JOHN RICH OF BIG & RICH DOES A RICK SANTORUM IMPERSONATION ON NASHVILLE RADIO-- A NAIL IN HIS PROFESSIONAL COFFIN?
I had already left Warner Bros by the time our Nashville division had released its first album with Big Kenny (Alphin) and John Rich (pka, Big & Rich). When I first heard Warners had a hit artist called Big & Rich I thought they had finally broken into the rap business. They hadn't.
I was vaguely aware they had a big, albeit humdrum, wedding song last year called "Lost in This Moment," and that the first album, Horse of a Different Color went platinum a couple times. Other than that, I wasn't hearing much about them... until Thursday. Thursday I started getting barraged with e-mails from distraught former employees of mine all complaining about Big & Rich being homophobic.
It stems from half the duo, John Rich, going on a gay-bashing, Santorum-like jag for his political hero, Frederick of Hollywood. Rich is a regular commentator on Steve Gill's radio show in Nashville, where he spouts his Limbaughesque nonsense to an audience where marrying one's cousins and aunts is a lot more common than gay marriage. After a
"I think if you legalize that, you've got to legalize some other things that are pretty unsavory. You can call me a radical, but how can you tell an aunt that she can't marry her nephew if they are really in love and sharing the bills? How can you tell them they can't get married, but something else that's unnatural can happen?"
I suppose far more "natural" would be Rich's own lifestyle as an embarrassing and philandering slob. He may be hysterical and obsessive about his irrational zombie-like hatred for Hillary Clinton but reports from the road are that when he's got enough substances in him there isn't a woman breathing he doesn't try to jump on.
Gay employees and straight non-bigots at Warner Bros, and that pretty much accounts for almost everyone who works there, are pretty disappointed, to put it mildly... and I'm not the only one getting complaints. One person who has worked on the Big & Rich projects wrote, "I tend to support all of our artists unconditionally even when some of their politics don't necessarily coincide with mine. I have been made aware of comments made by Big and Rich and I must say this is a real blatant slap in the face and it's somewhat scary to think that I'm helping to make artists' voices such as theirs heard out in the world. I feel deeply torn by comments that they've made recently and can't help but feel really uncomfortable having to see or hear them played in this amazingly diverse environment of Warner Brothers Records that to me has always spoken on behalf of the eccentric and artistic."
Another WB employee, an out front gay men, is torn between his disapproval of censorship and his disapproval of bigotry. He feels it's the company's duty-- their moral responsibility-- to take a public stand against this denigration of a class of people. "Rich's comments are not a political position, they are words of hatred that denounce an entire community and are taken as a personal attack on many of our families. CBS did not tolerate Imus's racist remarks against Blacks nor should we with Rich's remarks about gay families."
I spoke with one of Tennessee's most influential and respected radio programmers. He was still dismayed today and he said most everyone he knows in the music business is as well. This is what he told me:
"Much of the Nashville music scene is ashamed of John. We have felt betrayed because many of us had embraced him and his mantra of love everybody. John has made a career on the backs of many people, and a lot of them are gay. More than anything, his hateful comments have hurt them and they feel especially betrayed. John is entitled to his opinion. However, comparing gay marriage to incest was unforgivable. I have urged those who feel as I do to stop buying his records and songs that he writes."
That sounds like a very sensible suggestion.
UPDATE: SUDDENLY I'M IN BIG & RICH WORLD
Not a pretty place! People are sending me reports from tequila bars, houses of ill-repute and of wildly careening Bentleys. And I now know more about Big & Rich than I ever wanted to. Like they're such big Sean Hannity fans that not only do they go on his HOP propaganda show, they have him come and perform with them onstage (in front of people). And then I'm hearing the more serious charges that the fix is already in and they are winning a shit-load of awards next month (from the Country Music Awards on Wednesday, Nov 7 and the American Music Awards on November 18.)
And one of their fans even defended them by saying they have a gay song called "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)." I used to be a dj at a couple of gay country bars, The Cinch and the Rainbow Cattle Company and I'd rather go to a dentist everyday for a week than play this musical turd. And... Perez Hilton indicates there are "rumors" about John Rich! Well, well, well... so another Larry Craig?? He doesn't mention what kind of rumors but he did call him a "queen."
UPDATE: JOHN RICH'S OTHER HALF ISN'T A BIGOT
Turns out Big Kenny is a normal American. Not only that, he's an empathetic humanitarian and he and his wife just returned from Sudan where they delivered school and medical supplies (and musical instruments) to orphans in Darfur. He also donated $2300 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. His only previous political donation was to right-wing Democrat Harold Ford last year when he ran against even further right Republican Bob Corker. Rich never donated to anyone.