I’ve been reading the classic Dr. Seuss tale “Green Eggs and Ham” lately with my two-year-old. Previously drawn primarily to the car and train illustrations, he has begun demanding that I actually read out to him “Sam and Ham”. I’ve thus far very much enjoyed rediscovering some of the Seuss books, most of which I hadn’t looked at since I was a young child myself. “Green Eggs and Ham” made an appearance during my junior high school years in another form, however, and is strangely tied to current events here in Canada.
Sometime around 1992, a friend of mine acquired a copy of a demo tape by Toronto novelty voice act Moxy Früvous. This 6-song self-titled mini-album included a brilliant take on the aformentioned Dr. Seuss book, which is well worth a listen if you have a few minutes. I was hooked on the whole set, but was always very impressed by the genius of this particular song. It unfortunately never made its way to their subsequent full-sized album Bargainville, which disappointed me greatly. (I have heard that it had to do with copyright issues surrounding Green Eggs and Ham, but don’t know anything specific.) I lost interest in them as a group and didn’t think much about them from then on, beyond occasionally coming across some of their songs in various contexts.
As it turns out, one of the members of Moxy Früvous, long since defunct, was none other than Jian Ghomeshi, famous for his show Q on CBC, and now infamous for allegedly violently assaulting and raping a number of women. While I had of course heard of Ghomeshi, I had no idea about the connection to the band until these disturbing allegations came to the fore. This has forced a lot of fans and former fans of the band to consider their relationship with the old band and its work.
Can we separate the artist, and their flaws, from the art? Ghomeshi was merely one member - it seems unfair to punish the rest of them for his potential crimes, although it does raise questions about what they might have known back in the day. More significantly, though, I can’t help but think that the music stands on its own regardless of the reality of its creators. The song still strikes me as a stroke of genius, and has absolutely nothing to do with violence of any kind. While it is interesting and sometimes important to consider the people behind the works, I don’t think we should confuse people with art.
In this, the Bill Cosby allegations look eerily similar. Much like Ghomeshi, Cosby stands accused of some rather vile things, with an even larger number of accusers to contend with over a longer period of time. He may never be charged due to the statute of limitations, but there seems to be an awful lot of smoke. With that said, The Cosby Show, and much of his other work, remains important for cultural reasons if nothing else. I will likely never look at Dr. Huxtable quite the same again, but it will remain part of my childhood and part of our culture regardless of how the Cosby story pans out.