Born on 22 May: Morrissey (The Smiths), English rock masterpiece

born on 22 may: morrissey (the smiths), english rock masterpiece

Born on 22 May: Morrissey (The Smiths), English rock masterpiece

Steven Patrick Morrissey, born in 1959 in Davyhulme, Lancashire, England, celebrates his 65th birthday on 22 May.

He became famous as the singer and lyricist of his first band, The Smiths, between 1982 and 1987, although the role of the other three musicians in the quartet's chemistry should not be overlooked. Guitarist Johnny Marr laid down a series of notes that highlighted Morrissey's recurring themes: loneliness, of course, but also, sometimes as a result of each other, the longing for love and depression.

From their first single, "This Charming Man", on the Rough Trade label in 1983, Morrissey developed the graphic ideas for the album covers, taking his references from the classics of French cinema. For the cover, he chose a picture of Jean Marais from Jean Cocteau's 1950 film "Orphée". In an almost subliminal way, it indicated his homosexuality, which he would eventually reveal publicly, although today he prefers to speak of "asexuality".

He later used a photo of Alain Delon from the 1966 film "L'insoumis" for the cover of the album "The Queen Is Dead". He also sometimes quotes the names of French actors in his lyrics, such as Claude Brasseur in "At Last I Am Born" or more recently, in 2017, Guillaume Canet in "Home Is A Question Mark".  Morrissey is clearly not only an avid film buff and talented poet, but also a true intellectual! During a concert at the Grand Rex in Paris in 2014, he even declared that the greatest achievement of his life was "being born on the same day as Charles Aznavour".

An advocate of a certain kind of sarcasm and unconventional humour, when asked about his alleged homosexuality, he stated that he considered himself more of a "humasexual". He added that his "attraction to people is limited to a very small number of them" (he explained this to US magazine "Spin").

From "This Charming Man" to "Hand In Glove", from "Heaven Know I'm Miserable Now" to "Bigmouth Strikes Again", Morrissey has given us some masterpieces of British rock. But he has also been at the root of a handful of controversies that we could well have done without. Is this really surprising for an artist who named his first solo album "Viva Hate"?

Morrissey has always defended himself by claiming that he was misunderstood or that the press, in their quest for sensation, always twisted his words. While he has repeatedly stated that he "abhors racism" (notably in vehement fashion in the columns of the British daily The Guardian), he has also stated that "English identity is at risk from immigration". Taken out of context, such statements can indeed be devastating. Especially when it comes to an issue as complex as immigration.

Morrissey has been a vegetarian since he was 11 and also stands up for animal rights. "Meat Is Murder", the title track of the Smiths' second album in 1985, was already an unmistakable message. Morrissey is also a member of PETA and therefore logically bans the consumption of meat at his concerts. No frankfurters or burgers, then!

But rest assured, you don't need to delve into the twists and turns of Morrissey's tortured mind to appreciate his work.

(Pic: © Etienne Tordoir)

Photo: The Smiths and Morrissey (left) pose on rue Royale in the centre of Brussels, Belgium, in December 1983 (© Etienne Tordoir)

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