Opinion

Sure, keep listening to Hedley's music. But lose the adulation for its frontman

Nobody is demanding that fans stop liking Hedley's music — it's a little bit like falling in love, you just can't help it. But don't be deluded into thinking your love for the art should mean admiration for the person.

Sometimes, good art is made by bad people

Nobody is demanding that fans stop liking Hedley's music — it's a little bit like falling in love, you just can't help it. But don't be deluded into thinking your love for the art should mean admiration for the person. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

I'd never heard of the band Hedley until the media picked up on allegations of sexual misconduct by its lead singer, Jacob Hoggard. One of those allegations was of rape.

I've listened to a few songs and in my opinion it's all kind of mediocre but hey, it's still art, so let it stay. As for Hoggard and the band, well, maybe they shouldn't stay.

In a recent column for CBC News, Kate Graves wrote how she continues to be a superfan — and "superfan" is probably a suitable term for Graves, who has tattoos of the band that she wears "with pride," and who says she has followed Hedley for "more than half her life."

As far as I know, nobody is demanding the fans to stop liking the band — it's a little bit like falling in love, you just can't help it. Graves writes that her attachment and enjoyment of the music is a personal thing. Agreed. But don't be deluded into thinking your love for the art should mean admiration for the person.

Separating art from artist

I'm a fan of the Swedish techno producer and DJ Adam Beyer, who is also the founder of Drumcode Records, whose many artists I admire. There have never been any allegations of wrongdoing by Beyer, as far as I know, but were he to do something despicable, I would not delete his or his label's music from my playlist — I'd still listen to it. It's a personal thing.

I don't have the beautifully minimalistic logo of Drumcode tattooed anywhere on my body, but on my forearm I have some tattoos of roses, which were copied from the paintings by the 19th-century Polish playwright, painter and poet, and maybe not-so-nice husband, Stanisław Wyspiański.

Wyspiański once wrote about his peasant wife: "How many times was I enamored of a flower by pity, and only by pity did I sometimes love a girl that I once spotted somewhere." Not a crime to dislike your wife and I don't particularly care for Wyspiański's bio, but I love my tattoos and I've loved his paintings since childhood.

I found out Wyspiański wasn't a nice husband after I got the tattoos, but I am not getting rid of them because that would be absurd. (It might be different for former Hedley fans, some of whom have chosen to cover their tats. Their idol's alleged transgressions are too serious, too current and perhaps walking around with a bicep that reads "Hedley Forever" is just too embarrassing, considering). But speaking of removal, I am categorically against removal of art that is controversial because of the artist or because of its subject.

Recently, I went to the New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) where on display there was a large painting by the French-Polish artist Balthus of a prepubescent, nude girl looking at herself in the mirror (Nude Before a Mirror). My eight-year-old said "ew" as he quickly walked by, which is an apt reaction to something that offends your taste. Ew, move on.

On the topic of Balthus, in December of last year, some New Yorkers started a petition asking for the removal of his painting Thérèse Dreaming because according to the petition, "This painting romanticizes the sexualization of a child." (Was Balthus himself a pedophile? He had a sexual relationship with one of his teenage models, Laurence Bataille.)

I like Balthus's paintings. I think the MET petition was ill-conceived, as was the 2015 court order to destroy the paintings and photographs by unrepentant, convicted pedophile Graham Stuart Ovenden (whose art I appreciate as well). In 2013, there was also a call for the removal of the statue of Prospero and Ariel, which stands at the entrance to the BBC's Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London. The statue is by 20th century sculptor and printmaker Eric Gill, who had a consensual relationship with his sister and sexually abused his daughters… and the family dog.

There are many, many other examples of demands to destroy art created by bad people — mainly visual artists and writers — and calls to boycott films by directors such as Woody Allen or Roman Polanski.

Indeed, sometimes art is made by bad people. As for Hedley, nobody is asking to destroy their mediocre musical legacy because of what Hoggard has allegedly done. Losing an opening act, losing management, losing the spot on the radio is not "devastating news," as Graves writes in her column. The devastating news is that a woman says she was raped.

The fact that "this type of behaviour was far more socially accepted in decades past, and was usually just chalked up to the rock n' roll lifestyle," is no argument to let Hoggard off the hook. What was tragically acceptable 30 or 60 years ago should not be shrugged off today simply because it was before. And criminal behaviour shouldn't be excused because "rock n' roll."

That's just ridiculous.

All the power to Graves for claiming the music had had positive impact on her life and that she continues to be a fan — nothing wrong with singing along to your iTunes list and remembering the good times.

But the times have changed and the band might be over and the bad guy might go to jail if it turns out the allegations are true. Admire the music, just not the man — and try not to get those confused.

Jowita Bydlowska is the author of Drunk Mom, a memoir, and Guy, a novel. As a journalist, she mostly writes on the topics of mental health, addiction and arts and culture.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Jowita Bydlowska

Jowita Bydlowska is the author of Drunk Mom, a memoir, and Guy, a novel. As a journalist she mostly writes on the topics of mental health, addiction and arts and culture.

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