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The Melissa Etheredge / Phil Keaggy Hubbub

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Mark Joseph reports:

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, rocker Melissa Etheridge has her own memories of Keaggy which have kicked up a controversy. The RS article reads:

"In high school I had dreams of maybe having a career in Christian music." (Her first real gig was opening for Phil Keaggy in her hometown, and after the show she asked him what he thought of her set. "He basically said, 'I don't think there's a place for people like you in Christian music.' But he said it very nicely. I thought, 'Ok. They don't want me, I don't want them."

Keaggy heard of Etheridge's comments and responds exclusively to the Huffington Post:

"I believe that Melissa Etheridge is a gifted and dedicated artist who has proven herself to be creative and brave especially in light of her victory over cancer. It was brought to my attention that I was mentioned in a Rolling Stone article featuring Melissa. I was surprised to see a quote of something I had supposedly said to her.

Well, first off, I hardly remember saying such a thing to her, at least in such a negative tone, as may be perceived. As I recall, in my own journey around that time, I had my own issues with the Christian Music Business as I saw it. Yes, I was signed to a Christian label and had my own frustrations with the those in charge as they had issues with me as well.

There was much disagreement between me and them from selection of songs to artwork. Even before I went independent in 2002, I had long ago had an independent / artistic streak.

Melissa and I have never met since that day and I regret if she feels offended by what she thinks I said and meant.

As I look again at the words she claims I said, I wonder if, in reality, I was quite impressed with her music and delivery and thought perhaps CCM and the business of Christian music of that day would ever "get her"-- and be able to support her. Finally, I wish her all the best and applaud her fortitude throughout all the adversities of life."


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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"He basically said, 'I don't think there's a place for people like you in Christian music.' But he said it very nicely. I thought, 'Ok. They don't want me, I don't want them."

I guess it really depends on what he meant by "people like you." If he meant independently minded artists, then I think it's a perfectly acceptable thing to say (though he would have done well to expand upon that a bit, and maybe he did at the time). If he meant it the way that I'm sure 99% of Rolling Stone's readership will assume he meant it, then it's a shame. It really depends on his tone, I suppose, though if she asked him what he thought of her set, i.e. her music and performance, then all he really needed to do was explain himself better.

I think it's more interesting that she was interested in a career in the CCM industry. Does the Rolling Stone article explain why?

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Memory recall is often a funny thing. The more years one is removed from a specific moment in time the more one tends to reinterpret that event with outside experience and attitude recall. I am certain Melissa is not making this up as, to me, she seems like a genuine and sensitive individual; however, I do believe she may be placing current attitudes towards CCM and Christianity (as a political group) on top of what Phil K. may have or may not have said.

That being said, I do believe that Phil is also a genuine and sensitive individual who I am certain would not have said something to deliberately offend her. I would be willing to bet that his comment was more of an attack on CCM. Phil probably saw the rawness from which Melissa wrote and sang from (the same that we have all come to know and appreciate) and expressed the point that Christian music doesn't have a place for those who are willing to be that raw, human, or honest.

I too would like to know more about her "dreams of maybe having a career in Christian music."


...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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I wasn't there, and I don't know if Phil Keaggy did or did not say what he purportedly said. But the fact that Melissa Etheredge was a lesbian was an open secret years before she officially outed herself, and the statement 'I don't think there's a place for people like you in Christian music' strikes me as undoubtedly true twenty years ago, and undoubtedly true today. I'm not commenting on whether it should be true. But I'm saying it's true. There is not a snowball's chance in hell of a lesbian succeeding in Christian music. Melissa made the right career move, and Phil, assuming he said what he purportedly said, was absolutely correct.

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While that may be true, I'm doubting she outed herself at any point in the course of "her first real gig" as a high-school kid opening for a Phil Keaggy concert. Whatever Phil meant by "people like you" at that moment in time, I'm pretty certain he didn't mean "lesbian."


Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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I wasn't there, and I don't know if Phil Keaggy did or did not say what he purportedly said. But the fact that Melissa Etheredge was a lesbian was an open secret years before she officially outed herself, and the statement 'I don't think there's a place for people like you in Christian music' strikes me as undoubtedly true twenty years ago, and undoubtedly true today. I'm not commenting on whether it should be true. But I'm saying it's true. There is not a snowball's chance in hell of a lesbian succeeding in Christian music. Melissa made the right career move, and Phil, assuming he said what he purportedly said, was absolutely correct.

I am with you there, Andy. So, truth be told, Melissa should be thanking Phil for such a successful career or - at the very least - great advice.


...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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I wish I knew the exact year Etheridge is referring to, since she really started coming into prominence around 1989 or 1990... how long did it take for her to make the leap from high school ingenue to inking a deal...

The reason is because in 1987/88 was when Leslie Phillips had caused a little uproar by leaving the CCM industry, changing her name in the process, and learning to forgo agenda-driven songs to self-reflective poetry that exists for her today.

I'd like to think that PhilK saw a little bit of LeslieP in MelissaE, and had this in the forefront of his mind when he gave his advice...


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Andy Whitman wrote:

: But the fact that Melissa Etheredge was a lesbian was an open secret years before she officially outed herself

Even way back when, when she played her "first real gig" at a Keaggy concert?

Nick Alexander wrote:

: The reason is because in 1987/88 was when Leslie Phillips had caused a little uproar by leaving the CCM industry, changing her name in the process, and learning to forgo agenda-driven songs to self-reflective poetry that exists for her today.

Well, I would argue that her songs retained a preachy/didactic element well into her Sam years; the main exception seems to be on the "transitional" albums, where she is in the middle of "finding" and "redefining" herself, a la The Indescribable Wow or A Boot and a Shoe. (Or so it seemed to me when I listened to her entire discography in one fell swoop while converting my CD collection to mp3s. Nothing makes you rethink a favorite artist like overconsuming their work in a narrow span of time. I had a similar experience several years ago when I watched something like 20 Woody Allen films on DVD, in chronological order, in the space of a few weeks or months. Weaknesses that I had never really noticed before just Stood Out, and have stood out for me ever since. But I digress...)

Anyway, what *I* recall is that the mid-1980s were a time when there was deep suspicion of female artists who were in the least bit active, or energetic, or physical, etc. One of the articles I read about Leslie Phillips made the point that people were complaining about her energy onstage in a way that they never seemed to complain about, say, Randy Stonehill. There was a definite gender bias there. I also remember friends of mine at school griping about Amy Grant's sexuality and the way she walked barefoot onstage to accept a Grammy, etc. Melissa Etheridge didn't have to be a lesbian to be incompatible with that environment; just being an earthy, sexy female singer -- one who played the guitar with an emphasis on blues-rock rather than feminine, folky, singer-songwritery stuff -- was enough to make her a poor fit for that musical genre.

(FWIW, an e-pal recently posted some photos from Cornerstone, such as the one below, and commented on the number of female-fronted bands there, and these comments got me thinking back to the Leslie Phillips - Amy Grant debates of yore, quite independently of this thread.)

2647109633_8c8103fd70.jpg


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Funny, I recall Sandi Patti doing a bit of rug-cutting on stage at Christian Artists in 1989 ... maybe a plus-size woman could get away with it.

I note that even the gal in the Cornerstone photo is wearing an outfit that might have been considered a bit daring in 1983, but is pretty tame compared to what [insert name of overexposed pop tart here] wears on stage.

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Memory recall is often a funny thing...That being said, I do believe that Phil is also a genuine and sensitive individual who I am certain would not have said something to deliberately offend her.
This is exactly right and anyone who knows Phil or has ever met him would have to agree-- whether you dig his music or not-- this is one of the gentlest, most unaffected souls on the planet.

The highly ironic thing (or perhaps not so ironic) is that a certain Midwestern Etheridge-type female rocker made a very big splash in CCM with three albums in the late '90s/early '00s and then exited stage left, and it is widely rumored that she departed the scene because she is a lesbian. We can talk about that here, right?
Probably not, but I know who you're talking about. Edited by coltrane

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I have no idea who mrmando is talking about, because I stopped listening to CCM (apart from a handful of personal-favorite artists) around the mid-1990s. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious, now.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Whether one can do something, and whether it's wise to do it, are separate questions.

Upon reflection ... repeating unsubstantiated rumors is gossip, period. I should not have done it. I'm sorry. I've deleted my posts.

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Whether one can do something, and whether it's wise to do it, are separate questions.

Upon reflection ... repeating unsubstantiated rumors is gossip, period. I should not have done it. I'm sorry. I've deleted my posts.

I for one don't have a problem mentioning this, simply because of how bizarre and unwarranted it was. Honestly I can imagine that somebody went to a Jennifer Knapp concert and thought a ) Hey, she isn't as girly as I was led to believe based on her record covers, and b ) she kind of sounds like Melissa Etheridge. Ergo... Also, two and two equals a billion.

Edited by joel

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I had a hunch it was Jennifer, because I loved her music. I was a big Indigo Girls fan for years, and I loved Melissa Etheridge's debut CD on Island Records. I also loved the music of Tracy Chapman, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Shawn Colvin -- still do, at least the latter two artists -- about whom rumors swirled for years, even though two of them had been, or evetually were married (to men, alas, and sometimes more than once).

I began to wonder if I was a lesbian trapped in a man's body. ;)

Seriously, this bothered me for many years. Why did I identify so deeply with the introspection and views of romance from these artists? Note that I was a new Christian at the time, and was dealing with myriad pressures to be more extroverted/evangelistic, and counter-cultural -- although I came to realize later that I was not being counter-cultural for "the common good" (as Tim Keller would say) as much as I thought I was being.

BTW, Jennifer's two CDs, Kansas and Lay It Down, are, I think, extraordinary. As disappointing as I find this latest "news" about her, it DOES help me identify better with people who are gay, just as the music of Susan Ashton (which continues to move me every time I hear it) helps me better identify with Christians who are divorced, even though I don't always understand what's behind those divorces. Even assuming the worst sort of behavior and motivations on the part of these singers who are in the public eye, I genuinely feel their music, especially their songs about grace, and it makes me love God more.

That's what good Christian music does, right?

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I began to wonder if I was a lesbian trapped in a man's body. ;)

Christian, I don't know if this makes you a transgendered woman or a heterosexual male, but it gave me the biggest laugh of the week. Coffee-spitting everywhere.

Edited by Mark

"The most important thing is that people love in the same way. Whether they are monarchists, republicans, or communists, they feel pain in the same way, as well as hatred, jealousy, fear, and fear of death. Whether you are a deeply religious man or an atheist, if you have a toothache, it hurts just the same." - Krzysztof Kieslowski

"...it seems to me that most people I encounter aren't all that interested in the arts. Most of the people who are my age ... appear to be interested in golf, fertilizer, and early retirement schemes.... I will stop caring passionately about music, books, and films on the day that I die, and I'm hoping for Top 100 album polls in the afterlife." - Andy Whitman

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BTW, Jennifer's two CDs, Kansas and Lay It Down, are, I think, extraordinary. As disappointing as I find this latest "news" about her, it DOES help me identify better with people who are gay, just as the music of Susan Ashton (which continues to move me every time I hear it) helps me better identify with Christians who are divorced, even though I don't always understand what's behind those divorces. Even assuming the worst sort of behavior and motivations on the part of these singers who are in the public eye, I genuinely feel their music, especially their songs about grace, and it makes me love God more.

That's what good Christian music does, right?

That is what good music does, I think.

Not the only thing good music does, but one of them.

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BTW, Jennifer's two CDs, Kansas and Lay It Down, are, I think, extraordinary. As disappointing as I find this latest "news" about her, it DOES help me identify better with people who are gay, just as the music of Susan Ashton (which continues to move me every time I hear it) helps me better identify with Christians who are divorced, even though I don't always understand what's behind those divorces. Even assuming the worst sort of behavior and motivations on the part of these singers who are in the public eye, I genuinely feel their music, especially their songs about grace, and it makes me love God more.

That's what good Christian music does, right?

That is what good music does, I think.

Not the only thing good music does, but one of them.

Yep. That's what I just spent six hours talking about at Cornerstone. Of course, Christian summarized it in one paragraph, which makes me feel quite verbose, wordy, and long-winded, not to mention redundant.

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Maybe if Christian was *say* the paragraph it would take six hours. Maybe he speaks reallllllly slllloooooowllly. ;)


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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While that may be true, I'm doubting she outed herself at any point in the course of "her first real gig" as a high-school kid opening for a Phil Keaggy concert. Whatever Phil meant by "people like you" at that moment in time, I'm pretty certain he didn't mean "lesbian."

I agree, MrMando. It's only in recent years that she's been open about her lifestyle, so I doubt very highly if (back then) Phil would have said that to her. Especially a class act like him. B)


Long days and pleasant nights.

***

"I am Tyler Durden's raging spleen!"

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While that may be true, I'm doubting she outed herself at any point in the course of "her first real gig" as a high-school kid opening for a Phil Keaggy concert. Whatever Phil meant by "people like you" at that moment in time, I'm pretty certain he didn't mean "lesbian."

I agree, MrMando. It's only in recent years that she's been open about her lifestyle, so I doubt very highly if (back then) Phil would have said that to her. Especially a class act like him. B)

Again, I have no idea of Phil's intentions, but it's simply not true that Melissa Etheridge's lifestyle is a newly known thing. She officially came out in 1992, but she was playing lesbian bars in Los Angeles as early as 1982. It's been a while. I heard a radio interview with her in 1984 where the DJ was strongly insinuating (in a completely obnoxious way) that Melissa was gay. Melissa played it coy, but it's obvious the rumors were rampant even then.

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That's kind of funny, because I remember David Letterman practically salivating over her after she performed on his show.

And now, in some breaking I'm-getting-really-old news, I was in the grocery store and heard Like the Way I Do, the first single off of Melissa's Island Records debut, piped in over the sound system. It's not the first time I've heard a song from college days while in the grocery store, but I can't shake the Muzak stuff they used to play in the malls and grocery stores when I was a boy and would go places with my mom. So Melissa Etheridge's "edgy" rock is the equivalent of modern-day Muzak.

Also, while taking the escalators to the movie theater last week in the ritzy Mazza Gallerie in Maryland, I heard Shawn Colvin's Round of Blues, my favorite song of hers. So that's now "escalator music."

In another 10 years we'll all be listening to Arcade Fire in the grocery store.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Our grocery chain, Publix, was blasting Wilco's You Are My Face a few months ago while i was shopping. Further confirmation of their new "Dad-Rock" status, i suppose...


"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Way off topic, I know, but the incredibly un-hip shopping mall in my area was playing non-single Marshall Crenshaw and pre-hit Matthew Sweet stuff (the Sweet stuff was especially bizarre, as it was his cloying Buzz of Delight Christmas music).

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Maybe a moderator should break off the last few posts and start a "Music You Never Thought You'd Hear At A..." thread.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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