Victims of the Machine

I always enjoy my visits to Freiburg im Breisgau, because it means being reunited with old friends:

Gregg: solid, reliable, practical

Rolf: deep thinker under a devil-may-care exterior

Reggie: compassionate, wise, honest

Mark: the only man to be confused with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead both in looks and attitude

Jason: wild Peter Pan man as unpredictable as the weather with talent he should develop if only he would.

…To name just a few.

Had an interesting conversation this afternoon with Reggie about celebrities.

I had told him that I had a hard time feeling sympathetic towards Celine Dion and Justin Bieber…

I said I found them arrogant beyond belief and unworthy of my respect.

Reggie countered with the question:

Had I ever met them in real life?


Celine Dion and Justin Bieber are somewhat far outside my circle of friends.

Reggie has mingled and worked with musical artists in his past.

(Like myself, he wonders how did he end up living in Europe?)

Most artists are actually very nice people who only want to create and express what lies in their hearts and souls.

Meet them at a party and you will discover that they are the types who are just average Joes who were discovered and whose talent was marketed and packaged to the point that they are no longer viewed as mere mortals but somehow superior to us, somehow superior to what they once were.

Now, Canadians, we share a British tendency to reject those who once successful demonstrate arrogance and disdain towards the very people whose concert ticket and album buying made their success possible.

Many people loved Celine Dion.
(Many still do.)

Here was an ordinary girl from Quebec who became internationally recognized representing Switzerland in the Eurovision competition, used this recognition to make her name a world brand and sealed her stardom by singing the main theme song “My Heart Will Go On” for the blockbuster Titanic.

We all wished her success and happiness when it was announced she would marry her business manager, but…

Her wedding at the Cathedral of Montreal broadcast across the nation and as regal and Hollywood splashy as the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana alienated many people because it appeared she not only was no longer “one of us”, she seemed she wanted to show us that she was above and better than us despite her humble origins.

She may be talented, but she is no longer loved by as many people as before.

Did her publicists and marketers not see the potential for alienation that her wedding might cause?

John Lennon, in the Beatles´ first tour of the States, in a radio interview said that the Beatles were more recognized worldwide than Jesus Christ.

Many Americans went absolutely apeshit at the audacity and arrogance of such a statement.

Records were burned.

Some radio stations refused to play their music on the air.

Despite John’s working class hero Liverpudlian background, for a time he was reviled and hated by a very vocal number of people.

His premature death made him a martyr and it is a rare person these days that does not recognize John’s talent or realize the importance of the messages he was trying to convey.


Where were John’s managers, marketers, publicists, to prevent or spin his poorly worded statement?

Justin Bieber, with a modicum of Ken doll looks, determination, good fortune and fantastic marketing, has become a poster child for young teenage girls.

A street busker seen on YouTube became by age 15 a multi-millionaire…

He had/has it all but without the maturity needed to handle such worldwide fame.

He is filmed fighting neighbours, party-goers, paparazzi and police.

He writes in the guestbook of the Anne Frank Museum: “If Anne had lived today she would have been a Belieber” (name for Bieber fans), showing a lack of class and discretion that embarrassed everyone concerned.

Like Lennon’s Christ remark being not completely untrue, Anne might indeed have been a Belieber, but these were words poorly chosen.

Who is managing Justin?

Do they actually care how he is self-destructing or are they too busy counting the profits from the sale of his music?

If I met Justin, might I actually like him?

Could I enjoy a cappucino with Celine?

Would John have passed me a toke of the peace pipe had we ever met?

Are artists really the way we see them or are they victims, like us, of the machine that made their success possible and profits from it?

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?(Eminem)


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