Published Jun 28, 2019Earlier this week, Morrissey tried yet again to defend his far-right leanings with some galaxy brain thoughts on racism, and while record stores, train stations and contemporaries like Billy Bragg have denounced him entirely, Nick Cave has said he's going to separate the art from the artist.
Cave explained his stance on the issue in a letter on his website the Red Hand Files, answering a fan who asked him whether or not it was "possible to separate the latter-day artist from his earlier art," writing, "More specifically, what are your views on Morrissey, both early days and his newer more ugly persona?"
In response, Cave suggested the fan "saw the proprietorship of a song in a different way" and explained how he feels an audience can take ownership of art following its release to the public.
"Personally, when I write a song and release it to the public, I feel it stops being my song," Cave wrote. "It has been offered up to my audience and they, if they care to, take possession of that song and become its custodian. The integrity of the song now rests not with the artist, but with the listener."
Cave then invoked a Neil Young classic in continuing his explanation:
When I listen to a beloved song — Neil Young's 'On the Beach', for instance — I feel, at my very core, that that song is speaking to me and to me alone, that I have taken possession of that song exclusively. I feel, beyond all rationality, that the song has been written with me in mind and, as it weaves itself into the fabric of my life, I become its steward, understanding it better than anybody else ever could. I think we all can relate to this feeling of owning a song. This is the singular beauty of music.
Perhaps it doesn't matter what Neil Young's personal conduct may be like therefore, or Morrissey's, as they have handed over ownership of the songs to their audience. Their views and behaviour are separate issues — Morrissey's political opinion becomes irrelevant. Whatever inanities he may postulate, we cannot overlook the fact that he has written a vast and extraordinary catalogue, which has enhanced the lives of his many fans beyond recognition. This is no small thing. He has created original and distinctive works of unparalleled beauty, that will long outlast his offending political alliances.
Cave wrote that he is "saddened by the thought that songs by arguably the greatest lyricist of his generation — songs like 'This Charming Man,' 'Reel Around the Fountain' and 'Last Night I Dreamed Somebody Loved Me' — are consigned to the moral dustbin by those who feel they have been tainted by his current political posturing. I respect and understand why people respond in this way, but can't help but feel it is of significant personal loss to them."
In conclusion, he wrote, "Perhaps it is better to simply let Morrissey have his views, challenge them when and wherever possible, but allow his music to live on, bearing in mind we are all conflicted individuals — messy, flawed and prone to lunacies."
Morrissey is scheduled to play a series of postponed Canadian tour dates later this year in support of his recent California Son album, which Exclaim! gave a 1 out of 10. Cave will also tour Canada later this year on his "Conversations With" tour.