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Glitter in the Gutter: Why do the Reds insist on repeatedly playing music by a convicted sex offender?


They say you cannot separate art from the artist. Whom do I mean by "they?" Some people. Other people proclaim the exact opposite is true; that art stands by itself uncorrupted by the deeds of the artist and unaffected by reality. Regardless, there is at least a balancing test that should be implemented in determining whether or not it is appropriate to promote certain artists if they have performed egregious acts against society.

The Cincinnati Reds are failing that test.

During what is best described as "clutch" situations for the Reds' offense at Great American Ballpark (which means on average, ten times a game), the team has decided to play short clips of a song released in 1973 titled "I’m the Leader of the Gang (I am)." Around these parts of Red Reporter, the song is referred to as "We’re All RAHR RAHR" due to the song lyrics' sheer incoherence. The artist who wrote and performs this song was born as Paul Francis Gadd. He is more famously known as glam rocker Gary Glitter. He is even more infamously known as a convicted serial child molester.

Prior to 1997, Gary Glitter’s criminal record was your standard pedestrian tale of rock and roll excess. Some mild prescription drug abuse here. Some driving under the influence there. In terms of the one-upmanship world of rock music, his rap sheet was something to scoff at by other artists.

However, beginning in 1997, it appeared that Gary Glitter’s flirtations with criminality were less of an immature nature and more of one mirroring a deviant sexual predator.

In 1999, Mr. Gadd was sentenced to four months in the United Kingdom for possessing images of children being sexually abused. The images were inadvertently discovered by a computer maintenance man servicing Mr. Gadd’s PC and subsequently turned over to the authorities. While this conviction is disturbing, it is difficult to make an argument that Mr. Gadd should have been exiled from society for this offense. Without evidence that he participated in the creation of the images, the criminal justice system, as a whole, likely had far bigger fish to fry in the United Kingdom. Embarrassing? Yes. Menace to society? Perhaps not quite.

Following Mr. Gadd’s release, he shortly relocated to Cambodia, where he was permanently expelled in 2002 for unspecified allegations of which I will not begin to speculate. Following this, the artist known as Gary Glitter moved to Vietnam where, in 2006, he was convicted of sexual abuse against two Vietnamese girls. In order to mitigate factors in the eyes most favorable to Mr. Glitter, I am unsure as to the due process rights in Vietnam, the state’s burden of proof in instances of sexual abuse there, and the applicable rules of evidence. Nevertheless, Mr. Glitter was sentenced to prison for three years, later reduced to three months, and was released in August of 2008.

Today, Gary Glitter is currently out on bail in the United Kingdom after he was arrested in London following accusations that he was seen having sex with girls as young as thirteen years-old back during his peak of fame in the 1970’s. As he awaits trial, this appears to be the latest in a series of allegations demonstrating decades of abuse.

There are some artists whose work outweighs their questionable deeds. Roman Polanski’s "Chinatown" is perhaps the best example of film noir ever created. Woody Allen’s Annie Hall created the genre of romantic comedies. Even Glitter has made his contributions to arena rock in his record of Rock n Roll Pt. 2 (The Hey Song). However, several major sporting leagues, including the NFL have, since Glitter’s 2006 conviction, requested teams to stop playing it, regardless of its once overreaching appeal.

Yes. Even the league that frequently showcased O.J. Simpson on NFL Network as Adrian Peterson approached his rushing record finds Glitter too unseemly to play during its sporting events.

"The Leader of the Gang (I Am)" isn’t as ubiquitous to sporting events as "The Hey Song." It is a minor work and an all-but-forgotten single of latter-day glam rock that favored style over artistic substance. It isn’t historically significant. It doesn't really represent a city. It has never been featured as a theme song for a baseball club.

In other words, it’s perfectly replaceable.

And replacing it is what the Reds should do. The fans are not (yet) emotionally tied to the song. In fact, the song’s greatest significance is that a convicted sexual deviant recorded it. You cannot tell me that "Blitzkrieg Bop," "We Will Rock You" or anything not record by sexual predators on Jock James is incapable of replacing the song. If you reopen the pantheon that is the Great American Songbook, you will find adequate substitutions by artists not convicted of child molestation.

There is no reason to keep it, and there are plenty of reasons to ditch it.

One may argue that obsessing over the heavy rotation of this song is much ado about nothing. However, it is entirely possible that Gary Glitter is economically benefitting, directly or indirectly, from the playing of this song. Playing the song in front of a crowd at a major league ballpark may entitle him to royalties, depending on the structure of his licensing agreement. If not, Mr. Glitter may be benefitting indirectly from the publicity his song nets when played 10 times a game in front of 30,000 fans. A smart phone app can quickly provide its owner the name of the song and the artist by picking up the few bars played over the PA system. Even without saying his name or acknowledging him, playing him is enough to tacitly promote him and his musical catalog.

The speculation over whether or not the Reds are paying, or may have to pay for the rights of Gary Glitter is nowhere near as important as the fact that it's far beneath the Reds to play him. Over the past few years, the Reds have turned Great American Ballpark into one of the best places in the league to watch a game. Their attention to detail, down to the beers they serve, is unmatched in the region. The Cincinnati Reds are a classy organization run by consummate professionals. Mr. Gadd's criminal record suggests that he is undeserving of being broadcasted by this fine organization. Moreover, without getting all Chris Carpenter up in here, parents at the ballpark shouldn't have to tell their children who Gary Glitter is.

Gary Glitter, by most accounts, is a terrible person and has been convicted of doing unspeakable things. There is simply no reason for the Reds to use his music as stadium fodder. The Reds should cease playing his music at once.