When One Of Your Faves Is a Huge Creep

I thought last night couldn't get any more depressing than being there to watch a disinterested Nationals squad get pasted by the Dodgers 14-2. But then I got home and read the news that Mamas and the Papas founder John Phillips was involved in a very, very inappropriate relationship with his daughter Mackenzie Phillips. Like, so inappropriate that she said he suggested they move to Fiji, "a country where no one would look down on us." (Cue all Fijians going, "Hey, don't drag us into this!")

(More after the jump.)

This was depressing to me because John Phillips wrote a whole bunch of great songs. I've got a painting of a Mamas and the Papas album cover on my wall. His first solo album, "The Wolf King of L.A.," is one of the great folk-rock records ever. It's one of my go-to records for the past few years; I listen to it all the time. Will that change now that I know he had a long-term incestuous relationship with his daughter?

Well, as long as I don't type that out too often, no. I listened to "Wolf King" in its entirety this morning. Still awesome. Just like "Be My Baby" was awesome after Phil Spector was convicted of murder. Just like "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" remained awesome no matter how many times James Brown got arrested for domestic violence. It's a personal choice, of course, but I'm a firm believer in separating the art from the artist. If that art itself espouses hatred and ugliness, that's one thing; I won't be defending Skrewdriver on here. But music is and has always been filled with unsavory characters. To make a hard and fast rule to only listen to those who are morally superior would make for a pretty boring iTunes library.

There's some argument to be made for a "morality clause" with current artists, that being you don't want to give money to someone who is actively doing things you don't approve of, whether it be domestic violence or interrupting people at award shows. But the more rules you have, the more exceptions there are and the more you judge things based on everything but the music. Which is what it's all about, man. Like, what if I were to tell you that the fabulous Free Music Archive has this great song by a long-forgotten western swing star who in his time was more well-regarded than Bob Wills. Then what if I told you one day he got drunk and set his wife on fire and killed her. Well, that's the story of Spade Cooley. The man and the music, not always the same.

By David Malitz |  September 23, 2009; 5:58 PM ET Randomness
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I think it matters if you already have a (listening) relationship with them, you're more inclined to cut them a break, especially if they're not around to defend themselves.

If I wasn't already familiar with John Phillips' work, I'd probably be less inclined to check it out, like I'm probably not going to listen to Spade Cooley.

Posted by: Hemisphire | September 24, 2009 11:18 AM

His daughter is flogging a book. It may not be true what she's saying. I don't know much about the Mammas & Pappas or John Phillips.

She, on the other hand, has a lot to answer for with that sitcom. She does get points, though, for making a comeback with Wilson Phillips.

Posted by: cletus1 | September 24, 2009 7:58 PM

I'm wrestling with this one (see "Denny and Michelle" for depths of my love for MPs). I've even got JP's autobio.

Posted by: JetAgeEric | September 25, 2009 10:36 AM

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