Does Being an Artist Give You A ‘Free Pass’? Lennon & R. Kelly Edition

If you haven’t read last week’s post, then I thoroughly recommend you do so. It’s not the most…uplifting post. But then neither is this one. But we’re going to be calling out some people, who have done some bad things. Oh. They also happen to be incredibly famous musicians.

So strap in as we venture down scumbag alley, and examine two more celebrities from the world of musical artistry.

John Lennon
Now the term ‘scumbag’, and the name ‘John Lennon’, aren’t often used in the same sentence. In fact, I might be as bold to claim that Cynically Sound is the first musical publication to do so. But Mr. Lennon – before his peace and love rhetoric was plastered all over The Beatles’ releases, dabbled in the past-time of domestic violence & taking the piss out of disabled people.

“But Joel! Surely not?! This is John Lennon we are talking about! Philanthropist and empathy-extraordinaire!”

Okay, well let’s start with him clearly mocking a disabled audience member.

Not much I can add to that, the video sort of speaks for itself.  Happy? No? Good. Let’s move on to the domestic violence.

In an interview with Playboy – the popular feminist magazine which promotes women’s equality, John Lennon admitted to being routinely violent towards his partners;

“All that ‘I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved’ was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically — any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women.”

But no worries, because he put it in a song! Getting Better – to be specific. A self-indulgent track about how he’s forgiving himself, and things are all going to be alright for everyone in the end. Which is an easy outlook to have on life when you’re in the most commercially successful pop band of all time…

I mean obviously it wasn’t fine for him in the end, he was shot in the face by a crazed fan, but you catch my drift.

So What Happened to John Lennon?
His name rings out as a pioneer of pop music. He is widely regarded as the catalyst for the Peace & Love activism of the 60’s, and was even awarded an MBE (which, to his credit, he returned publicly). So yes, John Lennon is probably the best of a bad bunch as far as these posts are concerned – he plunged himself into philanthropy later in his life. However, this doesn’t excuse both his mental and physical abuse, of his partners from days gone by.

So let’s get onto the main event. The headlining act of “Don’t You Know Who I Am? You Can’t Press Charges!” festival. Hot and fresh out the prison – well, he’s not ever been actually, which is a damn shame.

R Kelly
For those of you who know R Kelly, I can almost guarantee it’s because of his club banger – “Ignition (Remix)”. Although, for a lot of people, this is the only song they know of his. Which isn’t a bad thing. His back catalogue is bursting at the seams with sexually charged, graphic imagery of what he wants to do to women. Take his song “Marry the Pus***” for example, a song which wouldn’t be out of place on a Lonely Island album – it’s literally a parody of itself. There’s no way for me to take the piss out of it, because it has already reached its’ comedic potential. Invoice me £10 if you make it through the whole song without cringing, laughing or feeling disgusted.

R Kelly has a laundry list of allegations made against him, but for the sake of trying to keep our lunches down, let’s just focus on one: producing films of underage girls.

Now, the facts are pretty bleak. Obviously. I mean it’s not going to be a positive story is it? In 2002, a home made tape was handed to the Chicago Police Department, showing Kelly initiating in various sexual acts (including urination), with what appeared to be a minor. The tape was authenticated by forensic experts who confirmed it was Kelly in the tape. He was arrested, but managed to somehow cobble together $750,000 for bail – America eh? Land of the free, where if you’ve got the cash, you can buy yourself out of custody. Even for alleged child abuse – go USA!

Regardless, R Kelly stood trial and was found not guilty, as the jury couldn’t prove the girl in the tape was underage. The alleged minor in the tape did not press charges, or come forward. Which is a sad reality in many cases like this – even more so with such a high profile celebrity involved. But why in the fuck would they come forward? Statistics are grim for the female victims of sexual assault, especially if they’re a black woman.

So What Happened to R. Kelly?
His songs still get played on the radio. His shows are attended by thousands of teenage girls. He probably makes more money from Ignition each year, than I’ll ever see in my lifetime. But the over-arching answer to the question – nothing. Nothing has happened to R. Kelly. The law has had no impact. Public opinion of him is nearly uniformly positive, and he continues to sell records and make copious amounts of money from really, really bad music. Regardless of the horrific things he’s allegedly done, his crimes against music are a clear cut case.

So if you ever read this Robert Kelly, take this as Cynically Sound’s formal statement – fuck you.

My Point Is…
Why is it these artists – Elvis, Brown, Lennon & R Kelly are largely untouched by the law? More worryingly, why is their public image one of adoration and praise – whereby their sins are absolved due to their ability to write words down and sing them in tune to an instrument?

I don’t have the answer. But it seems that our beloved industry is exploited by powerful people, who pray on the emotional impact music has, in order to get away with horrible acts.