by Steve Buschbacher
In 1986, my favorite radio station in Chicago began playing a band from Waukesha, Wisconsin known as The BoDeans. I loved the rich harmonies created by two singers, the earthy, simple melodies, the thoughtful lyrics, and the fact that they seemed like they had fun performing. That was the reason I had become a musician. It is fun performing. The music of BoDeans seemed to reflect that they felt as I felt. I sensed a real connection.
As time wore on, I started hearing about how the two main members, Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas, who had known each other since high school, were no longer living in the same city and hardly talked. Then I saw that Sam Llanas had quit the band via text message just before a show they were to play. I tried not to think poorly of Sam. I reasoned that they had not been getting along at all, and, though a lousy thing to do, still it was certainly an effective way of leaving a band for good.
Then, about a month ago, I was looking through YouTube for videos with the BoDeans. I felt like hearing some of their music. I happened upon a video from a Milwaukee TV station about Kurt Neumann accusing Sam Llanas of sexually abusing his step-daughter over a period from 2001 through 2007 while she was a minor.
Now I do not believe in “guilt by accusation”. Just read up on Fatty Arbuckle to know the consequences of that. I still had to understand, though, that Kurt Neumann believed his step-daughter and that he supported her completely. That’s what good parents do. I watched Sam Llanas on TV desperately trying to sound convincing when he said that he and the child were friends and nothing more. I had heard enough. I stopped the video. I knew that I couldn’t hear his voice again without immediately thinking of the accusations and his pathetic attempt to talk it all away.
Now came the question of what to do with all the music that I owned by them. I owned the first 7 studio albums. I had about 20 songs on my phone and they were in about 5 different playlists. I deleted the songs. As much as I loved some of them, I could not ever give my support to Sam Llanas again. You see, one of the problems with the BoDeans in this situation is that, on all of the early albums, even though one of the two sang the lead vocal, they both harmonized in spots.
What would you do? I read an article by Jayson Greene about living with music by problematic artists. In the past, he says, if you went to music store and bought a record by someone with such an accusation hanging over their head, you would have felt the shame of carrying it through the store and purchasing it at the register. Now, you can pretty well buy it anonymously on the internet. You can still play it. A simple mouse click can get that done. What if it’s a song you really like? Now you’ve got it rattling around your head all day along with the knowledge of what that artist did to make you so mad.
The recent documentary about R. Kelly brought about much discussion about his music being dropped and raising questions regarding why he was still being supported at all. The problem does not stop at music. Woody Allen was carrying on with his step-daughter while she was a minor. Roman Polanski pled guilty to statutory rape and then fled the country before sentencing. Since both of those situations were made public, I have not watched a movie by either director.
What constitutes inexcusable behavior? Predatory sexual behavior towards children is pretty high on my list. These are children, for goodness sake … kids! John Lennon has been accused of physical and emotional abuse by his first wife. I admit to still enjoying the Beatles’ music even if my memory of John Lennon is tainted. John Lennon, however, never abused a child. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant stole music from early blues artists and other songwriters and Jimmy Page was rumored to have some pretty odd photos in his collection but kids were never involved.
I have been a musician for more than 50 years. I have met all kinds of people … bad and good. On the good side are Kim Simmonds and B.B. King. I will not mention anyone on the bad side. Those are my opinions based on my experiences. The worst of them that I encountered, however, were just jerks. I can still enjoy their music. I just won’t invite any of them to my house for dinner.
I don’t know if it’s fame and the crush of celebrity status that does it or if we find out that our celebrities are just people with faults, some of which are particularly heinous. My daughter says that we may, one day, find out all of our idols are dirtbags. Maybe she’s right. I’m telling you now, though, if you have anything at all bad on B.B, King, stay away from me.