Steven Patrick Morrissey
(born 22 May 1959), commonly known by his last name, Morrissey
, is an English singer and lyricist. He rose to prominence in the 1980s as the lyricist and vocalist of the band The Smiths. The band was highly successful in the United Kingdom but broke up in 1987, and Morrissey began a solo career, making the top ten of the UK Singles Chart on ten occasions. His first solo album, 1988's Viva Hate
, entered the UK albums chart at number one.He is widely regarded as an important innovator in the indie music scene; music magazine NME
considers Morrissey to be "one of the most influential artists ever", while The Independent
says, "Most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status he has reached in his lifetime." In 2004, Pitchfork Media called him "one of the most singular figures in Western popular culture from the last 20 years."Morrissey's lyrics have been described as "dramatic, bleak, funny vignettes about doomed relationships, lonely nightclubs, the burden of the past and the prison of the home". He is also noted for his unusual baritone vocal style (though he sometimes uses falsetto), his quiff haircut and his dynamic live performances. Media controversies have been caused by his forthright and often contrarian opinions, and he has also attracted media attention for his advocacy of vegetarianism and animal rights. He describes himself in his autobiography as an animal protectionist.Early life: 1959–76Morrissey was born on 22 May 1959 at Park Hospital in Davyhulme, Lancashire, England, to Irish Catholic parents who had emigrated to Manchester from Crumlin, Dublin, with his only sibling, elder sister Jackie, a year prior to his birth. His father, Peter, was a hospital porter, and his mother, Elizabeth (née Dwyer), was an assistant librarian. He is a second cousin once removed of the Irish footballer Robbie Keane. Morrissey was raised in inner-city Manchester. His family first lived at Harper Street in Hulme before moving to nearby Queen's Square in 1965. In 1969, when many of the old streets and tenements were facing demolition, Morrissey's parents moved to a three-bedroomed house on King's Road in the suburb of Stretford.As a child, Morrissey developed interests and role models, including female singers and pop stars such as Sandie Shaw and Marianne Faithfull, as well as Billy Fury. He was interested in "kitchen sink" television drama, Coronation Street
's Elsie Tanner, actor James Dean and writers Oscar Wilde and Shelagh Delaney. The Moors Murders horrified the city when the matter came to light in 1965, and this collective trauma is said to have made a profound and lasting impression on Morrissey; the murders were referenced in the Smiths song "Suffer Little Children".Morrissey has said his athletic ability saved him to a large degree from bullying during adolescence. Still, he has described this period as a time when he was often lonely and depressed. As a teenager, he began taking prescription drugs to help combat the depression that would later follow him throughout his life. He attended St. Mary's Secondary Modern School and Stretford Technical School, where he passed three O levels, including English Literature. He then worked briefly for the Inland Revenue, but ultimately decided to "go on the dole".Of his youth, Morrissey said, "Pop music was all I ever had, and it was completely entwined with the image of the pop star. I remember feeling the person singing was actually with me and understood me and my predicament." From 1974, he frequently wrote letters to music magazines like Melody Maker
and the NME
, giving his opinions on various bands. Morrissey would sometimes go to see bands in Manchester, the first being Marc Bolan's band T. Rex at Belle Vue in 1972. He was taken there by his father, who feared for his safety in the notoriously rough district. Morrissey has described the occasion as "messianic and complete chaos".
Early bands and published books: 1977–81
Morrissey was an early convert to punk rock. He, then still with forename, briefly fronted The Nosebleeds in 1978, who by that time included Billy Duffy (later of The Cult) on guitar. They played a number of concerts, including one supporting Magazine, which was reviewed in the NME
by Paul Morley. Morrissey also founded The Cramps fan club "The Legion of the Cramped" with another enthusiast for their music, Lindsay Hutton, but he progressively scaled down his involvement in the club because of the increasing amount of time he was devoting to his own musical career.Morrissey wrote several songs with Duffy, such as "Peppermint Heaven", "I Get Nervous" and "(I Think) I'm Ready for the Electric Chair", but none were recorded during the band's short lifespan, which ended the same year. After The Nosebleeds' split, Morrissey followed Duffy to join Slaughter & The Dogs, briefly replacing original singer Wayne Barrett. He recorded four songs with the band and they auditioned for a record deal in London. After the audition fell through, Slaughter & The Dogs became Studio Sweethearts, without Morrissey.The singer interrupted his music career at around this time, focusing instead on writing on popular culture. He published two works with Babylon Books: The New York Dolls
(1981), about his favourite band; and James Dean is Not Dead
(1983), about actor James Dean's brief career. A third book, Exit Smiling,
which was actually written first (in 1980) and which dealt with obscure B-movie actors, was initially rejected and remained unpublished until 1998.
The Smiths: 1982–87
In spring 1982, Morrissey met the guitarist Johnny Marr and the two began a songwriting partnership: "We got on absolutely famously. We were very similar in drive."After recording several demo tapes with future Fall drummer Simon Wolstencroft, in autumn 1982 they recruited drummer Mike Joyce. They also added bass player Dale Hibbert, who provided the group with demo recording facilities at the studio where he worked as a factotum. However, after two gigs, Marr's friend Andy Rourke replaced Hibbert on bass because Hibbert neither played bass correctly nor had a personality that "meshed" with the rest of the group.Signing to independent record label Rough Trade Records, The Smiths released their first single, "Hand in Glove", in May 1983. It was championed by DJ John Peel, as were all their later singles, but it failed to chart. The follow-up singles "This Charming Man" and "What Difference Does It Make?" fared better when they reached numbers 25 and 12 respectively on the UK Singles Chart. Aided by praise from the music press and a series of studio sessions for Peel and David Jensen at BBC Radio 1, The Smiths began to acquire a dedicated fan base. In February 1984, they released their debut album, The Smiths
, which reached number two on the UK Albums Chart.In 1984, the band released two non-album singles: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (their first UK top-ten hit) and "William, It Was Really Nothing". The year ended with the compilation album Hatful of Hollow.
This collected singles, B-sides and the versions of songs that had been recorded throughout the previous year for the Peel and Jensen shows. Early in 1985 the band released their second album, Meat is Murder
, which was their only studio album to top the UK charts. The single-only release "Shakespeare's Sister" reached number 26 on the UK Singles Chart, though the only single taken from the album, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore", was less successful, barely making the top 50. "How Soon Is Now?" was originally a B-side of the 1984 single "William, It Was Really Nothing", and was subsequently featured on Hatful of Hollow
and the American, Canadian, Australian and Warner UK editions of Meat Is Murder
. Belatedly released as a single in the UK in 1985, How Soon Is Now? reached number 24 on the UK Singles Chart.During 1985, the band undertook lengthy tours of the UK and the US while recording the next studio record, The Queen is Dead
. The album was released in June 1986, shortly after the single "Bigmouth Strikes Again". The record reached number two in the UK charts. However, all was not well within the group. A legal dispute with Rough Trade had delayed the album by almost seven months (it had been completed in November 1985), and Marr was beginning to feel the stress of the band's exhausting touring and recording schedule. Meanwhile, Rourke was fired in early 1986 for his use of heroin. Rourke was temporarily replaced on bass guitar by Craig Gannon, but he was reinstated after only a fortnight. Gannon stayed in the band, switching to rhythm guitar. This five-piece recorded the singles "Panic" and "Ask" (with Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals) which reached numbers 11 and 14 respectively on the UK Singles Chart, and toured the UK. After the tour ended in October 1986, Gannon left the band. The group had become frustrated with Rough Trade and sought a record deal with a major label, ultimately signing with EMI, which drew criticism from some of the band's fanbase.In early 1987, the single "Shoplifters of the World Unite" was released and reached number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. It was followed by a second compilation, The World Won't Listen
, which reached number two in the charts – and the single "Sheila Take a Bow", the band's second (and last during the band's lifetime) UK top-10 hit. Despite their continued success, personal differences within the band – including the increasingly strained relationship between Morrissey and Marr – saw them on the verge of splitting. In July 1987, Marr left the group and auditions to find a replacement proved fruitless.By the time the group's fourth album Strangeways, Here We Come
was released in September, the band had split up. The breakdown in the relationship has been partly attributed to Morrissey's annoyance with Marr's work with other artists and to Marr's growing frustration with Morrissey's musical inflexibility. Strangeways
peaked at number two in the UK, but was only a minor US hit, though it was more successful there than the band's previous albums.
Solo career: 1988–97
Morrissey released his first solo album, Viva Hate
, in March 1988, eight months after the dissolution of the Smiths. The album was recorded with former Smiths producer Stephen Street, Vini Reilly of Durutti Column (and, formerly, The Nosebleeds), and drummer Andrew Paresi. It reached number one in the UK upon release, supported by the singles "Suedehead" and "Everyday Is Like Sunday". The album was certified gold in the US on 16 November 1993.Morrissey initially planned to release a follow-up album entitled Bona Drag
, after releasing a few singles during 1989: "The Last of the Famous International Playboys", "Interesting Drug", and "Ouija Board, Ouija Board". The first two of these became top ten hits. However, by the end of 1989 Morrissey had decided to scrap the idea of a full-length LP and to release Bona Drag
as a compilation of singles and B-sides.Morrissey recruited Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley to produce his next album, titled Kill Uncle
, for which songs were written with Mark E. Nevin of Fairground Attraction. The album peaked at number eight on the UK charts. The two singles released in promotion of the album, "Our Frank" and "Sing Your Life", failed to break the Top 20 on the singles charts reaching number 26 and number 33 respectively. Morrissey then released two non-album singles, "Pregnant for the Last Time" and "My Love Life".The band Morrissey assembled in 1991 for his Kill Uncle tour went on to record 1992's hit album Your Arsenal
. Composition duties were split between Mark E. Nevin and new guitarist Alain Whyte. Your Arsenal
was produced by former David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Album. The album peaked at number four on the UK charts, with two of its three singles, "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful" and "You're the One for Me, Fatty", both debuting in the Top 20 in the UK.Morrissey's 1994 album Vauxhall and I
was his second solo number one album in the UK. Years after the release, Morrissey said that he had felt at the time that it would be his last album, that it was the best album he'd ever made and one that he would never be able to top. One of the album's songs, "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get", reached number eight in the UK and number 46 in the US. That year, he also released a single, "Interlude", a duet with Siouxsie Sioux, followed by an EP, Boxers
, in January 1995.Morrissey began work on his first album on the RCA Victor label, Southpaw Grammar
, in early 1995. When released in August, the album reached number four in the UK. However, both of its singles failed reach the Top 20. At the end of the year, a final single under his contract with Parlophone Records was released, "Sunny".In 1996, a legal case against Morrissey and Johnny Marr, brought by Mike Joyce, came to court. Joyce claimed that he had not received his fair share of recording and performance royalties from his time as the Smiths' drummer. Morrissey and Marr had claimed 40% each and allowed ten percent each to Joyce and Andy Rourke. Composition royalties were not an issue, as Rourke and Joyce had never been credited as composers for the band. Morrissey and Marr claimed that the other two members of the band had always agreed to that split of the royalties as they had consented to an account of the royalties sent to Joyce during the band's existence, but the High Court and then the Court of Appeal found in favour of Joyce and ordered that he be paid over £1 million in back pay and receive 25 percent henceforth. Rourke had settled for a smaller lump sum to pay off his debts and continued to receive ten percent. The judge in the case described Morrissey as "devious, truculent and unreliable". Morrissey claimed that he was "... under the scorching spotlight in the dock, being drilled ..." with questions such as "'How dare you be successful?' 'How dare you move on?'" He stated that "The Smiths were a beautiful thing and Johnny [Marr\] left it, and Mike [Joyce\] has destroyed it". Morrissey appealed against the verdict, but was not successful.Morrissey returned on a Island Records in 1997 with the single "Alma Matters" and album Maladjusted.
The album peaked at number eight in the UK album charts and its further two singles, "Roy's Keen" and "Satan Rejected My Soul" both peaked outside the UK Top 30.
Recording hiatus: 1998–2003
In 1998, Uncut
reported that Morrissey no longer had a record deal. In 1999, he embarked on a tour called "Oye Esteban" and was one of the headliners of the Coachella Festival in California. The tour extended to Mexico and South America.In 2002, Morrissey returned with a world tour, culminating in two sold-out nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London, during which he played as-yet unreleased songs. Outside the US and Europe, concerts also took place in Australia and Japan. It was during this time that Channel 4 filmed The Importance of Being Morrissey
, a documentary which eventually aired in 2003. In June 2003, it was reported that Attack Records, a defunct reggae label, had been transferred to Morrissey from Sanctuary Records, with a view to his recording new material and signing new artists.
Morrissey's seventh album, You Are the Quarry
, was released in 2004, peaking at number two on the UK album chart and number 11 on the Billboard album chart in the United States. Guitarist Alain Whyte described the work as a mix between Your Arsenal
and Vauxhall and I
, and the album received strong reviews. The first single, "Irish Blood, English Heart", reached number three in its first week in the UK singles chart, the highest chart placing for a Morrissey single. Three other hit singles followed: "First of the Gang to Die", "Let Me Kiss You", and "I Have Forgiven Jesus". The album has since sold over a million copies.To promote the album, Morrissey embarked on an accompanying world tour from April to November. In August 2004, Morrissey made a series of appearances on Craig Kilborn's The Late Late Show
in the US. A concert at the Manchester Arena on Morrissey's 45th birthday was recorded and released on the DVD Who Put the M in Manchester?
in 2005.Morrissey's eighth studio album, Ringleader of the Tormentors
, was recorded in Rome and released on 3 April 2006. It debuted at number one in the UK album charts and number 27 in the US. The album yielded four hit singles: "You Have Killed Me", "The Youngest Was the Most Loved", "In the Future When All's Well", and "I Just Want to See the Boy Happy". Originally Morrissey was to record the album with producer Jeff Saltzman; however, he could not undertake the project. Tony Visconti, of T.Rex and David Bowie fame, took over production and Morrissey announced that the album was "the most beautiful—perhaps the most gentle—so far". Billboard
described the album as showcasing "a thicker, more rock-driven sound". Morrissey attributes this change in sound to new guitarist Jesse Tobias. The subsequent 2006 international tour included more than two dozen gigs in the UK, including concerts at the London Palladium.In January 2007, the BBC said that it was in talks with Morrissey for him to write a song for the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. If an agreement could be made, Morrissey would be writing the song for someone else, rather than performing it himself. The following month, the BBC stated Morrissey would not be part of Britain's Eurovision entry.In early 2007, Morrissey left Sanctuary Records and embarked on a Greatest Hits
tour. The tour ran from 1 February 2007 to 29 July 2008 and spanned 106 concerts over eight different countries. Morrissey cancelled 11 of these dates, including a planned six consecutive shows at the Roundhouse in London, due to "throat problems". The tour consisted of three legs, the first two, encompassing the US and Mexico, with support from Kristeen Young and the third, covering Europe and Israel, with support from Girl in a Coma.After a show in Houston, Texas, Morrissey rented Sunrise Sound Studio to record "That's How People Grow Up". The song was recorded with producer Jerry Finn as a future single and for inclusion on an upcoming album. In an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live with Visconti, the producer stated that his new project would be Morrissey's next album, though that this would not be forthcoming for at least a year. However, in an interview with the BBC News website in October 2007, Morrissey said that the album was already written and ready for a possible September 2008 release and confirmed that his deal with Sanctuary Records had come to an end.In December 2007, Morrissey signed a new deal with Decca Records, which included a Greatest Hits
album and a newly recorded album to follow in autumn 2008. Morrissey released "That's How People Grow Up" as the first single from his new Greatest Hits
album. It reached number 14 on the British charts. One reviewer noted that the album only includes songs which reached the Top 15 in the charts, putting the emphasis on new songs and making the CD more suitable for new listeners than for old fans. The album charted at number 5 in the British album chart on its week of release. A second single from the Greatest Hits
, "All You Need Is Me", was released in March.On 30 May 2008, it was announced that Morrissey's ninth studio album, Years of Refusal
would be produced by Jerry Finn. On 5 August 2008 it was reported that, although originally due in September, Years of Refusal
had been postponed until February 2009, as a result of Finn's death and the lack of an American label to distribute the album.On 15 August 2008, Warner Music Entertainment announced the upcoming release of Morrissey: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
, a DVD of the live performance that took place at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on 8 June 2007. Morrissey greeted news of the DVD's release by imploring fans not to buy it. This DVD has never been released.In November 2008, Rolling Stone
magazine ranked Morrissey as 92nd of "The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time". The list was compiled from ballots cast by a panel of 179 "music experts", such as Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys and Bono, who were asked to name their 20 favourite vocalists.In an interview with London radio station Xfm, Morrissey stated that "chances were slim" that he would continue performing past the age of 55.Years of Refusal
was released worldwide on 16 February 2009 by the Universal Music Group, reaching number three in the UK Albums Chart and 11 in the US Billboard 200. The record was widely acclaimed by critics, with comparisons made to Your Arsenal
and Vauxhall and I
. A review from Pitchfork Media noted that with Years of Refusal,
Morrissey "has rediscovered himself, finding new potency in his familiar arsenal. Morrissey's rejuvenation is most obvious in the renewed strength of his vocals" and called it his "most venomous, score-settling album, and in a perverse way that makes it his most engaging". "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" and "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" were released as the record's singles. The song "Black Cloud" features the guitar playing of Jeff Beck. Throughout 2009 Morrissey toured to promote the album. As part of the extensive Tour of Refusal, Morrissey followed a lengthy US tour with concerts booked in Ireland, Scotland, England, Russia. He had never before performed in Russia.In 2009, remastered editions of 1995's Southpaw Grammar
and 1997's Maladjusted
were released. These both featured a rearranged track listing with the inclusion of B-sides and outtakes, as well as new artwork and liner notes written by Morrissey.In October 2009, a 2004–2009 B-sides collection, named Swords
was released. The album peaked at 55 on the UK albums chart, and Morrissey later called the compilation "a meek disaster". On the second date of the UK tour to promote Swords,
Morrissey collapsed with breathing difficulties after the opening song of his set, "This Charming Man", at the Oasis Centre, Swindon. He was discharged from the hospital the following day.Following the Swords
tour, it was announced that Morrissey had fulfilled his contractual obligation to Universal Records and was without a record company.In October 2010, EMI reissued the 1990 album Bona Drag
on its Major Minor imprint, resurrected specifically for the release. The release featured six additional previously unreleased tracks, and reached number 67 in the UK charts. The 1988 single "Everyday Is Like Sunday" was also reissued to coincide with the release on both CD and 7" vinyl formats.
In April 2011, EMI issued a new compilation, Very Best of Morrissey
, whose tracklist and artwork were chosen by Morrissey. The single "Glamorous Glue" was released the same week with two previously unreleased songs. In March 2011, it was announced that Morrissey was now under the management of Ron Laffitte. In June and July 2011, Morrissey played a UK tour, mainly consisting of small venues in the north of Britain; played the Glastonbury Festival and headlined the Hop Farm Festival. In July and August he toured venues in Europe and played two festival dates, Hultsfred Festival in Sweden and the Lokeren Festival in Belgium.During his performance at Glastonbury in 2011, Morrissey criticised the UK prime minister, David Cameron, for attempting to stop the ban on wild animals performing in circuses, calling him a "silly twit". On 14 June 2011, Janice Long premiered three new Morrissey songs in session on her BBC Radio 2 programme; "Action Is My Middle Name", "The Kid's a Looker", and "People Are the Same Everywhere".Morrissey's 2012 tour started in South America and continued through Asia and North America. Morrissey played concerts in Belgium, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Portugal, England, and Scotland. In late September, while visiting the Strand bookstore in Manhattan, he saved an elderly lady who had fainted beside him. On 12 November 2012, Morrissey announced that he would be continuing his North American tour adding 32 cities beginning in Greenvale, NY on 9 January and ending in Portland, Oregon on 8 March. Patti Smith and her band were special guests at the Staples Center concert in Los Angeles, and Kristeen Young opened on all nights.In late January 2013, following hospital treatment Morrissey was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer and the several engagements were re-scheduled. On 7 March, Morrissey was hospitalised again, this time with pneumonia in both lungs. One week later, it was finally announced that the rest of the tour had been cancelled. During his rehabilitation he spent time in Ireland, where he watched the country's football team play a match against Austria in the company of his cousin Robbie Keane.On 8 April, EMI reissued the single "The Last of the Famous International Playboys" backed by three new songs, "People Are the Same Everywhere", "Action Is My Middle Name", and "The Kid's a Looker", all recorded live in 2011. In April, Morrissey announced that he would perform live shows in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile, starting from June. In August, Morrissey's concert at Hollywood High School on 2 March 2013, had a worldwide cinema release. Morrissey 25: Live
marks Morrissey's 25th year as a solo artist, and is the first authorised live Morrissey DVD for 9 years. On 22 July, Morrissey announced the cancellation of the South American leg of his tour due to a "lack of funding", saying it was "the last of many final straws".On 17 October, Morrissey's autobiography, titled Autobiography
, was released after a "content dispute" had delayed it from the initial release date of 16 September 2013. The book's release caused controversy as it was published as a "contemporary classic" under the Penguin Classic label at Morrissey's request, which some critics felt devalued the Penguin Classics label. Morrissey had completed the 660-page book in 2011, before shopping it to publishers such as Penguin Books and Faber and Faber. The book opened to divergent reviews with The Telegraph
giving it a 5-star review that called it "the best written musical autobiography since Bob Dylan's Chronicles", while The Independent
criticised the book's "droning narcissism" as well as Penguin Classics. The book entered the UK book charts at number one with nearly 35,000 copies being sold in its first week. In December, a 2011's live cover version of Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love", was released on single.On 3 January 2014, The Guardian
reported that Morrissey is writing his debut novel.On 15 January 2014, it was confirmed that Morrissey has signed a two-record deal with Capitol Music, with recording to commence on 1 February in Paris. On 7 March it was revealed that Morrissey's 10th studio album will be called World Peace Is None Of Your Business
and is scheduled for release in "late June/early July".Relationship with fansMorrissey's fans have been described as being among the most dedicated of pop and rock fans.There are a number of Morrissey fansites. In the early 2000s, Morrissey issued a "cease and desist" notification against the fan website Morrissey-Solo for publishing claims, never proven, that Morrissey had failed to pay members of his touring personnel. In 2011, he issued a lifetime concert ban against the site owner who, it was claimed, had caused "intentional distress to Morrissey and Morrissey's band" over a number of years. Another fansite, True-To-You, enjoys a close relationship with Morrissey and functions as his official website for statements.
Views on political leaders
In a 1984 interview, Morrissey spoke of the then-Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher: "She is only one person. She can be destroyed. It is the only remedy for this country at the moment". British police responded by searching Morrissey's home and carrying out an official investigation, while Simon Reynolds, who had interviewed Morrissey for Melody Maker
, was questioned about the tone in which Morrissey had made certain remarks about Thatcher. Morrissey's first solo album, Viva Hate
, included a track entitled "Margaret on the Guillotine", a jab at Thatcher. After Thatcher's death in April 2013, Morrissey called her "a terror without an atom of humanity" and that "every move she made was charged by negativity".At a Dublin concert in June 2004, Morrissey announced the death of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and then said he would have preferred if then President, George W. Bush, had died instead. During a January 2008 concert, Morrissey remarked "God Bless Barack Obama" and criticised Hillary Clinton.In February 2006, Morrissey said he had been interviewed by the FBI and by British intelligence after speaking out against American and British governments. He said: "They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government, it didn't take them long to realise that I am not".In December 2010, he publicly supported Johnny Marr, who had stated that he forbade British Prime Minister, David Cameron, from liking the Smiths. Morrissey added criticism of Cameron from his hobby of stag hunting.
Views on the British monarchy
Morrissey has fiercely criticised the British monarchy and has publicly stated his position as a monarchical abolitionist, stating: "I don't think the so-called royal family speak for England now and I don't think England needs them. I do seriously believe that they are benefit scroungers and nothing else. I don't believe they serve any purpose whatsoever", also going on to criticise journalists for not giving a true assessment of Royalist support in the United Kingdom.In a 1985 interview with Simon Garfield for Time Out
, Morrissey stated that he had always "despised royalty" and that royalist sentiment supporting the monarchy is a "false devotion", going further by saying,
I think it's fascist and very, very cruel. To me there's something dramatically ugly about a person who can wear a dress for £6,000 when at the same time there are people who can't afford to eat. When she puts on that dress for £6,000 the statement she is making to the nation is: "I am the fantastically gifted royalty, and you are the snivelling peasants." The very idea that people would be interested in the facts about this dress is massively insulting to the human race.
In an October 2012 interview with TV comedian Stephen Colbert he spoke out against the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, stating; "It was a celebration of what? 60 years of dictatorship. She's not [my Queen\]. I'm not a subject." He later went on to say; "I hate the royals. I think they're absolutely horrible people. I think they're arrogant, horrible dictators. The world does not need them."In December 2012, Morrissey blamed the British royal family for the apparent suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse working at King Edward VII's Hospital Sister Agnes. In an interview with New Zealand's 3News, he said; "It wasn't because of two DJs in Australia that this woman took her own life, it was the pressure around her". He said it while much of the stress could be attributed to the press, the maximum pressure came from the Palace and Clarence House, which did not receive a great deal of media attention. He went on to say; "[She\] [The Duchess of Cambridge\] was in the hospital, as far as I could see, for absolutely no reason. She feels no shame about the death of this woman, she's saying nothing about the death of this poor woman. The arrogance of the British royals is absolutely staggering." Clarence House refused to comment on the statements made by Morrissey.In November 2013, Morrissey strongly criticised Princess Anne for condoning horsemeat consumption. He also criticised the Queen, Prince William and Prince Harry, stating; "Historically, we all remember Prince William proudly killing the baby deer, Prince Harry bravely giving the thumbs-up as he pointlessly ended the life of a water-buffalo, the Queen loading her shotgun in readiness to shoot birds out of the sky". Morrissey stated that no animal protectionist or animal-rights activist has ever found themselves on the Queen's New Year Honours list.
Accusations of racism
Morrissey has been accused of racism on a number of occasions during his career. In 1985, he was criticised after saying "reggae is vile", although he later stated that this had been a tongue-in-cheek answer to "wind up the right-on 1980s NME
", and that he was a fan of much reggae music.Morrissey songs such as "Bengali in Platforms", "Asian Rut", and "The National Front Disco", the lyrics of which relate to community relations in the UK, were criticised by British music journalists as sympathetic towards racism. In a 2002 documentary, The Importance of Being Morrissey
, he takes issue with those who have viewed his songs as racist, saying: "Not everybody is absolutely stupid".Morrissey's performance at the first Madness Madstock!
reunion concert at Finsbury Park, London, in 1992, saw him appear on stage carrying a Union Flag. As a backdrop for this performance, he chose a photograph of two female skinheads. The British music magazine NME
responded to the performance with a lengthy examination of Morrissey's attitudes to race, claiming that the singer had "left himself in a position where accusations that he's toying with far-right/fascist imagery, and even of racism itself, can no longer just be laughed off with a knowing quip". Morrissey's biographer Simon Goddard describes the NME's reaction as "sensationalised".In 1994, Morrissey rejected claims of racism, saying "If the National Front were to hate anyone, it would be me". He added that far-right rage "is simply their anger at being ignored in what is supposed to be a democratic society". In 1999, he lamented the rise of Austrian far-right politician Jörg Haider, saying: "This is sad. Sometimes I don't believe we live in an intelligent world". In 2004, he was a founding signatory of the Unite Against Fascism pressure group.In 2007, Morrissey said in an interview with the NME
that British identity had disappeared because of immigration. He later claimed to have been misrepresented, and his manager described the NME
article as "character assassination".In 2008, Morrissey made a donation of £75,000 to the organisers of the Love Music Hate Racism concert in London, after the withdrawal of the NME'
s sponsorship left the event facing a financial shortfall. A legal suit by Morrissey against the NME
for unsubstantiated accusations of racism began in October 2011. Morrissey's case against Conor McNicholas and IPC/NME was due to have been heard in London in July 2012. In June 2012, the parties settled the dispute, with the NME saying: "We do not believe that he is a racist. We didn't think we were saying he was and we apologise to Morrissey if he or anyone else misunderstood our piece in that way".In 2008, Word Magazine apologised in court for an article by David Quantick that accused Morrissey of being a racist and a hypocrite.In 2010, during an interview with Simon Armitage for The Guardian
, Morrissey alighted on the topic of animal cruelty in China, saying "you can't help but feel the Chinese are a sub-species". This led to Love Music Hate Racism, to whom Morrissey had previously donated money, saying it would be unable to accept support from him again without a retraction. "When you start using language like 'subspecies'", said Martin Smith, "you are entering into dark and murky water".According to the commentator Liz Hoggard: "Morrissey didn't help his case with an uneasy flirtation with gangster imagery: he took up boxing and was accompanied everywhere by a skinhead, named Jake ... the man who abhorred violence became strangely fascinated by it". Encyclopædia Britannica
says that Morrissey's 1990s albums, including Your Arsenal
(1992), Vauxhall and I
(1994), Southpaw Grammar
(1995) and Maladjusted
(1997) "testified to a growing homoerotic obsession with criminals, skinheads, and boxers, a change paralleled by a shift in the singer's image from wilting wallflower to would-be thug sporting sideburns and gold bracelets".He has also showed support to the Mexicans living in California, saying: "Being positioned in California for a long time, I can see how Mexicans are treated as secondary, always, and I don't know why, because the Mexicans were there first, and they built California, so why should they be secondary?".
Morrissey is an advocate for animal rights and a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In recognition of his support, PETA honoured him with the Linda McCartney Memorial Award at their 25th Anniversary Gala on 10 September 2005. In 2012, he appeared in a PETA ad campaign, encouraging people to have their dogs and cats neutered in order to help reduce the number of homeless pets.In January 2006, Morrissey attracted criticism when he stated that he accepts the motives behind the militant tactics of the Animal Rights Militia, saying "I understand why fur-farmers and so-called laboratory scientists are repaid with violence—it is because they deal in violence themselves and it's the only language they understand".Morrissey has criticised people in the UK who are involved in the promotion of eating meat, specifically Jamie Oliver and Clarissa Dickson Wright – the latter already targeted by some animal rights activists for her stance on fox hunting. In response, Dickson-Wright stated "Morrissey is encouraging people to commit acts of violence and I am constantly aware that something might very well happen to me". The Conservative MP David Davis criticised these comments, saying that "any incitement to violence is obviously wrong in a civilised society and should be investigated by the police". On 27 March 2006, Morrissey released a statement that he would not include any concert dates in Canada on his world tour that year—and that he supported a boycott of all Canadian goods—in protest against the country's annual seal hunt, which he described as a "barbaric and cruel slaughter".In 2009 he briefly abandoned the main stage at the Coachella Festival, which was situated next to the food concession area. Upon his return he said, "The smell of burning animals is making me sick. I just couldn’t bear it."At a concert in Warsaw, Poland on Sunday, 24 July 2011, Morrissey caused more controversy when stating "We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown, with 97 [sic
\] dead. Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Shit every day", in reference to the recent attacks of Anders Breivik in Norway on 22 July, which resulted in the killing of 69 people who were attending a Youth Labour Party camp on Utøya Island, and eight people working in and around a government building which was bombed. His statement has been seen by many as crude and insensitive. However, Morrissey later elaborated on his statement, saying "If you quite rightly feel horrified at the Norway killings, then it surely naturally follows that you feel horror at the murder of ANY innocent being. You cannot ignore animal suffering simply because animals 'are not us.'" In February 2013, after much speculation, it was reported that the Staples Center had agreed for the first time ever to make every vendor in the area 100% vegetarian for Morrissey's 1 March performance, contractually having all McDonald's vendors close down. In a press release, Morrissey stated, "I don't look upon it as a victory for me, but a victory for the animals". The request was previously denied to Paul McCartney. Despite these reports, the Staples Center retained some meat vendors while closing down McDonalds. Later in February, Morrissey cancelled an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
after learning that the guests for that night also included the cast of Duck Dynasty
, a show about a family who create duck calls for use in hunting. Morrissey referred to the cast as "animal serial killers".He has stated that "If anyone has seen the horrific and unwatchable footage of the Chinese cat and dog trade - animals skinned alive - then they could not possibly argue in favour of China as a caring nation. There are no animal protection laws in China and this results in the worst animal abuse and cruelty on the planet. It is indefensible".In 2014 Morrissey stated that he believed there is "no difference between eating animals and paedophilia. They are both rape, violence, murder.”
Morrissey, a long time resident of Los Angeles during the latter part of his solo career, now maintains a number of homes between Los Angeles, Rome, Switzerland and the UK.Morrissey has been vegetarian since the age of 11. He has explained his vegetarianism by saying "If you love animals, obviously it doesn't make sense to hurt them".Morrissey is a cousin of Robbie Keane, a Dublin-born footballer who plays as a striker and is captain of the Republic of Ireland national football team. Morrissey has said of Keane: "to watch him on the pitch – pacing like a lion, as weightless as an astronaut, is pure therapy".In 1994, Morrissey began a relationship with photographer Jake Walters. They lived together until 1996. Morrissey was later attached to Tina Dehghani. He discussed having a baby with Dehghani, with whom he described having an "uncluttered commitment". In his autobiography, Morrissey also mentions a relationship with a younger Italian man, known only as 'Gelato', with whom he sought to buy a house around the time of 2006's Ringleader of the Tormentors
LP.In an interview in March 2013, Jake Walters said: "Morrissey and I have been friends for a long time, probably around 20 years".
Morrissey's sexuality has been a matter of conjecture. Encyclopædia Britannica
states that he created a "compellingly conflicted persona (loudly proclaimed celibacy offset by coy hints of closeted homosexuality)" which has "made him a peculiar heartthrob".In 1984, Morrissey stated that he refused "to recognise the terms hetero-, bi-, and homo-sexual" because "everybody has exactly the same sexual needs". A 1984 Smiths article in Rolling Stone
claimed that Morrissey "admits he's gay", but Morrissey responded that it was news to him.The speculation was further fuelled by the frequent references to gay subculture and slang in his lyrics. In 2006, Liz Hoggard from The Independent
noted, "Only 15 years after homosexuality had been decriminalised, his lyrics flirted with every kind of gay subculture"; for example, she says that "This Charming Man ... is about age-gap, gay sex". Reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine says lyrics to the Smiths single "Hand in Glove" contain "veiled references to homosexuality".Throughout much of his career, he maintained in interviews that he was asexual and celibate. Johnny Marr stated in a 1984 interview that "Morrissey doesn't participate in sex at the moment and hasn't done so for a while. He's had a lot of girlfriends in the past and quite a few men friends".In a 1997 interview, Morrissey revealed he had been in a relationship with someone for two years but that it had ended and the person in question had stopped loving him. He did not reveal the sex of his partner or whether it was a sexual relationship, but said he cared deeply for the person, and he hoped they had shared similar feelings. That person was revealed in Morrissey's autobiography to be Jake Walters.In October 2013, Morrissey released a statement through his semi-official website, which said: "Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In technical fact, I am humasexual. I am attracted to humans. But, of course ... not many".
Legacy and influence
Morrissey is routinely referred to as an influential artist, both in his solo career and with the Smiths. The BBC has referred to him as "one of the most influential figures in the history of British pop", and the NME
named the Smiths the "most influential artist ever" in a 2002 poll, even topping the Beatles. Rolling Stone
, naming him one of the greatest singers of all time in a recent poll, noted that his "rejection of convention" in his vocal style and lyrics is the reason "why he redefined the sound of British rock for the past quarter-century". Morrissey's enduring influence has been ascribed to his wit, the "infinite capacity for interpretation" in his lyrics, and his appeal to the "constant navel gazing, reflection, solipsism" of generations of "disenfranchised youth", offering unusually intimate "companionship" to broad demographics.Journalist Mark Simpson calls Morrissey "one of the greatest pop lyricists – and probably the
greatest-ever lyricist of desire – that has ever moaned" and observes that "he is fully present in his songs as few other artists are, in a way that fans of most other performers ... wouldn't tolerate for a moment". Simpson also argues that "After Morrissey there could be no more pop stars. His was an impossible act to follow ... [his\] unrivalled knowledge of the pop canon, his unequaled imagination of what it might mean to be a pop star, and his breathtakingly perverse ambition to turn it into great art, could only exhaust the form forever".In 2006, Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British icon in a poll held by the BBC's Culture Show.
The All Music Guide to Rock
asserts that Morrissey's "lyrical preoccupations", particularly themes dealing with English identity, proved extremely influential on subsequent artists. Journalist Phillip Collins also described him as a major influence on modern music and "the best British lyricist in living memory".Cultural historian Julian Stringer notes that the Smiths and Morrissey were a product of and a reaction against Thatcherism, and that their rise to fame "can be seen as the only sustained response that white, English pop/rock music was able to make against the Conservative Government's appropriation of white, English national identity; and that being the case, it is not really surprising that the response is utterly riddled with contradiction". Other scholars have responded favourably to Morrissey's work, including academic symposia at various universities including University of Limerick and Manchester Metropolitan University. Gavin Hopps, a research fellow and literary scholar at the University of St. Andrews, wrote a full-length academic study of Morrissey's work, calling him comparable to Oscar Wilde, John Betjeman, and Philip Larkin, and noting similarities between Morrissey and Samuel Beckett.The British Food Journal
featured an article in 2008 that applied Morrissey's lyrics to building positive business relationships. A major book of academic essays edited by Eoin Devereux, Aileen Dillane and Martin Power, Morrissey: Fandom, Representations and Identities
, which focuses on Morrissey's solo career, was published in 2011.A Los Angeles Times
critic wrote that Morrissey "patented the template for modern indie rock" and that many bands playing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival "would not be there – or at least, would not sound the same – were it not for him". Similarly, the critic Steven Wells called Morrissey "the man who more or less invented indie" and an artist "who more than anybody else personifies" indie culture. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic writes that the Smiths and Morrissey "inspired every band of note" in the Britpop era, including Suede, Blur, Oasis, and Pulp. Other major artists including Jeff Buckley and Radiohead have also been influenced by Morrissey.Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, who recorded a 2005 EP of Morrissey covers titled Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey
, acknowledged Morrissey's influence on his songwriting: "You could either bask in that glow of fatalistic narcissism, or you could think it was funny. I always thought that was an interesting dynamic in his songwriting, and I can only aspire to have that kind of dynamic in my songs". Brandon Flowers of the American rock band The Killers has revealed his admiration for Morrissey on several different occasions and admits that his interest for writing songs about murder such as "Jenny Was A Friend of Mine" and "Midnight Show" traces back to Morrissey singing about loving "the romance of crime" in the song "Sister I'm A Poet". Flowers was quoted as saying, "I studied that line a lot. And it's kind of embedded in me".