Thursday, December 04, 2003

A word of caution this morning for critics who sometimes become a little too enamored of their own wit, particularly the sarcastic and biting kind -- and this surely applies to all of us at one point or another.

An article in the Orange County Weekly called "We’ve Lost that Self-Righteous Feeling" (thanks to Sheila Lennon for the link) expresses the paper's regret for slamming the Righteous Brothers shortly before Bobby Hatfield's death -- an unkind pan that apparently got under Bobby's skin.

The piece contains a confession from its author:

I once slagged off Steve Goodman in a review, mocking his "perennial opening act" status. What I didn’t know was that he’d risen from his sickbed to do that show as a favor to the promoter when another act cancelled at the last minute. Goodman was in pain, dying of leukemia, was soon dead, and my review was the last one he ever got.

People can drop dead at any time, and that’s no reason to gild their talents. But it should make us more cognizant of what we write, and whether we do it to be truthful or because being snide might make you look cool. Again speaking from personal experience, being a rock critic is a pretty unhip job, and there’s a tendency to want to seem hipper by dumping on other people, or at least distancing yourself from things that may be even less hip than you.

Steve Goodman was one helluva songwriter (he wrote "You Never Even Called Me By My Name," the best damn country song ever written), but even if he wasn't, you have to wonder if he deserved it.

I've written my share of negative reviews, but I don't think I've ever panned anyone on their deathbed. It's something to keep in mind, though -- if you wouldn't want something you write to be the last thing a person read about themselves, maybe you shouldn't write it. Not to say you shouldn't write the truth, be it favorable or negative, but it's important to keep perspective.