mildly offensive

A marginal but noteworthy figure in the history of American popular music passed on.  Charles Manson.  My condolences to the family.

He has a rough start in life.  The Depression era son of a single teenage mom who, when he was five, was sent off to a five year prison term.  After chafing against strict disciplinarians of a succession of extended family stewards, he turned to a life of petty crime, and found himself in a vicious cycle, passing through a series of juvenile reformatories and prison complexes.

It was during his first adult stint in prison, life drifting and directionless, that he found his calling in life, and was inspired by the sounds of four mop top musicians from Liverpool, England.  Bitten big time by Beatle-mania, Charles Manson caught the dream of rock stardom, to become “Bigger than Jesus”, as John Lennon once put it.  Or maybe just Jesus.

With new purpose in life, he gained the confidence in the powers of persuasion through a prison course from the Carnegie Institute, which together with complementary lessons from the prison’s pimp population, taught him what he needed to know on how to Win Friends and Influence People.

And he really impressed prison officials as he made his way on a new spiritual journey, formulating an eclectic mix out of his Christian upbringing, tenants from the prison’s Scientology contingent, and Robert Heinlein’s Strangers from a Strange Land.

Once released, he followed up on a chance prison contact with a big time record agent and made his way to Los Angeles, where falling in for an extended stay at Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s place, he doggedly pursued the dream of hitting the Big Time.

Though he failed to catch the break for a recording contract, his Frankie Laine vocals, forceful stage presence, free styling abilities, and lyrical themes of complete submission of ego won him the praise from the likes of Neil Young, as well the un-credited writer of the Beach Boys song “Never Learn Not to Love“, blatantly stolen with minor changes from his toe-tapping call to action “Cease to Exist“.  And he came close enough to be cited by a producer in an interview with a British music magazine as a name to watch out for.

Nonetheless, Charles Manson maintained and cultivated a small but loyal cult following, who like your Juggalos and Phish-heads, proved fiercely loyal, detractors be damned, no matter the currents and trends of the times, even as his debut album “Lie” failed to sell due to a lack of commercial backing from even underground head shops.

In later years, he came out with a second release — Live From San Quentin Prison — and had his songs covered by the likes of The Lemonheads, Guns and Roses, and Marilyn Manson.  (Charles Monroe?)

But he was best known for his controversial cover  of the Beatles’s “Helter Skelter”, which binded an association with him closely that at U2 concerts, Bono would feel the need to defiantly assert the stealing of the song back — for the Beatles.

Beyond the field of music, Charles Manson used his fame and celebrity status to found the environmental advocacy group ATWA — the acronym standing for Air, Trees, Water, Animals — a group dedicated to fighting big corporations on behalf of the preservation and well-being of Air, Trees, Water, and Animals, and showing the same environmental consciousness that lead Charles Manson to become a mid-life convert to outspoken vegetarianism.

Charles Manson.  Dead at 83 of natural causes.  He got to the top of the slide, then went for a ride.  Or… something.

[Hey!  What do you think a Bill Cosby’s obituary would have looked like a decade ago?]

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