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A singer's professional suicide

ShockedI am fascinated by the situation involving Michelle Shocked, who appears to have committed professional suicide. I mean, she seems to have completely torched her career.

Apparently she was giving a show on Sunday night at Yoshi's, in San Francisco, when she came out with a speech about how if Proposition 8 is overturned ... wait, let me quote her directly because there is already too much second-hand quoting going on. According to the Guardian in England -- Shocked has, or had, a lot of fans there -- she said: "When they stop Prop 8 and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilisation, and Jesus will come back."

She said this in San Francisco, of all cities! Well, in Oakland. I have been at Yoshi's. I saw Dizzy Gillespie there, a wonderful night of music. I also have been a Michelle Shocked fan at certain times in my life. I like  "Arkansas Traveler" -- that picture at left is from that album -- and I was happy to notice her signature on the ceiling of Nietzsche's.

Shocked became a born-again Christian 20 years ago, and the word has been out about that. This review of a show she gave at the Tralf years ago suggests that she has always been kind of a loose cannon. Still she had never dropped a bomb like this. She is no right-winger either. She was arrested while participating in Occupy Los Angeles, she toured with Lilith Fair and she hated George W. Bush, everything you would expect from an artist the Guardian calls "an alternative-music icon." 

Anyway. Whatever you think of Proposition 8, this is a great human drama. Shocked emerged after intermission appearing to be nervous and agitated. That is how you would behave if you had resolved, say, to throw yourself off a bridge. She knew the reaction was not going to be good. But she had just promised herself she would do this. She faced her audience and she did it.

The sky fell pretty much immediately. People booed. Yoshi's emptied. Shocked tried to keep playing. The sound man pulled the plug and turned out the lights. Yoshi's has said she won't be back. Others, if not all, of her upcoming concerts have been canceled. Her once-fans hate her. Unflattering pictures of her are everywhere. Her remarks are being called hate speech (and she is being widely misquoted). Everyone is quick to point out that she was on the way down anyway, but as far as I can see, her career is a smoking ruin and all that remains is for Nietzsche's to scrub her signature off the ceiling.

The Guardian writes with British understatement: "Shocked has not directly responded to these developments, except to Tweet: 'Truth is leading to painful confrontation.'" 


-- Mary Kunz Goldman



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