Patriotism isn’t just the last refuge of scoundrels. It’s
also the last refuge of aging or fading rock stars struggling to
Take Steven Tyler, lead singer of and brains behind rock
“We need to go back to the way it was 30 years ago, when
everybody had Grandma and Grandpa, and we were willing to pass
moral judgments about right and wrong,” Tyler told Detroit
Free Press rock critic Brian McCollum. In other words, we need
to go back to a good time--before there was Aerosmith, which
blurred the morality of right and wrong. It’s the last thing
you’d expect from counterculture hero Tyler.
And it’s a bit hypocritical.
I’m glad Tyler—whose band made it big during the early
70s amidst Vietnam War protests—found religion. But he’s
part of the reason many people never knew both a grandma and a
grandpa on both sides of their family, much less a father
sticking around. Tyler was a leader in the casual sex, drugs,
and disease culture, which spawned out of wedlock
kids--including his own--in single-mother households. If
anything made America weak, Aerosmith’s attitude--and its
socially devastating consequences of disease and crime--did.
One of Aerosmith’s greatest hits was “Walk This Way.”
But, while Tyler now “Talks this way,” he never walked it.
Speaking of not having both a grandma and grandpa, Tyler led by
example. His own daughter Liv—born out of wedlock to Playboy
model Bebe Buell—didn’t know the identity of her real
father, Tyler, until she was already growing up. Abandoned by
Tyler, Buell raised Liv with rocker Todd Rundgren.
And there’s the 14-year-old Seattle fan Tyler brags about
in “Walk This Way,” Aerosmith’s 1997 biography. He got her
parents to sign her over to him as her guardian. Then, Tyler,
her new “guardian,” got her pregnant, made her get an
abortion, and dumped her. Grandma and grandpa, moral judgments
about right and wrong, indeed.
Aerosmith’s self-absorbed, drug-induced haze of a biography
is the story of Tyler and his bandmates snorting plaster from a
wall when the cocaine ran out. Of uppers, downers, assorted
other pills, heroin, coke, multiple sex partners, and multiple
out-of-wedlock and abandoned kids. It’s a drawn out version of
VH-1’s “Behind the Music,” in which Tyler’s newly
desired “moral judgments about right and wrong” are
So, it’s hard to listen to listen to Tyler’s newfound
values when his old ones—proudly spotlighted for his fans for
over three decades—helped destroy the fabric of American
Tyler now thinks "there should be a mandatory draft . .
. for three years," as in Israel. But, strangely, when
there last was a draft, during Vietnam, no Aerosmith members,
including Tyler, were drafted or served, though they were all of
prime draft age. When patriotism was lonely and needed, Tyler
was singing, "Dream On."
Sept. 11th “brought me to my knees. It made me change,”
Tyler explains. “We need to get back to some serious
thinking.” But, are these the true sentiments of a new patriot
“brought to his knees”. . . , or are they the words of a
now-53-year-old rocker whose knees are arthritic? Ditto for his
selling ability, with Aerosmith’s latest CD selling only 2.5
million worldwide. “Not great,” he admits. Tyler (whose
third family and second wife are now growing older) must realize
that he’s now less relevant, less hip. And that, with an
endorsement deal for Dodge--read, minivans--he’s now hawking
uncool transportation and less cool music to women who were once
his wild groupies, but are now patriotic, settled-down soccer
moms with kids and flags. That explains Tyler’s new advocacy
of “flags in school, children respecting their hometown.”
Then there’s Tyler’s buddy, “Kid Rock,” a/k/a Bob
Ritchie. At a Saturday Detroit video shoot for his soon-released
new CD, Ritchie instructed fans appearing in the video to wear
and sport flags and red, white, and blue. But the patriotism of
Ritchie--the self-styled “Pimp of the Nation,” who likes to
give the one-finger salute in every publicity shot and toured
the country in his “White Trash on Dope Tour”—rings
hollow. Even with his entrance via star-spangled monster truck.
It’s less than patriotic to use the Michigan chapter of
crime-prone “Outlaw Biker Gang” as security. “He respects
us more than anyone else in this town,” said a tattoo-covered
Ritchie is another rocker with an unthrilling new CD, whose
patriotism seems little more than a marketing tool, especially
considering the damage he creates as role-model for American
kids. The scion of a wealthy car dealer, he’s an admitted
former drug-dealer and crack-user, who fathered a kid out of
wedlock with a woman he says was a drug dealer. In his phony
working-class, trailer-park act, Ritchie praised “Bill Clinton
. . . a [expletive] pimp. . . . The guy’s my hero.” This is
Or this?: “I’m a pimp. You can check my stats . . . .
Smack all the Hoes.” Or, “Because I do so much pimpin’,
one day I’ll probably walk with a limp . . . one day, watch,
I’ll be the pimp of the nation.” Or, “I be the early-mornin’
stoned pimp, straight-limpin’ Boone’s Farm-drinkin’, at
the party big booty pinchin.”
Patriotism isn't just about waving a flag and supporting a
war. It's about doing what's good for America in peacetime, and
these rockers haven't.
P.T. Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute. Fall
for Steven Tyler’s and Kid Rock’s strange new patriotism,
and count yourself in the Barnum-specified gene-pool.
Debbie Schlussel is
a political commentator and attorney. She is a frequent guest on
ABC's "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher" and Fox
News Channel. Join her fan
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