The Cult of Personality

Below are the notes for Season 2 Episode 18 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast

  • Welcome back Who’d a Thunkers!
    • I know I just released an episode last week with a warning that I may not be back until October due to taking 3 Masters level certificate college courses, but that didn’t go as planned.
    • Long story short, I realized it isn’t the right time in my life to take on such a responsibility and I’ve dropped all courses until further notice.
    • It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I’m actually proud of myself for making it.
    • The good news is I’ll be keeping my weekly schedule on this podcast so you can expect a new episode every Thursday!
  • Quick Recommendation Segment here:
    • This week I’d like to recommend my favorite Japanese Anime show, Gurren Lagann!
    • I’m a big comic book nerd and I love Japanese culture so it only makes sense I’d love their versions of comic books.
    • Gurren Lagann is the animated TV series that follows the sci-fi fantasy adventures of a group of humans forced to live underground by a tyrannical evil overlord known as the Spiral King.
    • Their journey to the surface where they come across giant mechanical war machines that they eventually use to face their evil suppressor is a wild ride. The heights this show goes to by the end of its 27 episodes was beyond my wildest dreams of where any story could possibly go. Plus, it checks all the boxes of what a cliche anime show should have.

Now for the main story!

Merriam-Webster defines the term Cult of Personality as: a situation in which a public figure (such as a political leader) is deliberately presented to the people of a country as a great person who should be admired and loved

  • Examples of this would be…
    • Joseph Stalin
    • Mahatma Gandhi
    • and Donald Trump
  • But this podcast episode isn’t about the term itself.
  • I’ve always loved this song.
    • I loved it as a kid and still love it as an adult.
    • When I find a song I love I play it over and over again until I am sick of it.
    • Then a few months or years go by and I hear it again. Some songs don’t sound the same when they come back in to my life. I’ll hear a song and think: “how did I ever enjoy this garbage?” But not this song.
    • I’ve fallen in love with this song over and over again throughout my life.
    • Just the other day it came on through my car speakers via my old iPod that I keep hooked up and all 1030 songs on shuffle. I jammed out and realized it deserves a podcast episode of its own.
  • When I listen to a song, I am listening from 1 of 2 perspectives.
    • Depending on my mood, concentration level, or perhaps even how the wind is blowing that day, I’m either listening to music for
      • the feel of it – where I am sensing the rhythm, beat, and overall mood of the composition and how it plays with the vocals
      • Or I am listening to the lyrics – or more accurately the message the artist is trying to convey
    • I’ve listened to Living Colour’s Cult of Personality song with both perspectives and I love it through both lenses.
    • The guitar riff used in the song was supposedly stumbled upon while practicing a completely different song.
      • Vernon Reid the founder, song writer, and lead guitarist played the riff by accident and upon hearing it the first time realized he had made a killer sound.
      • Reid also plays the legendary guitar solo during the song which I consider to have the same level of epic-ness as the guitar solo from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird. The 2 solos have a very different sound, but both always make me do air guitar moves every time I hear them.
    • As a kid I enjoyed the song for its heavy metal feeling but didn’t really understand what the song was about. Now as an adult I’ve recognized the major names referenced and the significance of the message.
  • For the overall meaning of the song allow me to read the words of Vernon Reid himself in an interview with’s Alan Siegel in May of 2018:
    • “”The whole idea was to move past the duality of: That’s a good person and that’s a bad person. What do the good and the bad have in common? Is there something that unites Gandhi and Mussolini? Why are they who they are? And part of it is charisma. … “Cult of Personality” was about celebrity, but on a political level. It asked what made us follow these individuals who were larger than life yet still human beings. Aside from their social importance, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King both looked like matinee idols. That was a strong part of why their messages connected. Even now it’s why Barack Obama has that certain something””
  • The song is describing a phenomena that has shaped the greatest empires of man for better and for worse.
    • The Cult of Personality as a phenomena has pushed humanity to accomplish feats that previous generations couldn’t even dream of and it has also driven humanity to commit the deepest of horrors we all wish weren’t attainable.
      • An example being how Hitler convinced a nation to exterminate anyone different from themselves
    • The actual lesson of the lyrics may have escaped me when I heard this song as a teenager, but I did recognize the magnitude of the topic when I heard it.
      • I may not have understood exactly what Corey Glover (lead vocalist) was singing about, but through the power of the medium that is music, I understood it was worth listening to.
  • Lastly, the music video.
    • I had heard the song dozens of times through headphones attached to my iPod in high school home room or in the football locker room pumping myself up for a big game (sometimes played on repeat over and over again).
    • But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I watched the music video as it popped up on my Facebook feed
    • Corey Glover’s performance is moving to me. His facial expression says it all. His brow is pinched at the center and his lips are curled as he gives the crowd a hateful stare.
      • It is as if he is channeling the anger of generations as he sings. His mannerisms seem to portray a profound frustration with the ways of the world as he stomps his feet on stage and swings his dreads around in fury.
      • All this while actual propaganda used on the masses of the past is playing in the background, and a small impressionable girl stares at her TV unaware of how much she is being influenced by the poison of political agendas.

Blog readers: tune in to the podcast to hear my personal story with this song at the end of the episode.

Thanks for reading and tune in next week!


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