Fill to me the parting glass
This is a very touchy topic, and even typing this I feel like I’m tip toeing over broken glass. The front-man of The Rumjacks has, earlier this month, pled guilty and been convicted of several accounts of assault and sexual assault of an ex girlfriend. He has now been incarcerated for 16 months and the band has come out publicly announcing an indefinite hiatus and decrying domestic violence. These are the facts we have available to us and I will not presume any more or any less. He has pled guilty in front of a jury of his peers, and has been sentenced by a duly appointed judge.
The question that remains is “should we give a fuck?”
It is almost impossible not to draw a parallel between this case and the now vastly infamous case of American pop artist Chris Brown and his assault of his girlfriend at the time, the R&B artist Rihanna. Brown has been almost universally condemned by the media, independent critics and that homogenous entity “the internet”.
I’ve personally given the matter very little attention as I am a fan neither of Chris Brown, Rihanna or domestic violence yet I am now forced to reconcile some conflicting feelings because, as I’ve mentioned before, I really enjoy the music that the Rumjacks play.
The difference between the aforementioned felonious superstar and this instance is that the Rumjacks are a whole band, not just an individual. The past year (regardless of legal indiscretion) has been fantastic for them, with the launch of their album “Gangs of New Holland”, almost constant touring and a slew of international support acts which saw them being signed to an ABC recording label.
A blog which broke the news (now removed from circulation) was quick to condemn not only Franky but the Rumjacks brand as a whole for their apparent silent consent of his behaviour. I imagine it would be a very difficult situation to deal with. Imagine being in a band which has been making leaps and bounds, yet constantly knowing that inevitably they would need to confront and deal with the unfortunate conduct of one of their members.
It may be wise to look back in history, at other examples of other great musicians who’ve had run-ins with the law. Bob Dylan was, at one point in his life, physically abusive to a partner (and later redeemed). Elvis Presley was a paedophile. Chuck Berry was convicted of filming women urinating without their consent. Yet despite these attrocious crimes, their music lives with us still.
Should we forget that these individuals have a spotted past because they either had previously or would then go on to make amazing music? Absolutely not. Should we discount their contributions to the wonderful history of rock and roll because they (like everyone) had made mistakes? Of course not.
My advice is to remember The Rumjacks how you will. For me, they’ll be remembered as a fun celt punk band whose enigmatic live show and catchy song writing gave way to many a jovial, drunken evening with great friends, dancing like a fool and singing at the top of my lungs in a bad Irish accent.
I suppose it matters very little now, as the band is now defunct as it should be. I ask though, will this cloud linger over the shoulders of the free members in their future projects? I certainly hope not. Talented men that they are, the idea that their futures should be tarnished by the actions of someone they once played with is deplorable, yet I can easily see it being the case.
Draw your own conclusions about an individual but remember that these men have committed no crime. They have not condoned or been accessory to any crime and should not be treated as such. The crimes of one man should not condemn either the men associated with him, or the music they played.