Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

I have been checking out a lot of REM videos on youtube lately. A comment posted on one clip said that they were one of the most compassionate bands of their era, or any. This is a perceptive comment, a rarely appreciated quality and the secret of REM’s magic.

In his songs and his image, Michael Stipe consistently shows self-compassion; his lyrics suggest self-examination and the working out of a process, sometimes his performance moves look like a kind of dance therapy. As he makes space for his own individuality, he makes space for yours too, gives anyone a right to be just how they are, and in that moment, be less alone. Everybody hurts, everybody cries.

At their height of their success, Stipe was virtually alone as an American star in his rejection of macho cliches. Surrounded by the likes of Guns’n’Roses and Public Enemy etc, his presentation of a delicate, sexually ambiguous personality was brave.

I watched an interview in which Stipe said that he always tried to write from his subconscious, and that when he does that his lyrics seems to speak to the times, whether the song is political or not. I like the way he uses words as a kind of collage. As with many of my favourite lyricists, I’m not too bothered about what he actually means.

When I see a sensitive man, with a look similar to mine, I feel a kinship, a brotherhood. Stipe’s individuality is expressed musically and physically, although in speech, he doesn’t seem vulnerable at all, but quite matter-of-fact.

REM split up in 2011, a move I regarded as admirable. I mean no disrespect for bands that continue into their 70s, but the basic instincts of rock’n’roll are youthful, immature even (and no less valuable for it); it can’t continue too long and still feel spontaneous. Recently, Stipe was interviewed on BBC2’s Newsnight and said he believed he’d been a good pop star, an ‘ok’ rock star and he still missed being onstage. Feeling the loss and moving on anyway deserves respect.

Here are some REM videos I’ve been enjoying recently for all those reasons.


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