reading this how important individuality is, how important it is to be okay with who you are as an individual in this big bad world, and how important it accept other people’s individuality. In other words: do you and stay in your lane. Every day I find myself wishing that people would just mind their own damn business, and let people live! Let Marilyn Manson do him, let his fans do themselves, let everyone breathe and enjoy whatever they are enjoying as long as it’s not harming themselves or anyone else.

If you see someone struggling with addiction, do what you can to help them! Don’t reach and blame it on their choice of music, blame it on the lack of healthcare resources, blame it on capitalism pushing them in bad environments, blame it on mental health not being a priority in government agendas, it’s not because they listen to death metal or if they like grunge rock, the two have no correlation! If we as a society spent more time worrying about our own issues, and less on who the poor person living on the street calls their favorite band, we would be able to live in a more harmonious and peaceful time.

When someone instigates a mass shooting, violent reaction, such as the Columbine shooting, you shouldn’t be asking “what band tees do they own?”, it should be “what were the warning signs?” because a majority of the time there were many red flags people ignore — the same people who blame it on things such as music and then create a mass moral panic. It honestly just infuriates me. As someone who does suffer from mental illnesses and seeks comfort in music, I feel as though people like me become misunderstood. It’s always “you’re depressed because you listen to depressing music”,  it’s never the understanding that the lyrics in those so-called-depressing-songs allowed me to feel accepted.

We don’t need to ban artists who choose to express themselves in a “weird way” we need to create awareness on our economic issues, political regression, and mental health stigmas — until then, we have music to help those who are already aware to band together and create a movement.

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