I’m not really a heavy metal fan but when I saw this piece posted in the Washington Post about the band that was playing during the terror attacks at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, I had to take a second look.
I was swimming through this longish piece when I began noticing all sorts of hints about faith being dropped by Jesse Hughes, the lead singer of Eagles of Death Metal. Anyone who’s been in a Christian subculture could pick them up instantly. I am not sure the reporter was attuned to this at all, unfortunately, and Hughes wasn't really big on the God talk but he kept dropping hint after hing. It's obvious this man is one mixed-up guy, albeit quite entertaining.
Anyway, this piece has more ghosts (places where the reporter should have picked up on the spiritual element) than a Hogwarts Halloween party. Here’s how it started:
From head to toe, the Eagles of Death Metal lead singer is like a neon sign advertising the trappings of American rock. Tight jeans. Bright tattoos. Bold views. Wild hair. Several stints in drug rehab. And above all: sexually charged lyrics.
On Nov. 13, Hughes was belting those sexually suggestive lyrics on stage when three members of the Islamic State forced their way into the Bataclan concert hall in Paris. Hughes managed to escape but scores of his fans did not. Strapped with suicide vests and armed with Kalashnikovs, the gunmen slaughtered 89 people at the Bataclan. Across the city, coordinated attacks claimed 41 more lives.
In a statement, the Islamic State tried to paint the concert hall as a hedonistic pleasure palace “where hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice.”
But if the Islamic State tried to blame Hughes, his band and his fans for the supposed sins of rock-and-roll, then the attackers forgot about the genre’s other side: its saving grace.
The story soon launches into a description of the man who escaped death that night:
In many ways, Hughes is a fitting figurehead for American rock. Just last month, Grantland called him “rock’s last wild man.” In an interview laced with references to sex, drugs, religious devotion and Donald Trump, Hughes likened himself to rock-and-roll greats like Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Prince.
“Religious devotion?” More information, please. Plus, the song this band was singing as the ISIS began firing away was "Kiss the Devil." Where does the Satanism in the lyrics fit in with Hughes' "devotion?"
The reporter could have unpacked all that later on, but didn’t. The story launches into Hughes’ bio, with him saying:
“I was going through a really ugly divorce,” Hughes said in an interview earlier this year. “I went through a very typical, clichéd ‘I served you my whole life, and this is what I get’ anger.”
Now, who do you think is the “you” Hughes is referring to? Is that "you," or "You"? Doesn't this bring to mind Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody?" The story then describes Hughes’ raunchy lifestyle:
But Hughes also seems to capture, for better or worse, much more of the contradictory American condition. He is highly religious and politically conservative. He loves Donald Trump, believes President Obama was not born in America and considers George W. Bush his hero because “a dude who does blow and likes ZZ Top is my kind of motherf--,” he told Hyden.
Yet, he is also hypersexual -- “I’m a horny dude, man” -- and unabashed about his continued drug use: “The only place you’re going to find the type of speed I like to do is at a gay bar at six in the morning.”
Hughes is an ordained minister who preaches fevered sermons online but has also posed for naked photo shoots with his ex-porn star girlfriend. He describes himself as devout, but goes by the nickname “The Devil.”
An ordained minister? Fill in the blanks, dude.
A quick Google search turns up this Facebook post by the Universal Life Church world headquarters about their ordination of Hughes on Dec. 6, 2012. Hughes, they say, is “a very intense and very devout Christian.” What denomination was he before getting ordained AND, if he's so unhappy with God, what's he doing becoming a pastor?
So at this point, one wonders: Is Hughes still bitter toward God? Or is he grateful that his life and the lives of his band were saved on that awful evening when so many people died because they came to listen to them? Does Hughes feel at all bad about being a magnet for crazies, in this case an ISIS cell?
Looking more closely at this piece, we see the quotes are taken from other interviews. So it’s possible the reporter had no access to the rock star.
But the writer does seem a bit clueless as to the spiritual aspects of Hughes’ escape from death. Near the end, the article refers to rock music’s “saving grace” being the people at the concert who refused to leave their friends or who blocked their friends from being hit by bullets. Was the real origin of grace the music or Hughes? Should the term have been applied to something else, not the least of which the fact that Hughes escaped?
Here’s hoping this reporter gets a one-on-one with Hughes where he can buttonhole the musician on whether serving God still has benefits or not.