When he blazed onto the music scene with wild makeup, intense stage shows, and blistering music, Marilyn Manson was the band many kids thronged to … and many parents hated. The rocker came out hard on stage, with lyrics and presentation that enthralled many and horrified others. It looked like he was on the way to being the next shock rock phenomenon. Then, Columbine. After two high school students, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, walked into their school and gunned down 12 classmates and one teacher, Americans went looking for someone to blame. The murderers were dead, and a grieving country wanted to know Why.
How could this happen in one of the most “middle America” suburbs in the nation? How could two seemingly average kids go off the deep end and commit such atrocities? Eventually, someone suggested one common thread: music. Both Klebold and Harris were devotees of Manson’s theatrical style of death metal. Except… they weren’t. That report was, at best, erroneous, and may well have just been made up by whoever fed that information to the press. Unfortunately for Manson, the rumor stuck to him, his brand, and his music, and refused to let go.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, it was clear that Manson is still bitter about that false connection, and the negative impact it has on his band and his music career. “If (they) had just bought my records, they would be better off. Certain people blame me for the shootings at schools… But honestly, the Columbine era destroyed my entire career at the time…”
While it may have been the false Columbine connection, and it may have just been the shifting winds of the music business, it’s true that Manson’s band fell out of favor with all but his hardest fans. “When it comes to Columbine, it would have been different if they had actually liked my music… But I think I have had more blame accredited to me than any person in the history of music…”
Some who think Manson has a point, allude to a lyric from another controversial artist, Eminem, whose line: “…When a dude’s getting bullied and shoots up a school, they blame it on Marilyn… but where were the parents at…” directly attacks the idea that entertainment is to blame for tragedy. Manson appears briefly in the video for that record, standing mutely behind Eminem as he points out one of the reasons he believes controversial acts are blamed when kids do something terrible. People don’t want to consider the hard truths, so they blame the easy targets.
Manson says getting hit with that blame is not in any way easy. For years, it dogged him, he says, holding his career back. Now, though, Manson is back with a new album, and he hopes enough time has gone by that he can just put out music without being connected to real life horror.
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