Friday, April 07, 2006

Morrissey's Mysterious Mexican Connection

From Chloe Veltman's article The Passion of the Morrissey in The Believer
Of Morrissey's most arduous fans today, the southwestern-US-based Latino audience which turned up to see The Sweet & Tender Hooligans that night — as they do on many occasions, regardless of whether it's to see the real Morrissey or an imitation — are undoubtedly the most devout. When the crowd chanted "Mexico! Mexico!" at an off-the-beaten-track Morrissey concert in the desert town of Yuma, Arizona a few years ago, trying to get Morrissey to acknowledge that the majority of the audience was Latino, the singer responded by saying: "I'm going to sing a couple more songs then all of you can go back to Mexicali." The convention center auditorium ricocheted with cheers. "Only one white man in the world — and he's not the Pope — can tell a group of Mexicans in the United States to return to Mexico and not only avert death, but be loved for saying so," wrote journalist Gustavo Arellano in an article about Morrissey's Latino fans in the pop culture 'zine LoopdiLoop.

Morrissey's "Latino connection" has been a source of amusement and confusion to journalists who cannot quite see how this skinny, effete Englander with his oblique references to dank Manchester cemeteries could appeal to the traditionally macho, sun-kissed Latino culture. Nevertheless Morrissey dedicated his 1999 ¡Oye Esteban! tour to these fans, once famously told an audience in Orange County "I wish I was born Mexican," and the singer's new hometown is affectionately referred to as "Moz Angeles" by the local Latino contingent. Of the handful I spoke to at the Totally 80s Convention, all had seen Morrissey perform live at least twice, all had visited the annual The Smiths convention held each year in Los Angeles, and two had even met Moz in person. "Everyone we know has been touched by at least one Morrissey song," said Hernandez. "He's been in our lives for many years."

What's behind this Morrissey-Latino love fest? Arellano draws interesting parallels between Morrissey's music and Mexico's ranchera music tradition:

His trembling falsetto brings to mind the rich, sad voice of Pedro Infante, while his effeminate stage presence makes him a UK version of Juan Gabriel. As in ranchera, Morrissey's lyrics rely on ambiguity, powerful imagery and metaphors. Thematically, the idealization of a simpler life and a rejection of all things bourgeois come from a populist impulse common to ranchera. The most striking similarity, though, is Morrissey's signature beckoning and embrace of the uncertainty of life and love, something that at first glance might seem the opposite of macho Mexican music. But check it out: for all the machismo and virulent existentialism that Mexican music espouses, there is another side — a morbid fascination with getting your heart and dreams broken by others, usually in death. In fact, Morrissey's most famous confession of unrequited love, "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" ("And if a double-decker bus/Crashes into us/To die by your side/Would be a heavenly way to die"), emulates almost sentiment for sentiment Cuco Sanchez's torch song "Cama de Piedra" ("The day that they kill me/May it be with five bullets/And be close to you").

But this is just part of the story. More immediate a reason for the connection between Morrissey and his Latino fan-base is the link between one misfit with a powerful message about transcendence and a nation of people all trying to transcend the difficulties of a life in a foreign culture. "Morrissey sings to the disaffected, and God knows alienation is part of the assimilation tradition— the equal and opposite reaction of the immigrants drive to blend in," said Arellano. "We ache; Morrissey soothes."
More here

1 comment:

understandablyshattered said...

i love him too