Art minus the artist

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People love their celebrities. And they love to tear down their celebrities.

Personally, I don’t care. I listen to music, either songs I like or ones recommended to me. I see movies, I read books.

I don’t do background checks on the artists behind them.

Even so, I judge based on artistic merit and whether I got my money’s worth.
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Guns ’n’ Roses took some heat for homophobic and racist lyrics in “One in a Million” on the 1988 release “GN’R Lies.” Didn’t care.

Michael Jackson has sung anti-Semitic lyrics in his songs. Still didn’t care.

Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) was rumored to have supported the fatwa against author Salman Rushdie. The band 10,000 Maniacs dropped its cover of his song “Peace Train” from subsequent releases of its “In My Tribe” album.

He said he never supported the fatwa and the media took his comments out of context.

Don’t care about that either.

The Dixie Chicks say they’re ashamed to be from Texas like George W. Bush, and outraged fans steamroll CDs and issue death threats. Still like the Chicks’ music.

Tom Cruise is a Scientologist and a publicity freak. Still saw “Mission: Impossible III” last week.

Detecting a pattern yet? Artists — be they actors, musicians, painters, writers, dancers, poets or directors — are also people. People with political ideas and agendas, with spiritual beliefs faulty and otherwise, with prejudices and fears and half-baked notions, often with big mouths and tiny brains.

For me, it does nothing to enhance or diminish their works for mass consumption. I make no apologies for spending my cash on their work. You may choose to do otherwise for whatever reason.

I’m glad you don’t know me all that well yet, because I’m sure you could find some esoteric reason to dislike me personally. Call it a snap judgment.

That’s OK: We made snap judgments all the time in the newsroom. And in print, I faced the whims of a fickle audience. Some people didn’t like me because of something I wrote. Other people didn’t like me because they perceived, correctly or not, some scurrilous agenda.

I may not be a big fan of Tom Cruise the human being, but I’m still a fan of Tom Cruise the action movie guy. I think Michael Jackson is a pervert and an all-around shady character, but “Thriller” is still an amazing record.

I don’t do humanitarian boycotts. If I’m interested in a CD or DVD or book enough, I’ll look into it. If I think someone is a bad actor (like Hugh Grant) or a crummy musician (like Mariah Carey), I won’t bother.

But if my favorite artist ate a live baby tomorrow, I’d still enjoy his work. I can separate creator from creation easily.

Time will ultimately take care of that anyway. Mozart may have been a money-grubbing lout, but his works live on. I even heard the guy who wrote the Declaration of Independence owned other human beings.

Dig deep enough, and you may truly despise everything ever created by human minds and souls because their creators were lousy human beings. What an empty existence to endure.

Art for art’s sake is plenty for me.

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