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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024



Why can musicians get away with abuse?

James Brown, John Lennon, XXXTentacion, Ike Turner, Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur, Elvis Presley and R. Kelly. What do all these people have in common? Musical merits for sure, but the answer I am looking for is they are all abusers, yet few people care because their music “bangs.”

Some of the names are hard hitters and super disappointing because I loved their music. However, after finding out about the abusive behavior of these artists, the music just doesn’t sound the same to me. I grew up listening to James Brown and while he participated in the civil rights movement, he beat his wife.

In his daughter’s memoir, “Cold Sweat: My Father James Brown and Me,” she said the sound of her father throwing her mother up against the walls was “like thunder rolling through the house. After that, the house would go completely quiet. The sound of silence was the worst because that’s when Deanna and I would wonder if our mother were alive or dead and if we would be next.”

I am also a big Beatles fan, so to hear that John Lennon himself admitted to beating his significant others and that his son Julian has spoken about the abuse he faced from his father is a mar on the legacy of the band.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#cecece” txt_color=”#000000″]“Not supporting an artist’s work is the only way society can show that their behavior is not okay and will not be tolerated.”[/mks_pullquote]

He was also obsessively controlling over his second wife, Yoko Ono, forcing her to do everything with him including using the bathroom. In one of her accounts of the relationship, Ono states that she was relieved when Lennon started an affair with his assistant, May Pang, because it meant she was under less surveillance.

R. Kelly also put out hits that were apparently good enough to make people forget his inappropriate interactions with young girls. He married singer Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27 after a long period of the two denying that they had any romantic connection. R. Kelly also had sex with countless other underaged girls, and in the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” people who were close to him talk about how he used to stake out high schools on the prowl for young girls.

The same goes for Elvis Presley. No one seemed to blink twice when he started dating Priscilla Presley when she was 14 and he was 24.

The fact people are willing to overlook that these artists and many more have destroyed people’s lives just because they’re musicians says something about the human psyche.

Oftentimes these victims are out of sight and thus out of mind, so it’s easier to forget when you do not have a face or a real person to match to allegations. When a face, a name and a testimony is involved, it’s harder to erase in your mind.

As long as these people continue to produce hits, no one cares what they do. I can’t imagine being a victim of abuse and everywhere I look someone is praising my abuser. I honestly believe that circumstance would cause me to lose my mind.

It aggravates me when people say we should be able to separate a person from their work. Not supporting an artist’s work is the only way society can show that their behavior is not okay and will not be tolerated. People continue to put money in the pockets of abusers because they think the abuser makes good music is an excuse to continue supporting these people. This is an excuse that I will never understand.

This is just another manifestation of patriarchal values. Whenever these women come forward it is always, “Oh another woman trying to bring down or destroy another successful man” instead of holding these monstrous people accountable for their detestable actions.

This kind of attitude sends a message to these men that their social position and occupation have made them immune to justice. This needs to be changed. The victims in these situations should matter more than hit records.

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