Damage control for Rufus Wainwright

March 29, 2006

I’ve avoided writing this post for some time, but don’t see any reason to put it off any longer.

In my past several years of Rufus Wainwright enthusiasm, I’ve spoken to a lot of people about my project, as well as asking for their thoughts about Rufus. Let me share some of the more challenging remarks:

“It’s always about Rufus. Anything that will further Rufus’s career will ALWAYS come first.”rufus.jpg

“Yeah, nice music: too bad he’s such a jerk.”

“I can’t stand him, he’s so full of himself.”

“XXX won’t work with him anymore because he was always drunk or always stoned.”

“Why does everything he writes sound so depressing?”

“I found his behavior and stage presence at the Hollywood Bowl despicable and unprofessional.”

After comments like these, and there are more, I jump in to his defense and say “yeah but…”

Yeah, but it keeps happening again and again. I have felt obliged to do a certain amount of damage control for Rufus, perhaps in hopes of shining up or glossing over certain things in this career. But thank God, I’ve realized it’s not my problem.

I’ve ultimately decided to separate the creator from the creation. Mussorgsky was supposed to not have been such a nice fellow, actually an obnoxious drunk, but I love his music. Jews will always have to come to terms with Wagner and the issue of separating the creator from the creation. Jackson Pollock was difficult at best as a friend.

I have fallen into the trap that so many do, and that is the notion that because someone is famous or somewhat famous, they are wise, or intelligent, or worth listening to. Think of unscripted movie stars, famous sports figures, rock idols: the media is flush with interviews with these people, and why the hell do we care what they have to say? All we really want to see is them acting, or playing basketball, or performing in their band.

So, now I’m clear: I don’t have to defend anything Rufus has done or said, he’s a big boy and can handle himself. My job is to try to interest people in listening to his music by writing intelligently about it, and use whatever analytic tools that seem appropriate. There are times when it is important to discuss events in a composer’s life to explain musical issues and elements, but besides that, my book is not a biography. Even so, despite my desire to separate the creator from the creation, I can’t. What I can do, is to be dispassionate about it. Buddhists would likely encourage me to strive for a state of non-attachment.


Sounds good to me.

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The Pagan Path
May 10, 2006 at 8:00 pm


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