Morrissey's quiet desperation and romantic worldview continues to connect and inspire fans

Categories: Features

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Celebrity fandom is almost always based on inaccessibility. Whether it's a rock star, an actor or a politician, desire is created when you reach out for the object of passion and come up a few inches short. So what happens when you have a fanbase that is made up of people who long to find themselves, and transfer that longing onto a man who is famous for having the most enigmatic identity in recent memory? You get Morrissey fans. While they cried for Sinatra, screamed for the Beatles and do God-knows-what for Insane Clown Posse, there are few non-religious icons who have inspired the level of personal devotion in their followers as this celibate Brit, who romanticizes getting hit by a bus and equates eating meat with child abuse.

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Once the frontman of the fragrantly poetic '80s rock group, the Smiths, Morrissey has inspired two generations of pompadoured softies to either sing along to "I Know It's Over" after getting dumped, or, in the case of one young Arvada man in the late 1980s, to approach a radio station with a rifle and a pocketful of cassettes, intending to evangelize this sweet and tender music to the Top 40 philistines of Denver, Colorado. The cultish need for Morrissey albums and tours continued throughout his solo career.

The most common thing you'll hear from a devoted Morrissey fan is: He understands me in a way that nobody else does. And after a thirty-year career rife with identity crisis (Is he gay? Racist? A Latino trapped in an Irish man's body?), one of the few things we can be certain of with Morrissey is that he understands fandom, the same brand of celebrity theology that he has inspired in millions of fans once burned in the chest of young Steven Patrick Morrissey while growing up in Manchester, England.

The son of a librarian, teenage Morrissey was a hopelessly shy, yet deeply passionate young man, who devoted himself to the rare glimpses he would get of pre-MTV popstars like Twinkle, Marianne Faithfull, and eventually, Marc Bolan and the New York Dolls. "I had the glummest, dreariest childhood you could possibly imagine," he said in a 1991 interview with the New York Times. "Pop music was all I ever had, and it was completely entwined with the image of the pop star. I remember feeling that the person singing was actually with me and understood me and my predicament. A lot of times, I felt I was engaged with an absolute tangible love affair."


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