Music industry hypocrisy exposed by boycott of Trump inauguration
It is ok to play for money in front of Gadafy but not the president-elect of the USA
There is still silence from Beyoncé as to the estimated $2 million she received for performing a private concert for Muammar Gadafy’s family in 2009 - at a time when it was abundantly clear to all that Gadafy was an evil despot. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Even the dead are refusing to play at Donald Trump’s inaugural concert this Friday.
Nancy Sinatra said that if her father, Frank, were still alive he would not be performing at the inauguration as “he would never support a bigot”.
This, the same Frank Sinatra, who had no difficulty in the 1980s accepting $2 million for a week of shows in Sun City - the entertainment playground of one of the 20th Century’s most repressive regimes - apartheid South Africa.
Others who defied a worldwide cultural boycott to accept what was little more than multi-million pound blood money from Sun City include Elton John, last heard of loudly protesting that Donald Trump was using his “Rocket Man” song during one of his election campaign rallies.
The music world has got its spandex trousers in a twist over the election of Trump. Those musical acts who elbowed each other in the face in the scramble to get a slot on the Obama inauguration concert eight years ago are now turning the volume up to eleven on the piety front - the press releases near trembling with their can’t play/won’t play indignation over the Trump inauguration.
The music world may have the obligatory No Nukes/Amnesty International/Free Tibet/Carbon Footprint Awareness/Save The Whale badges prominently displayed on its artisanally distressed leather jacket but in the craven hypocrisy stakes they put their kissing cousins in the Hollywood film world to shame.
The giant Coachella Festival (the U.S. version of Glastonbury) attracts some 200,000 festival goers and earns its owner a reported $85 million each year.
It has been public knowledge for some time that the owner of Coachella’s parent company, Philip Anschutz (a man who politically makes Donald Trump look like Michael D. Higgins) has donated sizeable sums of money to various demented Family Values style organisations in the US who pursue aggressive anti-LGBT agendas.
There has been some amount of hand-wringing within the music industry to discover that such a “counter-cultural” festival as Coachella is owned by a Trump-loving, billionaire businessman who donates to eye-wateringly right wing groupings.
But boycott or no platform Coachella? Not on your VIP laminate - and besides Radiohead, purveyors of bespoke white, middle class angst are headlining this year.
The Eagles of Death Metal received universal support and sympathy for enduring the trauma of playing at the Bataclan in Paris when jihadi terrorists slaughtered 89 people in the venue. But lead singer Jesse Hughes simply wasn’t the right sort of victim.
It emerged that Hughes was an Obama-hating, Trump-loving, paid-up member of the US’s National Rifle Association who publicly called for greater scrutiny of Muslims in the West and an end to conservative Christians being blamed for society’s ills.
For this - and also for alleging that Muslim employees at the Bataclan colluded in the terror attack on the venue - the Eagles of Death Metal were banned last year from playing two French music festivals. The music world - quick to embrace the band in the aftermath of the Bataclan atrocity - went into reverse gear.
Vile personal abuse rained down on Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, Steve Van Zandt, after he said a speech from the stage of the Hamilton musical targeted against vice-president elect Mike Pence, who was present, was “completely inappropriate bullying” and that an apology should be proffered to Pence by the cast of Hamilton.
Despite the fact that Van Zandt is implacably opposed to everything Pence and Trump stand for, the guitarist was hounded for believing that singling out Pence that night in the audience - who was out with his family for a night of theatre - was just ill-mannered.
But what has been pulled into tight focus this week is how musical acts loudly proclaiming their refusal to play at the Presidential inauguration have a self-serving A La Carte approach when it comes to their own principles.
There is still silence from Beyoncé as to the estimated $2 million she received for performing a private concert for Muammar Gadafy’s family in 2009 - at a time when it was abundantly clear to all that Gadafy was an evil despot.
Others to accept million dollar plus pay cheques from the murderous Gadafy family for private concerts include Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey, Usher and Nelly Furtado.
Music stars may be very forthcoming about who they won’t perform for but not so much about these sordid and immoral private gigs; the information only came into the public domain because of Wikileaks.
But there is perhaps none as breathtaking in their arrogance as Sting - who, as you will remember, decided to save the world some years back. That got put on the back-burner momentarily in 2009 when he accepted between £1 and £2 million for performing for the glory of the brutal regime of Uzbekistan.
At the time Uzbekistan’s president, Islam Karimov (who used to get 99.6per cent of all votes cast in elections - go figure) was being beaten from pillar to post by the UN and Amnesty for - amongst other “policies” - boiling his enemies, slaughtering his citizens when they protested and conscripting armies of children for slave labour.
Sting said of the show: “I am well aware of the Uzbek president’s appalling reputation in the field of human rights. I made the decision to play there in spite of that”.
He added that Uzbekistan “should not be robbed of ideas and art”. Indeed.
The former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, replied by saying “This really is transparent bollocks. Sting did not take a guitar and jam around the parks of Tashkent. He got paid over a million pounds to play an event specifically designed to glorify a barbarous regime. Is the man completely mad?”
If a common thread is emerging here it’s that whether you’re Trump, Gadafy or a president who boils his enemies, the venal and hypocritical music world will dance to your tune and shake its booty all night long if there’s a seven figure cheque waiting backstage.
Donald Trump’s inauguration concert mistake was a failure to understand the first rule of showbusiness: it’s one for the money and two for the show.