This question has been asked many times by politicians, religious leaders, and others: Does an artist bear any responsibility to the world for their art, how they affect children and the impact they have on society at large? My answer is, why yes; of course they do – absolutely! Here are my top 10 reasons why.
A responsible artist should:
1- Never compromise their vision based on the limits of society at any given time.
Bootleg 21-35 documents how my band and I did our best to shatter society’s limited expectations of rock music as a genre.
2-Challenge the status quo and the values that he or she disagrees with.
Pete Seeger, whose protest songs and stance for the common man got him blacklisted as a Communist and banned from commercial television.
3-Sound the alarm of societal, political and religious abuses.
Throughout his entire career, Bob Marley spoke out clearly and directly in his music against political and social oppression and abuse.
4-Never water down or censor their vision based on the fear of the powers that be, the need for approval from their audience or for commercial reasons.
Boundary-pushing comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested and jailed multiple times for profanity and vulgarity throughout his career.
5-Be truthful to what they believe and feel.
Even though his band has had problems with the amount of effort and time he puts into his charitable work, U-2 front-person Bono still stays true to his convictions.
6-Honor their talents regardless of peoples’ reactions.
Then folk hero Bob Dylan committed what was considered to be sacrilege when he came onstage and performed with an electric band at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965.
7- Be as unique as possible because only he or she can offer their individual talents and gifts to the world.
I fondly remember a Oui magazine article stating that The Residents and Skafish were the strangest acts in the world. To this day, The Residents and Skafish don’t fit into any of the nice little cookie-cutter boxes that people and the media try to stick artists into.
8-Stay committed to being the very best artist that they can be.
I’ve always admired the devotion that John Coltrane had for his instrument, furthering and expanding jazz and his technical perfection through constant practice and rehearsal.
9- Stick to their work whether they make money or not.
As I can personally attest to, so many artists have lived through the horror of not making any money from their art, such as the great Vincent Van Gogh, yet the commitment must remain.
10-Do their very best to not be boring, lazy, or put out work that sucks, which in reality, is the most serious artistic crime against humanity of all.
And here’s an extra: An artist should always do their best to help others develop their own talents and gifts.
If all artists would just resist any nutty way-out-there extremist temptation to taint their gifts and stay accountable to these values, they would make an irreplaceable contribution that enlightens, enriches, and helps culture, society and this world to evolve into being a far better place!
Got any reasons you’d like to add?