Music Video of the Day: Cult Of Personality by Living Colour (1989, dir. Drew Carolan)

I was going to save this for Inauguration Day, but I decided to go with it now for two reasons. One is that it is one of my favorite songs and music videos, so I couldn’t wait any longer. The second reason is that I came across a music video where Ric Ocasek of The Cars walks on water while Uncle Sam and others grab at him and he sings the line “Got A Hold On You”. The water being in a pool at Paris Hilton’s family’s estate. That’ll do unless I find something else better.

I don’t have much to say except to watch it. I’ll share a little backstory on it though, courtesy of the book I Want My MTV.

Steve Backer:

“When Living Colour came around, it was a head-scratcher. ‘Cult of Personality’ seems like an obvious hit now, but let’s face it, four black guys doing rock n’ roll wasn’t your everyday thing. The reaction from MTV wasn’t so much resistance as confusion: ‘What do we do with it?”

Vernon Reid, Living Colour:

“When I saw the playback of ‘Cult of Personality,’ I was like, America isn’t ready for this. There’s footage of SS troops, shots of Mussolini. It’s very confrontational.”

Steve Backer:

“The fact is, I got Living Colour on MTV by threatening to withhold a new Michael Jackson video. I called Frank DiLeo, who’d worked at Epic Records and was managing Michael. The ‘Smooth Criminal’ video was about to come out, and we had to decide who’d get the world premiere. I told Frank, ‘I’m having trouble getting Living Colour on MTV. Can I tell them they’re not going to get Michael unless they deal with Living Colour?’ Frank was our former head of promotion. He understood. He said, ‘Do what you gotta do. I’ll back you up.’

So I went to see Abbey, whom I didn’t know well. I was ridiculously nervous. I had Living Colour in one hand and Michael Jackson in the other. Abbey said, ‘Backer, this is not how we do business.’ And I said, ‘It’s exactly how you do business.’ They put ‘Cult of Personality’ into rotation.”

Corey Glover, Living Colour:

“We owe most of our career to Michael Jackson.”

Here is a live performance they gave in the past 10 years or so:

I love the song. I love the music video. I love that they didn’t let them being black keep them from doing rock. We need more artists that don’t let skin color, gender, where they grew up, or any other thing like that keep them from the kind of music they like or might be good at.

If Living Colour is up your alley, then I recommend the album …For the Whole World to See by Death. They’re the all-black proto-punk group that didn’t have their record released in the pre-Ramones 70s simply because they wouldn’t change their name. There’s a documentary about them that I also recommend called A Band Called Death (2012).

Here is their song Politicians In My Eyes that goes along with Cult of Personality:

You can find out about the director of the music video at his website.


One response to “Music Video of the Day: Cult Of Personality by Living Colour (1989, dir. Drew Carolan)

  1. Pingback: Music Video of the Day: Paradise In Distress by Golden Earring (1999, dir. ???) | Through the Shattered Lens

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