Why Are Rock Stars Fey?

Steve Sailer writes: Stars, of course, tend to be attention-seeking, which is not an extremely masculine trait.

There’s a modest negative correlation between how much a star needs applause and his masculinity level. Broadway stars are the surest of getting their fix of applause nightly and are likely the gayest on average. Rock stars get tremendous ovations, but first they need to deliver in the loneliness of the studio. Movie stars must be able to perform in isolation, as in Gay Talese’s story about what a movie star told her retired-ballplayer husband after a USO tour introduced her to the pleasures of performing in front of an audience:

“Joe,” said Marilyn Monroe, just back from Korea, “you never heard such cheering.”

“Yes I have,” Joe DiMaggio answered.

Team-sport athletes get their cheers, but they also play half their games on the road in front of hostile audiences, where they must be motivated by the masculine urge to ruin a crowd’s evening.

All this is not to say that rock stars tend to be particularly gay.

The acid test of any profession’s tendency toward male homosexuality was its AIDS death toll during the ’80s and early ’90s. For example, ballet lost Nureyev, Joffrey, and Ailey. Fashion icons Halston and Perry Ellis died of AIDS.

In contrast, rock lost one big star, Freddie Mercury of Queen. But that Freddie was gay didn’t really come as much of a surprise.


* Here’s an ancillary question: why do male pop stars so very often have unusually high vocal ranges, to the point that some sound almost feminine? And why, even in opera, are the tenors the glamor boys instead of the basses? Why isn’t what seems to be the more masculine trait — i.e. a deep voice — rewarded with greater adulation?

* 1. Freddie Mercury wasn’t gay, he was bi—or, more clearly, he was just into whatever sexual thrill was coming around. His lead guitarist and co-writer on many of the songs–the astrophysicist guy–has stated that Freddie wasn’t gay, because astrophysicist/guitarist dude was his roommate for many years, and saw him banging away happily at many a groupie. Think Charlie Sheen or some Roman Emperor–basically, when sexual access comes so easy, people lose interest in the common, and up the ante a lot to get their thrills. See also: Mick Jagger.

Freddie just had the bad luck of jumping into bed with men just after it exploded as ok (thanks to gay rights’ movements of the 70s) but just as it was emerging that doing so was more than just risking a bit of itchiness or burning while peeing.

2. Much of the feyness also probably comes from having to do the deed with record company executives in order to get radio play/promoted albums. Albums are just advertising to most good rock stars—money comes from tours, not albums, because the the record companies structure album deals heavily in their favor. But that advertising can be very helpful in turning a nobody into an arena-selling out artist quickly, or pumping you up from mid-level festival band to headliner.

But so many record companies and MTV and such are run by homosexuals who demand the same kind of favors from wanna-bes as do the studios for Hollywood movies. Actors are trained to pretend to be something that they’re not, but musicians don’t have that training, so the effects of their ass-for-albums deals shows up more clearly on them.

* The flamboyant male performer certainly has deep roots – 19th century superstars like Liszt and Paganini would probably strike us as fey today. I bet Mozart performing live would as well. On the other hand at the court of the Sun King Prince would have seemed fairly normal. Somehow the music and stage world seem to have preserved the tradition of male peacocking that otherwise died out with the Industrial Revolution in more sober spheres of life such as business and politics.

* “Fey” means unworldly; rock stars are supposed to be able to tap into truths that are obscured from the rest of us, which they reveal using music, a language which few of us can speak but which we all understand, since it goes straight to our emotions.

The root meaning of “fey” is “fated to die soon”; I don’t need to go through all the deaths of pop stars to make that point.

* The corollary of fey performers having better looking female offspring is that ultra-masculine men often have masculine looking ones – not a good look on a girl.

* Brady Quinn’s sister and Bill Cowher’s daughters come to mind.

* David Bowie often told a story of how his band members during his Ziggy Stardust days were very much “lads” and hated they makeup he had them wear. He said that they quickly found out the makeup made it easier for them to get girls and stopped complaining.

* Every opera needs a cruel, callous villain. I suppose an ultra-masculine baritone or bass is thought to be more credible in that role. So that leaves a high-voice part for the hero.

In Handel’s hit opera Julius Caesar (1724), Handel wrote Caesar’s part for a castrato. In performance today, a female mezzo-soprano or male counter-tenor sing the part. The opera was written for a British audience.

* Tom Petty’s sister had a 30-year career as a police officer and command staff with the Gainesville, FL Police Department, rising to Chief of Police (I think). She’s been the Sheriff of Alachua County for a few years now.

* Is there an unwritten rule that a talented black musician has to be compared to another talented black musician? Stevie Wonder’s talents are often compared to those of Ray Charles. (You’ve got the black+blind+musician trifecta there.)

I appreciate Prince’s talents and success, but I don’t recall hearing any new music from him since the 1980s. Granted, I’m not that into his kind of music, but AFAIK he was not continuing to produce hits, unless I missed them.

Glenn Frey, cofounder of the Eagles with Don Henley, was multi-talented as a singer, songwriter, and musician in one of the most successful bands of all time. Frey died in January 2016 and I don’t recall his death getting anywhere near the attention that Prince’s did. Of course Obama, that phony, had to issue a statement about Prince and said he listened to a couple of his songs while warming up for a meeting with the British pie minister, but that’s just his usual “I’m black, y’all” shtick.

* The same reason that white basketball players in college are compared to white basketball players in the NBA: they have a similar distribution of talents.

You will notice that folk music is dominantly white and that funk and R&B is dominantly black. The occasional band like Average White Band (this one a double whammy: Scottish white guys playing American Black music), while impressive, doesn’t move the average in the same way that Brent Barry winning a slam dunk contest, also impressive, doesn’t erase the stereotype of white guys not being able to jump.

* It certainly worked for Prince (whose severe lack of verticality barred him from getting picked for basketball games as a youth), as evidenced by the long list of lovelies that he romanced: Vanity (aka Denise Matthews), Kim Basinger, Sherilyn Fenn, Apollonia Kotero, Vanessa Marcil, etc

Interesting to note how Prince was entirely conventional in his taste in women, as evidenced by his lack of interest in West African-looking girls. Foe example, Vanity would have had no problem passing a paper bag test at a “Black” sorority.

* My wife watches “The Voice,” and I noticed the other night that each of the four coaches was asked to give a personal statement about what Prince meant to them.

I don’t recall the show doing that when Merle Haggard — arguably more influential and certainly longer lived — passed away.

It always makes me laugh when black coach Pharrell hears a contestant sing a country song and he says he’s never heard it before.

* I suppose a conspiracy theorist could propose that fey, androgynous rock stars were picked in order to mainstream androgynous cultural heroes and with them pave the way for sexual perversity. Did ghey marriage have its genesis in glam rock?

But I think the better theory – or at least the equally plausible one – is that music, and particularly the kind of rock music that doesn’t require years of musical training is an alternative path to popularity (both within one’s peer group and possibly beyond) for the athletically useless and those who don’t come from money. Substance abuse is also often an asset rather than a liability for the burgeoning garage rock star. Even though my high school experience was as an athlete in an U.S. Catholic Prep school and a rugby-mad Irish boarding school where the long-haired rock type wasn’t prevalent or even tolerated, I think most of us can recall at some point a skinny long hair rock and roller type being forced into some kind of required athletic feat and marveling at the absolute physical awkwardness and propensity to hurt themselves solely under their own power.

I think the Linklater film “Dazed and Confused” also hints at a corollary with the commitment pledge distributed to the returning football players – coaches of athletes like to police the athletes’ other interests and activities and steer them away from the drug and party scene, while also liking to fill their free time with other activities under the veil of training to crowd out those other influences. You just won’t have time to be in a garage band if you’re a competitive athlete under the guidance and direction of involved coaches.

* A lot of athletes are big and strong but they are not manly in character.

Some actually have beta-personalities. I thought Carl Lewis was like the Michael Jackson of track.
And Michael Jordan was often tongue-tied. He only came alive on the court.
And some boxers are tough in the ring but lost outside it.
They are like Moose in Archie comic books.

Music is artful and seductive, so it can favor the more flamboyant kind of male.
(Dancing more so) The whole idea of serenade is sort of ‘fey’ if not ‘gay’. Consider BREAKING AWAY.

And Eddie Murphy’s stuff about Michael Jackson isn’t the most masculine guy in the world.


Music works like a drug. Humor has the same effect. Without wit and ability to make girls laugh, would Woody Allen have had a chance. And just how did Mel Brooks marry someone like Anne Bancroft?
Music turns women on. Women fall for guys who make them laugh.

“Instead, bypass conventional male vs. male competition and specialize in the arts that appeal directly to girls.”

In all my life, this is the biggest scam pulled on girls by boys. Hang around art schools in college, and I’ve seen some shi*. Dork-ass guys pretending to be ‘creative’ and getting some hot chicks. But this doesn’t work with all women. There’s a class of women who love ‘culture’ and stuff. They fall for this shi* so often, it’s embarrassing.

Anyway, as the music went more from the mode of serenade to rape fantasy, I think the pretty boy in music might be losing out.

That madonna had the longest successful career among 80s stars is indicative. She never switched to rap but she remained relevant as long as she acted the whore. You don’t need rap to act the whore.
But most big 80s male stars didn’t or couldn’t make the transition to rap. To be badass, rap is the standard. So, they became old hat.

There was a time when white boys and white girls mostly listened to white rock.
Today, much of white rock is stuff that only white males listen to. Many white girls are into rap and female idol music. Black rap is male ideal, and female idol music(white or black but often not rap) is the female ideal. (Too much rapping makes women lose their feminine qualities).

Frey was not a personality.

Pop Music isn’t just about the music but the image.

Most people hardly know what Frey looked like.

Prince had a very distinct image. He was a diva. And even after he faded, he knew how to keep the cult going. Bowie did also, which is why his death got huge coverage.

His very moniker made him a kind of neo-aristocrat. madonna used the same shtick though she should called herself mudonna.

* Pop stars are the high priests/shamans of mass pop culture, which makes sense of their shape-shifting and their supposed unique access to and interpretations of higher realms of the spiritual – “fey” also meaning “giving an impression of vague unworldliness” and “having supernatural powers of clairvoyance.”

This lends pop propaganda enormous impact upon the impressionable. In fact, I’ve known many an individual who has patterned his entire life around a single pop act, and have even known several individuals who have patterned their entire lives around a single pop song. Indeed for some of my adolescent and early adult years I, too, was taken in by and patterned my worldview and outlook upon a select few pop acts’ “message.” One of my high school friends continues to insist that merely exposing Moslems to The Rolling Stones and NFL football, and to Bruce Springsteen and all the rest of the West’s pop culture panem et circenses will disabuse Moslems of their Islam, and, to my dismay, I’ve encountered far too many other Westerners who clutch adamantly to that same idiotic expectation.

Jim Morrison’s grasp of the pop star as shaman shed light on pop star fey, embodied in his “I am the Lizard King: I can do anything.”

In the West a large proportion of the masses no longer look to the Christian God as the magnetic north of their moral compass, they look instead to manufactured-image pop shamans – even to so-called “news” media and to every sort of television/media programming – that peddle nonstop “Imagine” Universalism-Feelgoodism. It’s arguable that even Pope Francis is just another one of today’s Western “We Are Really All Alike!” Universalist pop star shamans – another master of smartphone-viral public Universalist-Globalist virtue signalling.

* Why fey? They love themselves a lot more than anything else. And that’s kinda gay, when ya think about that.

* Placido Domingo is a natural baritone who sang tenor because that’s where the big bucks are.

Higher pitched stuff is more exciting: e.g., Robert Plant’s vocal on Stairway to Heaven goes up as the song gets faster and more exciting.

Bowie’s son Duncan Jones is a pretty good movie director, which is a job where an authoritative masculine personality is highly useful because you have to announce decisions constantly as if you know what you are doing. Dear old dad always sounded like a leader of men even while wearing a dress made out of feathers.

* Linklater’s new movie is about his year as a college scholarship jock (baseball) before he got a health problem with his heart and switched to arty interests. I haven’t seen it, but it sounds interesting in part because not many artists have seen jock life from the inside and vice-versa.

Lord Byron was a little like that: he was an aristocrat with total confidence that he could lead men in battle (he hadn’t died of fever, it’s possible he would have been crowned King of the Greeks), and he was a fey artist of beautiful looks.

Not surprisingly, he absolutely electrified Europe.

* Glen Frey was enough of a matinee idol and personality to land acting gigs on one of the biggest TV shows of the 80s next to Don Johnson – he co-starred in three episodes of Miami Vice.

Prince was one of a kind but proves a theory that I’ve heard and ruminated on for a while – that is, that artists are their most creative and brilliant as young men. The history of popular music and rock and roll sort of shows that artists peak around 27 (age of death of Hendrix, Morrison and others), after which their music and artistry declines. Someone theorized that it has something to do with getting laid too much and losing some of that drive and tension to create, which is a sublimation of sexual desire and longing.

My own undeveloped theory is that as the artist gets older and more successful, he gets more autonomy. Autonomy leads to self-indulgence – there’s no more push and pull between the artist’s expression and what the public wants to hear. Prince seems to be a good example of this – Purple Rain had hallmarks of his weirdness but they were tempered and shaped by the synth-rock-pop sounds that were popular in the 80s to appeal to a mass audience (note he was 26 when the album was released). With commercial success, Prince gained autonomy, eventually breaking from his record label entirely and releasing his music himself – and never again realizing the same degree of commercial popularity. It’s clear from listening to Prince’s music – even in the form of the extended versions of popular songs that were released on greatest hits albums – that he was tempering his own tastes and musical weirdness before the zenith of his career, and then much less so afterwards. Against the odds, there probably isn’t another “Purple Rain” album in all of that unreleased material in his vault.

* The human voice is the last part of your body to reach maturity. Opera singers are not advised to sing Grand Opera until after age 35 because up until then your voice is still ‘growing’ and maturing. Your voice gradually drops in pitch as you age as an adult. If you’re a male who is recording at age 20, you’ll have a higher voice than you’ll possess at age 40 or 50. This is why older singers often have trouble hitting the high notes in the hit songs they sang in their youth. They acquire a new, lower range to compensate.

If you have a sound recorder, I recommend recording your voice and keeping it around for many years, then listening to it again. My parents have some old tapes recorded back in the 1970s, and it’s very odd to hear them because their voices sound so high and young compared to the way they sound now.

A deepening voice as you age probably has much to do biological programming. A low pitch sounds authoritative, and the aged are wiser than the young. The pitch is meant to signal, ‘listen, learn, and obey.’

* Another angle is that major artists and even philosophers tend to have a unique angle or insight that emerges from their individual personalities. If they get the opportunity and have the skills to expound on this in early manhood, they may not have a second big new thing left in them.

* Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen) on fame:

“I tend to think that what fame has done is to replace the sea as the element of choice of adventure for young people. If you were a dashing young man in the 19th century you would probably have wanted to run away to sea, just as in the 20th century you might decide that you want to run away and form a pop band. The difference is that in the 19th century, before running away to sea, you would have had at least some understanding of the element that you were dealing with and would have perhaps, say, learned to swim … The thing is that there is no manual for how to cope with fame. So you’ll get some, otherwise likeable young person, who has done one good comic book, one good film, one good record, suddenly told that they are a genius, who believes it and who runs out laughing and splashing into the billows of celebrity, and whose heroin-sodden corpse is washed up a few weeks later in the shallows of the tabloids.”

* I’ve heard a fair amount of both Prince and Glenn Frey from the car radio back in the day, but if you were to ask what either man looked like, the only one I could identify is Prince. Frey is a mental blank to me despite his fame. If Prince is a peacock, the Glenn Frey is a wren.

This is why building an image and being a ‘character’ is so important to marketing music. It helps define your brand to the buyer so your record stands out on a shelf among all the competition. ‘Characters’ always hog the pages in the music press because they’re more interesting to write about than normal guys who just make music, and that too, helps sell their brand and makes the competition seem unremarkable.

Ultimately, the opposite of flamboyant is dull. The opposite of fey is boring. If you’re selling yourself and your talent as something special, you can’t afford to be too normal because people associate normal with average.

* I was a tenor in choir all through high school and college, but have noticed that my vocal range now fits more comfortably with baritone parts.

Another thing I’ve noticed, since I do quite a lot of voiceover work, is that my speaking voice has gotten better, more resonant and indeed lower pitched, as I’ve hit my mid- to late 40s. It seems a lot of pro voiceover guys are not young; they’ve got more weathered, lower-pitched, even gravelly voices that seem to convey experience and trustworthiness.

Or at least that’s been the traditional pattern. Now I hear, on podcasts such as Radiolab and 99% Invisible, which I listen to occasionally, voiceover/radio guys who have really affected, nasally, high-pitched, vocal-fry infested girlie voices. Is this yet another a sign of a decaying culturing in which calm voices of reason and trust are devalued, or is it just because girlie-voiced guys can get on podcasts now whereas in the past they’d have been laughed out of radio and TV studios?

* I, too, thought of the relative silence over Glenn Frey’s death, given his band sold more records than Prince and Bowie combined. And the Eagles had just put out their outstanding two-part documentary, too.

My explanation: The Eagles are middlebrow. They’re just too popular to get serious critical attention. It’s much like the difference between Mad Men and NCIS. Mad Men was a critical darling, has had millions of words dedicated to each recap and analysis by TV critics. Likewise Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and the rest of the soap opera currently known as the Golden Age of Television. Mad Men’s finale didn’t beat reruns of I Love Lucy, but that’s ok. If everyone watched it, it’d be NCIS. Ignored, critically, but the most-watched scripted show on TV for nine years running.

So every single TV anchor, news reporter, had to show they were part of the in-club by bragging about how cool they were for worshipping Prince. It’s how they separate themselves from the little people.

BTW, no one got more women than the Eagles at the Third Encore, and a less effeminate group of guys never existed.

…a teenaged Glenn Frey played with Bob Seger, most notably on Ramblin Gamblin Man (you can hear him clearly on backup vocals). Kenny Rogers gave Don Henley’s first band a record deal.

I dunno, even back when the Eagles were huge, music critics sneered at them. The hate-on that someone mentioned above seems more relevant.

Besides, Henley had an outstanding 80s. BTW, Henley put out a new country album last year with practically every name in the business (Jagger, Parton, Haggard, McBride to name just a few) that did well and got excellent reviews.

Two bands mentioned above: Doobie Brothers, definitely not fey. Van Halen–great mention of a band that played a tad fey, but definitely wasn’t. The late 70s, early 80s seemed to bring that on.

My one claim to barely coolness, musically speaking: I saw Van Halen in 1979, just as they released their second album, before they were huge, right before the fuss about general admission open seating caused by the Cincinnati deaths. I am a total nerd and was only at the concert because my friend, extremely shy, needed a wingman to do things like talk to people in case we needed directions. I’d barely heard of Van Halen and had very little experience at concerts. My friend had found seats, and I’d gotten up to go to the bathroom when the mad rush to the front began. I got swept up in it, pushed to the front, saw the whole concert barely 8 feet away. Which was a good thing, because I was holding my glasses when the push began, dropped them, never saw them again. I’m short, but that didn’t matter either, because the crush was so tight my feet never hit the ground. I am undoubtedly describing this badly. I told my (much cooler) brother about the concert the next day, and he was jealous, so I was proud.

I’m very glad that you personally liked Prince and Bowie, but the fact is that in hard sales, there isn’t anyone in the 80s other than Michael Jackson who equals the long-term popularity of the Eagles. In fact, all the best selling albums are from the 70s. The next tier down of best sellers come from the 90s. Artistically, the 80s sucked. (The same is true of movies, by the way, where the 70s are widely considered the best decade short of the 40s, while the 80s are notoriously weak.)

* But what are the odds [Steph] Curry will be better next season? Probably less than 25%.

But Curry was better this year than last year when he was MVP so the future is unwritten for him. He’s very interesting because he invented for himself a new thing: shooting from immense distances. It could be just a fluke unique skill, or it could turn out to be a historic breakthrough that leads to lots of imitators, the way Babe Ruth around 1920 changed baseball.

I wonder how high Curry jumps on those 1,000 practice shots per day. It’s not the jumping that wears a body down, it’s the landing.

* He also has an insane workout regimen–thousand shots a day, I believe the local Dub’s announcer mentioned.

In fact, I wondered if that would affect his longevity. I’ve always believed that Jack Nicklaus was right about pro golfers, that they only have so many shots in them and so Nicklaus learned to curb his practice as well as reduce the number of tournaments in which he played.

Still, it’s hard to believe Curry could hit those three’s from those insane distances if he didn’t practice as much as he does. He’s grooving that follow through.

* The Eagles would be a good example of non-fey rock stars, except that, despite selling so many records and making so much money on the comeback tour trail, they weren’t quite individual rock stars, perhaps because there was a certain lack of mystery about them.

* Bowie kind of stage-managed his death. I vaguely recall hearing he had about a year’s warning that his illness was terminal, which gave the great showman and master media manipulator time to organize a good show for everybody, which would put some more money in his estate. Good for him.

Prince’s death was the opposite: it was a bit of a shock hearing that somebody still middle-aged (57 is still middle-aged, right? Right?), with just a little bit of news ahead of time about something being wrong. It was quite a bit like Michael Jackson’s and Elvis’s deaths, which were big news. Prince didn’t seem to make any plans, so now we’ll hear a lot about his estate, etc.

Frey’s death fell in-between and thus was depressingly like most people’s. He’d been in physical decline and then he died.

* The Eagles were always kind of a grown-up band for grown-ups. One reason they sold so many records is because they appealed to working people with jobs who could afford to put an album in the shopping cart, whereas more frantically loved bands appealed more to kids with limited allowances.

Other than maybe Joe Walsh, the Eagles didn’t seem to have super strong urges to be rock icons personally, the way Bowie really really wanted to be Bowie. (And Walsh has a great sense of humor about it — thus, “Life’s Been Good.”) A lot of their songs are about how maybe they should get the hell out of L.A. and quit this crazy rock star life.

* It has been long observed that mathematical talent, like many varieties of athletic talent, fades in middle-age. That’s the rule and the rest are exceptions. The same is true of physicists, who of course, practice an intellectual discipline completely intertwined with mathematical insight.

I’ve had a first-rank physicist confirm this when he was in his early thirties-it’s apparently a well known phenomenon. He said twentysomething physicists tend not to take sabbaticals or time out to find themselves. There’s just too much urgency to work while the neural circuits are in full flow. And unlike the rest of us, they face their mid-life crises when they are in their mid-to-late thirties.

Whether this is true of rock musicians, too, is debatable. I think there is a much greater component of “coasting” after career success in youth with successful rock musicians, rather than any innate fading of talent or creativity as with mathematicians. Wealth arrived at early in life does that to most people.

* This Seger performance of Hollywood Nights definitely shows off his more theatrical side. It is quite the jam regardless of what one thinks of Seger’s inherent cheeseball tendencies.

I am alone in this opinion, but it is obvious to me that Axl Rose of Guns N Roses owes a huge debt to early Bob Seger in terms of stage presence and performance. Basically, the wild eyed boy from Indiana based his entire stage presence on Bob Seger mixed with some early Leon Russell. Axl Rose was one masculine performer who hit the high notes and dabbled in trappings of Glam, but overall rejected pure feydom. This was pretty common back in the age of LA Hair Metal.

Tina Turner’s performance of Hollywood Nights at the Apollo is also beyond reproach. Is there anything as rocking and yet goofball at the same time as this video? Tina Turner’s jacket alone is priceless.

* Pop Music is mostly about youth, aggression, and sexiness, so young people have an edge.

Classical music is richer, so the artist finds depth as he ages. Many seem to hit their peak in middle ages. Sibelius composed the greatest symphony ever when he was 50. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._5_(Sibelius)

Also, some artists have one really good fresh idea and fail to grow.

Other artists tend to evolve and find new meanings in their vision.

Ingmar Bergman is a strange case. He wrote some of his best works late in life but they were mostly directed by others: Best Intentions, Faithless, Sunday’s Children, Private Confessions.

Later Chabrol was better than earlier Chabrol even though Les Cousins was an audacious start.

Some works need maturity and reflection for depth and meaning.

Pop music is mostly about sensations.

Also, the lifestyle of the Rock stars tend to burn them out early.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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