November 5, 2001, - 1:11 am

Rock Stars’ Patriotic Rip-Off


Patriotism isn’t just the last refuge of scoundrels. It’s also the last refuge of aging or fading rock stars struggling to stay relevant.

Take Steven Tyler, lead singer of and brains behind rock group Aerosmith.
“We need to go back to the way it was 30 years ago, when everybody had Grandma and Grandpa, and we were willing to pass moral judgments about right and wrong,” Tyler told Detroit Free Press rock critic Brian McCollum. In other words, we need to go back to a good time–before there was Aerosmith, which blurred the morality of right and wrong. It’s the last thing you’d expect from counterculture hero Tyler.
And it’s a bit hypocritical.

I’m glad Tyler–whose band made it big during the early ’70s amidst Vietnam War protests–found religion. But he’s part of the reason many people never knew both a grandma and a grandpa on both sides of their family, much less a father sticking around. Tyler was a leader in the casual sex, drugs and disease culture, which spawned out-of-wedlock kids–including his own–in single-mother households. If anything made America weak, Aerosmith’s attitude–and its socially devastating consequences of disease and crime–did.

One of Aerosmith’s greatest hits was “Walk This Way.” But, while Tyler now “talks this way,” he never walked it. Speaking of not having both a grandma and grandpa, Tyler led by example. His own daughter, Liv, born out of wedlock to Playboy model Bebe Buell, didn’t know the identity of her real father, Tyler, until she was already growing up. Abandoned by Tyler, Buell raised Liv with rocker Todd Rundgren.

And there’s the 14-year-old Seattle fan Tyler brags about in Aerosmith’s 1997 biography. He got her parents to sign her over to him as her guardian. Then, Tyler, her new “guardian,” got her pregnant, made her get an abortion, and dumped her. Grandma and grandpa, moral judgments about right and wrong, indeed.

Aerosmith’s self-absorbed, drug-induced haze of a biography is the story of Tyler and his band mates snorting plaster from a wall when the cocaine ran out, of uppers, downers, assorted other pills, heroin, coke, multiple sex partners and multiple out-of-wedlock and abandoned kids. It’s a drawn out version of VH-1’s “Behind the Music,” in which Tyler’s newly desired “moral judgments about right and wrong” are laughable.

So, it’s hard to listen to Tyler’s newfound values when his old ones –proudly spotlighted for his fans for over three decades–helped destroy the fabric of American society.

Tyler now thinks “there should be a mandatory draft … for three years,” as in Israel. But, strangely, when there last was a draft, during Vietnam, no Aerosmith members, including Tyler, were drafted or served, though they were all of prime draft age. When patriotism was lonely and needed, Tyler was too busy singing, “Dream On.”

Sept. 11 “brought me to my knees. It made me change,” Tyler explains. “We need to get back to some serious thinking.”

But, are these the true sentiments of a new patriot “brought to his knees,” or are they the words of a now-53-year-old rocker whose knees are arthritic? Ditto for his selling ability, with Aerosmith’s latest CD selling only 2.5 million worldwide. “Not great,” he admits. Tyler (whose third family and second wife are now growing older) must realize that he’s now less relevant, less hip. And that, with an endorsement deal for Dodge–read, minivans–he’s now hawking uncool transportation and less cool music to women who were once his wild groupies, but are now patriotic, settled-down soccer moms with kids and flags. That explains Tyler’s new advocacy of “flags in school, children respecting their hometown.”
Then there’s Tyler’s buddy, “Kid Rock,” a.k.a. Bob Ritchie.

At a Saturday video shoot in Detroit for his soon-released new CD, Ritchie instructed fans appearing in the video to wear and sport flags and red, white and blue. But the patriotism of Ritchie–the self-styled “Pimp of the Nation,” who likes to give the one-finger salute in every publicity shot and toured the country in his “White Trash on Dope Tour”–rings hollow (even with his entrance via star-spangled monster truck). It’s less than patriotic to use the Michigan chapter of crime-prone “Outlaw Biker Gang” as security. “He respects us more than anyone else in this town,” said a tattoo-covered gang-member.

Ritchie is another rocker with an unthrilling new CD, whose patriotism seems little more than a marketing tool, especially considering the damage he creates as role-model for American kids. The scion of a wealthy car dealer, he’s an admitted former drug-dealer and crack-user, who fathered a kid out of wedlock with a woman he says was a drug dealer. In his phony working-class, trailer-park act, Ritchie praised “Bill Clinton … a [expletive] pimp. … The guy’s my hero.” This is patriotism?

Or this? “I’m a pimp. You can check my stats . … Smack all the hos.” Or, “Because I do so much pimpin’, one day I’ll probably walk with a limp … one day, watch, I’ll be the pimp of the nation.”

Or, “I be the early-mornin’ stoned pimp, straight-limpin’, Boone’s Farm-drinkin’, at the party big-booty pinchin’.”

Patriotism isn’t just about waving a flag and supporting a war. It’s about doing what’s good for America in peacetime, too, and these rockers haven’t.

P.T. Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute. Fall for Steven Tyler’s and Kid Rock’s strange new patriotism and count yourself in the Barnum-specified gene-pool.

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