No point fretting - some of the best acts had awful opinions

By Paul Lester, August 12, 2010

Massive Attack's Big Chill gig is not the first example of musicians taking a stand against Israel.

In June this year, venerable songwriter Elvis Costello cancelled two concerts that he was scheduled to play in Israel in protest at what he saw as Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians. "It is," he said, "a matter of instinct and conscience."

Bobby Gillespie of acclaimed electro-rockers Primal Scream once allegedly defaced a "Make Poverty History" poster so that it read "Make Israel History".

There are some who might react by boycotting these musicians, removing their records from their collections and determining never to attend their concerts again. But would they not be denying themselves great works of artistry by doing so? And besides, does not close scrutiny of the individuals whose art we consume tend to reveal human beings so flawed we would never choose them as friends, let alone elevate them to the status of idols?

The fact is, if we were to censor or expunge from our lives those artists with whom we disagree politically or morally, we would hardly have any left - hardly any good ones, anyway.

People are generally accepting of indiscretion and foibles, even on a grand scale.

Take John Lennon - his private life was a mess, his behaviour often debauched, even disgraceful, but that hasn't prevented him from acquiring, posthumously, the reputation of a saint.

Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Keith Richards - unsavoury characters all; all hailed as heroes.

Even Public Enemy got away with it: in 1989, member Professor Griff declared in an interview: "Jews are responsible for the majority of the wickedness in the world."

It hasn't stopped them being revered today as the greatest rap group ever. So why would we now choose to lambast Massive Attack?

Perhaps we just have to adhere to the old adage: "Trust the art, not the artist". And assume that people are sensible enough not to be swayed by views or antics which they might find reprehensible.

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010