Separating Music From Character

There’s long been debate and uncertainty around how we should feel about legendary (or not so legendary) musicians who have made some poor life decisions.

I recently read an article that brings to light character issues of iconic musicians, paralleled with their musical accomplishments and view in the public eye. It discussed people holding high praise for certain musicians while ignoring their personal wrongdoings. But here’s the thing: the praise is generally for the music, not necessarily the person. Sure it differs, but the general consensus is BECAUSE of the music, they earn the praise. Nobody would give a shit about Elvis if he didn’t make groundbreaking music. The article didn’t sit well with me, so I was compelled to write this.

It’s pretty damn hard to hate timeless music, period. Especially if you are someone heavily steeped in the music world, be it a diehard fan and/or fellow musician or whatever. Some (weirdos) like music as much as they like a cup of tea- they can take it or leave it.


A lot of people grow close with music, and get the wind knocked out of them when they find out a particular musician they love does something bad, if not heinous. It can suck. The trouble is the gray area of what’s forgivable and what’s not.

I believe the right thing to do is to acknowledge a separation of music and character, just like church and state. It’s a bummer when you love somebody’s music and find out later they married their 13 year old cousin (looking at you Jerry Lee Lewis) or allegedly molested children (no need for a name drop there) or whatever. Musicians can do things that are awful and often times unforgivable, just like anybody else. That can and will often hinder an artist’s fan base and general outlook on that individual, and rightfully so, and if you love their music, you’re in a pickle.

Bask in the pickle.

Accept that people aren’t perfect and make mistakes. You don’t have to defend these people in court to enjoy their music. Not to mention much of what we hear are allegations, and we have little idea of the reality of said situations that can make a person, in this case a musician, “a bad person.”

This isn’t to say people should embrace or condone their behavior.

If you’re really put off by the actions of a musician you love, maybe stop buying T-shirts, concert tickets, hats, pins, buttons, cufflinks, MP3s, cassettes or whatever people get these days. Either way, you don’t have to like their character to like their music, as synonymous as the two can be.

Picture this: you’re at a wedding, or maybe a bar with your friends, and Michael Jackson plays. You love to drink and dance and be merry. Are you going to sit and protest? If you’re at a rock n’ roll club and the band plays a Stones cover, are you going to protest and sit down because Mick was a serial womanizer? Will you, hypocrite who lives to criticize and judge? Doubtful.

The “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” perception exists for a reason, folks. More often than not, music isn’t about being a boy scout/ girl scout. Lord knows these people aren’t saints otherwise they might’ve chosen the convent or monastery.

Per usual, it all boils down to individual choice. Just like every debate there ever was. The perceptions of the person. The individual. They either will be swayed or not. It can be a mental conflict, but it is what it is. Either you stop liking the music or you don’t. Either way, take comfort in knowing your opinion likely isn’t worth a dime. Just like mine.

So. Does it make you a bad person because you like music of somebody who did bad things? No and who cares. It’s about the music. Good people make good music. Good people make bad music. Bad people make bad music. Bad people make good music. That’s just the way it is. Now scram I gotta eat dinner.