Earlier this week, folk singer Michelle Shocked reportedly spewed vicious anti-gay comments during a San Francisco performance, voiced her support for Proposition Eight and quoted Old Testament verses that denounce homosexuality. "I live in fear that the world will be destroyed if gays are allowed to marry," she said to the crowd, according to several witness accounts. "You can go on Twitter and say, 'Michelle Shocked says God hates fags.'"
Since the late Eighties and into the Nineties, fans have associated Shocked with progressive liberal ideals; she's become a "born-again, sanctified, saved-in-the-blood Christian" only in the past few years. Her stance on homosexuality has a loaded history, convoluted by a 1990 interview during which she admitted to having at least one female lover.
This is not the first time artists have outraged their fans by betraying their expectations – or by simply refusing sanity and reason. Read on for our list of artists taking some of the most left-field, bewildering standpoints in music history.
Neil Young blamed homosexuals for AIDS:
In an interview with Melody Maker in 1985, Neil Young backed Reagan's gun control policies and said of AIDS, "You go to a supermarket and you see a faggot behind the fuckin' cash register, you don't want him to handle your potatoes." Needless to say, Young almost certainly regrets that horrific statement and quickly moved away from right-wing politics. He wrote the furious anti-George H.W. Bush screed "Rockin' in the Free World" in 1989 and was one of George W. Bush's most vocal critics in the 2000s.
Bob Dylan preached radical Christianity:
Dylan's born-again Christian period in the late Seventies saw him preaching the gospel from the stage, in interviews and on Slow Train Coming. "Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I follow God, so if my followers are following me, indirectly they're gonna be following God too," he said. The tour in support of Slow Train Coming didn't feature a single pre-gospel song, and many fans were horrified. He began writing secular music and playing his old songs in 1981, and a few years later he returned to Judaism.
The Dixie Chicks bashed Bush:
The country trio criticized fellow-Texan President George W. Bush just before the invasion of Iraq. Natalie Maines caused a media uproar when she said, "e're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas," while playing a gig in London. Later, Maines apologized for insulting the office of the presidency. Still, radio stations banned her songs and some fans actually burned Dixie Chicks records. Passions have cooled down considerably since those highly jingoistic days of 2003, but the Dixie Chicks have yet to regain the momentum they lost during the ordeal.
Foo Fighters pushed HIV denialist propaganda:
The band helped organize a concert in 2000 to benefit Alive and Well, a group claiming that HIV does not cause AIDS. Ignoring over 20 years of scientific research, the band backed Alive and Well's mandates for patients to stop taking their HIV medication and for the undiagnosed public to never get tested for HIV. It's a stunningly wrong-headed and irresponsible message. The group hasn't talked about the issue in years, and presumably they have come to their senses.
Willie Nelson supported 9/11 conspiracy theories:
The country legend rejected that the 9/11 attacks were acts of terrorism, explaining that the World Trade Center towers must have imploded, based on building destruction he had seen in Las Vegas. "They're trying to tell me that an airplane did it and I can't go along with that," he said. "What does it take for us to realize we're having the wool pulled over our eyes one more time?" Beyond the fact that most experts say that Nelson (and all other truthers) are completely wrong, this is not a message that will gain you many friends in the country community.
Michael Jackson denies child molestation charges but admits to sleeping with young boys:
First accused of child molestation in 1993, MJ opened up about his Neverland sleepovers in the 2003 British TV series Living with Michael Jackson, forever creeping out millions of fans: "I have slept in bed with many children. . . . It's very right. It's very loving," he said, "God knows in my heart how much I love children." Jackson's crazy behavior had been damaging his career for two decades at this point, and his ham-fisted attempt to set the record straight in this interview just made things worse.
Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images; Jerod Harris/Getty Images for H&M; Stefan M. Prager/Redferns