I do not number myself among Bill Wyman’s detractors regarding his musical criticism, but I am outraged by the obscenely stupid, ahistorical drivel he slobbered recently about O.J. Simpson [Hitsville, June 24]. The obvious idiocies are stunning: first, the history of rock and roll all too plainly shows that managers, agents, producers, and label people do not consistently effuse benevolent “concern” about musicians’ “well-being.” Second, does Wyman seriously believe that O.J. had no manager, no lawyer, no agent? As for bandmates, the tender bassists and drummers lovingly extolled by Wyman, O.J. had teammates, first and foremost of which was his college and professional buddy Al Cowlings, who was his teammate for ten times longer than the average life span of a rock and roll band. Even more obvious, rock and roll bandmates are often less than supportive: Wyman needs to reread his history, sadly lacking for a professional rock critic, about the legendarily acrimonious and often destructive musical partnerships that pass for the “solidarity-minded” world of rock and roll. Wyman’s short-term memory is also deficient: not two months ago he mourned the passing of Kurt Cobain, a troubled rock star who had the full complement of bassist, drummer, agents, managers, etc, but still managed to off himself amid the oh so rosy world of rock music.
However, Wyman’s last statements anger me most. What does he mean that the “potential wife beaters and murderous stalkers in rock . . . find shelter in the fabric and discipline of the music world”? Is he asserting that there aren’t any actual wife beaters and murderous stalkers in rock music? Excuse me? Ike Turner, anyone? More importantly, one of the key aspects of domestic abuse is the way it is hidden, ignored, covered up, and sheltered from public knowledge, something Wyman is contributing to by erasing it from the history of music. Second, what is it these potential beaters and stalkers find shelter from? I would think that the objects of their beatings and stalkings would have to seek shelter from them. I assume that Wyman meant to say that those musicians with the potential to beat or stalk find that, in the nurturing world of rock and roll, they can control their behavior, which is a crock in and of itself. However, his unfortunate phrasing implies that the music world shelters and protects these desires and behaviors, giving the impression that Wyman thinks that the music world’s ability to shelter its wife beaters from harm to themselves, rather than to others, is somehow a laudable thing. Although I hesitate to accuse Wyman of intending this meaning (I do heartily accuse him of extreme stupidity, insensitivity, and at the very least carelessness), it sounds like he is saying that what the potential wife beaters and stalkers in rock and roll actually find shelter from, what O.J. “tragically” didn’t find shelter from, is justice.