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

Categories: Features

Fetishizing the elusive and classic past, Morrissey also devoted his agoraphobic life in his childhood bedroom to the writings of Oscar Wilde and the films of James Dean, the latter of which he once composed a loving biography. His obsessive reading and rereading of the Shelagh Delaney play A Taste of Honey -- which was first produced the year before Morrissey's birth -- would lead to an endless list of near criminal plagiarizing in his song lyrics throughout the 1980s.

For the few living heroes that existed in young Morrissey's life, he overcame an exhausting fear of the outside world in order to obsessively (yet lovingly) stalk bands like Sparks, the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls -- the last one he also composed a biography, and was president of their U.K. fanclub.

His lifelong battle with depression, combined with his urgent devotion to the arts, created a character that, when flung onto a stage and handed a microphone, inspired a generation of pop-obsessed, self-hating outcasts who clung to his every word and gesture like driftwood to passengers of a sunken ship. The Smiths came to prominence in a decade filled with urban glamor, where a Darwinian competition for wealth and social prominence inspired synthetic music videos of yachts, fast cars and material girls in their material world.

Having a clear aesthetic vision, while having no clue how to keep himself happy, Morrissey used his discontentment to write music that spoke to those who had tried, but didn't fit into the I-am-a-demigod-on-a-silver-mountain mentality that embodied the era: "There's a club if you'd like to go/ You could meet somebody who really loves you," he sings in the emotive "How Soon Is Now," "So you go and you stand on your own/And you leave on your own/And you go home/ And you cry and you want to die."

Even more bizarre than his self-deprecating lyrics was the majestic strangeness of his physical appearance. Dressed in a baggy womens' blouse and cheap thrift store jewelry, with a giant bouquet of gladioli flowers dangling out of his back pocket and a clunky hearing aid dangling from one hear (reportedly in order to boost the confidence of a hearing impaired fan who was embarrassed at her own appendage), he was the strangest site on television since Ziggy Stardust attempted to convince the world he was gay. Yet, as weird as he looked, Morrissey moved about the stage with an unbelievable grace, exuding a Brando-like quality that gave his most casual gesture a captivating intensity.

Toward the end of a 1984 Top of the Pops appearance performing "William, It Was Really Nothing," Morrissey ripped open his silk shirt to reveal the words "Marry Me" to the world. By this time, he'd come out to the press not as gay or bi, but as asexual and celibate, leading many to see his chest-scrawled proposal as a declaration of unfiltered love and devotion to his all pop disciples out there in TV land. "When Morrissey reaches out to touch you, you no longer feel lonely," said one pompadour sporting female fan in the BBC documentary, The Importance of Being Morrissey. "You feel celebrated. You feel the love of the one common sovereign which is Morrissey."

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