While emptying an old hard disk, I came across a page from my first personal Web site, erected in the long-ago days of 1994. After six years off the Web, it's back...
For reasons that now seems rather silly, I once made a pretty good living by asking stupid questions to pop stars and reprinting the least ridiculous of their responses. Once in a while, I'd break through the veneer of cheerful, going-through-the-motions politeness just to see what would happen. I did this with Dwight Yoakam, whose records I love, on February 3, 1993. Toward the end of a respectful interview in which I invoked the names of the country singers he had previously named as his heroes, I remembered that his commercial endorsements bugged me, so I asked him, "How do you reconcile your image as an outlaw or an outsider with being a spokesperson for major corporations?" After a long 10 seconds of silence, he said this:
"I don't try to reconcile it. I don't have to reconcile it. I make my choices based on my personal ethics. The McDonald's thing came to us. I didn't have to compromise myself singing or performing. I was just doing what I do when I go to McDonald's. How can you ask something like that? If anyone asks me that, I have an answer. I say 'fuck you' to everybody. Fuck anybody that asks. You know, Americans are a funny lot. There's a hypocrisy inherent in self-loathing of artists against artist."
At this point, Dwight turned silent for five seconds and then began to yell: "You don't like it? Then don't sell records. Give 'em away. It's horse shit, an outgrowth of a puritanical mindset. That's why these people sneak to Japan and make commercials for $2 million. They wouldn't be seen in America doing it. I choose to do things based on taste. I believe in liberty. I'm a libertarian, nearly an anarchist. That's Jeffersonian, my friend, not the way Whispering Bill said."
I assumed he was referring to President Clinton, but by this point I was so amused by his tirade that I relaxed and enjoyed it. Alas, Dwight now paused for a moment and began to speak in a level voice: "Things don't work when Congress is not in touch with its consequences. They should conscript legislators. We'd get some faster motherfuckers. They'd want to get out of town. We're all runnin' around half-naked in a glass house with spike-heeled boots. But, really, as a person who believes in liberty to an extreme as it applies to society, I have to be radically tolerant. We have criminalized common citizens in this country for not complying with rule from parasitic bureaucrats, be it mandatory insurance or whatever. The whole journey we're on is about self-determination and responsiblity. They think if we give up liberty, we'll get a Utopia that will function for us. Ultimately there's going to be a great, rude awakening for those who try to control others." Then he went on about how mad he was at Sinead O'Connor.
Whatever. Just for fun, I rephrased my original question and added that I didn't think he had reconciled what I had asked him to reconcile.
"I didn't reconcile it. I gave you justification."