"He's an original, his lyrics are going to change the way we see the world."
U2's Bono on Morrissey
The former lead singer of the British band, The Smiths, and composer of many brilliant songs, Morrissey may not be a household name in America, but his impact is massive.
Morrissey: Fans know him as the “Moz.” He and his band will play the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The tickets are $49.50, $59.50, and $69.50 (plus applicable fees). Call 242-7469.
The New York Times has hailed him as, "one of the defining rock stars of the past few decades," and, "one of the most fervently revered cult figures in all of rock."
Rolling Stone magazine named Morrissey one of, "The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time." And in 2002, the British music magazine New Musical Express proclaimed The Smiths, "the most influential band of the last 50 years."
Pitchfork lauded him as, "One of the most singular figures in Western popular culture from the last 20 years." While the U.K. Independent concludes, "Most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status that he has reached in his lifetime."
Here's a unique artist who managed to sell out the 18,000-seat Hollywood Bowl quicker than the Beatles, yet is rather dismissive of any trappings of stardom.
"I am not even vaguely interested in the idea of being a pop star or a rock star or wearing leather trousers and telling everyone that I am the most wonderful person on earth," he told Billboard.
"I'd like to think that in some way, I'm helping move pop music away from those notions."
One of the defining aspects of Morrissey's career has been an uncompromising attitude to his music and a diligent avoidance of trends.
In 2006, when he and his old band mates were offered $5 million to perform a one-off gig at the Coachella Valley Music Festival, he turned it down. "I didn't give it a second thought, because money doesn't come into it," he was reported as saying.
The 52-year-old singer, born Steven Morrissey, first made a name for himself with The Smiths, which formed in 1982.
The combination of the singer's dramatic vocals, his evocative lyricism and Johnny Marr's jangly guitar sound was enormously influential on droves of indie bands that followed.
"He's the best lyricist ever," Oasis' Noel Gallagher reported in a BBC documentary.
Rejecting the synthesizers and dance music of the time, when groups like Haircut 100 and Spandau Ballet ruled the charts, Morrissey wrote about ordinary people and their experiences with despair, rejection and death.
"Right off, Morrissey displayed an almost supernatural ability to tap into the teenage psyche. Not the fizzy surface of marketing and mainstream pop culture, but the muck and dirt," noted a profile in The Observer.
"His witty, allusive lyrics -sometimes literary, sometimes extremely blunt -deep-mined the less palatable sides of adolescence."
Some of the band's notable songs included "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore," "Girlfriend in a Coma," and "Suffer Little Children."
Friction in the group led to their demise in 1987, prompting Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling to later reveal: "The Smiths were the only group whose falling apart really affected me."
Morrissey went on to enjoy an immensely successful solo career that continues to this day, beginning with 1988's beloved "Viva Hate," to his most recent album of new material, 2009's "Years of Refusal."
"Since The Smiths split up in 1987, the veneration of Morrissey has become even more zealous," noted an article in The Believer magazine, which was titled The Passion of The Morrissey.
"From magazine illustrations depicting Morrissey as a be-haloed saint, to recent books about the singer and his ex-band with messianic titles like Saint Morrissey and Songs That Saved Your Life, Morrissey's image has been gradually heading heavenwards."
There was even a two-day "Songs That Saved Your Life Again Symposium on Morrissey" at an Irish university in 2009.
Besides his wonderful lyrics and music, you've got to appreciate Morrissey for his no-beating-around-the-bush views. He's always been outspoken and long courted controversy.
Here's Moz, as he's affectionately known to his fans around the world, talking about politics.
"I do not think that nowadays, one has illusions about politicians, prime ministers and presidents," he told a Brazilian journalist during a recent sold-out South American tour.
"All of them have outdated ideas and, once elected, do absolutely nothing for the people who elected them. All world leaders, without exception, are dictators, and they will never give up power without hurting their own people. Genuinely good people do not enter into politics."
During this tour he evoked the ire of the British tabloid press by proclaiming the (U.K.-owned) Falkland Islands belonged to Argentina. "Disgusted Brits took to Twitter to vent their anger yesterday," raged The Sun.
And you can just imagine what happened when it was reported that Morrissey's band wore "We Hate William and Kate" T-shirts while in Argentina, disparaging the new royal couple.
As to his views on contemporary music, he informed People magazine, "I haven't had any interest in pop music since Herman's Hermits broke up."
After 30 years of producing intriguing compositions, Morrissey has not lost his knack for crafting songs that capture the angst of the times. The opening track on his latest album, "Something Is Squeezing My Skull," details the temporary panacea of anti-depressants.
"I'm doing very well, I can blackout the present and the past now," he sings over a ferocious beat, closing with, "How long must I stay on this stuff?"
The recording was widely praised. Spin reported, "He still delivers brilliantly titled odes to depression ('Something Is Squeezing My Skull') and hanging out on his own ('I'm OK By Myself'). The Boston Globe said it's, "Remarkable for how reinvigorated Morrissey sounds, from the stridency of his vocals to the lean, muscular melodies." And Clash Music summed up that it is, "In a word, brilliant."
Still electrifying audiences in concert, Morrissey and his music were noted in a recent Rolling Stone review, "Old classics such as 'Every Day Is Like Sunday' and 'I Know It's Going to Happen Someday' were amazing, but he zoomed past all expectations by dusting off a few Smiths' tunes.
He hit a passionate peak in 'There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,' reaching out for fans' hands while singing, 'I want to see people and I want to see life.' For the final minutes, he let the fans sing the title phrase over and over while he just gazed upward and smiled, entranced by his own music and the voice of the crowd. It was a typical Morrissey paradox: an ironic religious experience."
Asked on a fan web zine what makes a concert memorable for him, Moz answered, "The audience doesn't realize this but, I, in effect, come to see them, and my temperament depends on how they react and even how they look. I sing directly at the audience, and I look right into the audience -few singers do, I've noticed. I am addressing them with each line, and they react, one way or another, as if we are in conversation."
Ebb & Flow Arts opens their North South East West Festival 2012 at 5 p.m. on Sunday with a free "Chamber Music from San Francisco" concert at Seabury Hall Performing Arts Studio.
The program features works by Ravel, Kodaly, Oliver, and Pollock, performed by leading musicians from the San Francisco Symphony including Sarn Oliver and Mariko Smiley on violins, David Kim on viola, and cellist Peter Wyrick.
The MACC's Solo Sessions series continues at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in the McCoy Studio Theater with rising young star, Justin Nozuka. Blessed with a golden voice, Nozuka's love for soulful musicians like Marvin Gaye (he does a great "What's Going On" cover), Stevie Wonder and Lauryn Hill has translated into a contemporary artist who at times sounds like a cross between Ben Harper and Jack Johnson with a touch of Seal.
Recording his debut album "Holly" at 18, Nozuka followed with "You I Wind Land and Sea," and this year released the concert EP, "Live in Philly." "Nozuka is producing material that is unlike any other singer songwriters," praised a Belfast Daily Telegraph review.
Tickets in advance are $25 standard and $30 for VIP (which includes post-show meet and greet); and $30 standard and $35 for VIP on day of show (plus applicable fees).