Kanye, that Dame has classREX MURPHY
The rapper could learn from Vera Lynn, who is topping the UK charts.
Kanye West is, I am sure it's unnecessary to specify, a rapper.
He did all this, mind you, with the serene witless confidence that because he's Kanye West he can do whatever he wants. Huge ego and a tiny mind, a frequent combination these days, and almost definitional for whole swathes of TMZ celebrities.
There was some talk that prior to doing the crude, cruel number on Taylor Swift, he'd been fortifying himself with generous helpings of Courvoisier. I think we should be careful here not to blame his absolutely unclassy behaviour on what was once known as a classy liquor. He doesn't have to lean on fermentation, the barley or the grape to be a nit.
Now, after making a complete fool of himself and, much more consequentially for him, putting his career in jeopardy, the rapper immediately went into damage-control mode. Which in our bright, brave new world means a trip to the public confessional to list his sins and seek remission. Enter Padre Leno.
He popped up on Jay Leno's new prime-time show -- shades of Hugh Grant in the days after the actor's oral tryst with the Hollywood hooker -- blubbering, self-pitying and maundering on. Portrait of the rap artist as a whiny, exploitative, craven penitent.
The highlight of the Leno-absolution interview was this exchange between the talk-show cleric and his guest sinner:
Jay Leno: "So when did you know you were wrong? Was it afterwards? As you were doing it? When did it strike you, 'Uh-oh'?"
Kanye West: "As soon as I gave the mike back to her and she didn't keep going." (Laughter.)
As soon as he give the mike back and she didn't keep going. Laughter, yeah. I guess. When did you know the tornado hit? Well, it was, you know, after I saw the house wasn't there. Except, of course, in this analogy, Kanye West was himself the tornado.
He had one more gem, which I intend to stitch onto a pillowcase some day:
Kanye West: "Yeah. You know, obviously, you know, I deal with hurt. And, you know, so many celebrities, they never take the time off."
I deal with hurt because we poor celebrities are overworked. Well, cry me a vat of Courvoisier.
This perfect vignette of our celebrity-addled age couldn't have happened in a more appropriate week. Because this is the very week in which the perfect counter-example also made the news. And no, I'm not referencing Susan Boyle's U.S. appearance, even though there is something about Susan Boyle too that contrasts with all the self-entitlement and ego-fantasy of typical celebrities.
It was the news that Dame Vera Lynn, at the age of 92, has with her album We'll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn topped the U.K. charts at No.1, an accomplishment all the more amazing in that in came in the week of the release of the gigantically hyped Beatles remastered set.
It's well over 70 years since Vera Lynn earned the now indelible title -- stronger than any "Dame" -- of the Forces' Sweetheart and her magnificently common (that is not an oxymoron) voice gave comfort and inspiration and a sense of home to soldiers everywhere, not just her British compatriots.
Winston Churchill in a famous image modestly said: "I was not the lion, but it fell to me to give the lion's roar." Well, Vera Lynn in those dark and precarious times was a kindlier but equally significant counterpoint to the majestic Churchill. She was the nightingale. And yes, it was her so comforting tone, and the brilliance of a couple of songs in particular -- We'll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover, the unofficial anthems of the Second World War -- that bonded her inseparably to the troops and the wider public of those days.
But, there was one element more, perhaps more important than the songs or her perfect rendering of them. The character of the singer. The elements of genuine sincerity, humility in the face of fame, seeing herself not as the "big person" on the stage, but as someone "serving" those called to do much more difficult service. In one word: modesty, in its full sense.
Vera Lynn had what we used to call "class." Class is character. Class lasts.
Pretenders gibber on Leno.
Rex Murphy, "Kanye, that Dame has class." Globe & Mail (September 22, 2009).
Reprinted with permission of Rex Murphy.
Rex Murphy is host of CBC Radio One's Cross-Country Checkup and contributes weekly TV essays on diverse topics to CBC TV's The National. (See Rex's TV commentaries). In addition, he writes book reviews, commentaries, and a weekly column, Japes of Wrath, for the Globe & Mail.
Rex Murphy was born near St. John's, Newfoundland, where he graduated from Memorial University. In l968, he went to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. His primary interest is in language and English literature, but he also has a strong link with politics. His first book, Points of View, is described on Amazon: "With TV commentator and journalist Rex Murphy, it's easy to put a twist on the old parable: when he is good he is very very good, and when he's angry, he's awesome. Uncommonly dignified, relentlessly honest, unencumbered by de rigueur political correctness, and solidly grounded by his Newfoundland roots, Murphy is that rarest of TV types. He's an everyman who happens to be a Rhodes Scholar, and a personality treasured for his brain, not his looks...A cranky intellect, maybe, but an intellect just the same. It's Murphy's almost reluctant cynicism -- delivered in language as sharp as shattered glass and aimed squarely at those in ivory towers -- that makes Points of View a must-read."
Copyright © 2009 Rex Murphy
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.