CeeLo Green has one of the more remarkable careers in music history, a man who from 1995 to 2015 regularly released albums but who managed to find himself a one-hit wonder three times over. First a part of Goodie Mob, the group has released five albums between 1995 and 2013, of which the first three were certified gold. However, despite 4 top 20 rap hits (3 of which hit the top 10 and 1 which hit #1), its only top 40 hit in the United States was the #39 hit “Cell Therapy” from 1995. Moving on to duo Gnarls Barkley, he released two albums there, the first of which was certified platinum and containing the #2 hit “Crazy,” but other than the the group did not have any noted singles success. His solo career has gone the same way. He has released five studio albums, none of which have been certified yet, and only found success with the #2 song “Forget You.” It is a difficult task to be a one-hit wonder multiple times, much less three times, as CeeLo has, but despite the fact that he has found a great deal of success, certain matters have sabotaged it.
And, as delicately as possible, I would like to talk about that fact. As I write this, it is nearing the end of the Days of Unleavened Bread, and one of the most important aspect of these days is the importance of getting sin out of our lives. Leavening is sneaky, and not all of it is the sort of ingredient that we find on the side of a box. Sometimes leavening is simply in the air and it seeps into dough and makes it rise. The same is true for sins, and CeeLo Green is a good example of the sort of sin that can easily seep into our own lives if we are not careful. Sadly, it appears that despite his talents as a singer and rapper, CeeLo has had some unexamined parts of his life that have gotten him into considerable trouble and have made it ultimately impossible in times such as our own to have a high public profile as a musician. Perhaps already people have to say of him what he once said of disgraced glam rocker Gary Glitter that his music can be appreciated but one has to acknowledge his wrongs.
I do not intend to delve too deeply into the personal life of Mr. Green, something I do not know nor want to know. That said, enough of his life has been public that it is worth examining those aspects of his life that have been in public. Early in his life, he describes himself as having been a goon and a maniac. He was married for five years to a woman and had a son with her before divorcing. He was then investigated for the crime of sexual battery at the peak of his career, an ordeal that lasted for a year and that ended with him pleading no contest to furnishing the woman involved with ecstasy as well probation, community service, and AA/NA meetings. In addition to this bit of legal trouble he also has courted controversy for being a poor sport about dealing with the boos of people at Coachella who were mad that he was late, generally poor live performances in general, changing the lyrics to “Imagine” to reflect his own beliefs rather than John Lennon’s (a net positive in my view), as well as some particularly terrible comments about not believing that it was rape if the other party was passed out, which more or less confesses to what he had been accused of and puts him in the Bill Cosby school of consent.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he has not released any music that I have been able to find in the last five years. He may never be able to release music on a high profile ever again given the way that his comments and behavior will be dragged up every time he tries to enter the public eye, after the way 2015’s Heart Blanche sank like a rock without charting at all. The only thing I could find as far as recent high-profile singing was a stint in the UK version of “The Masked Singer” which is entirely based on not being seen and thus not judged for who one is. It does not require a great deal of understanding about the ways of life to realize that taking advantage of people by giving them drugs and alcohol so that they pass out is a terrible thing to do. It is quite possible, though, that like many people, Green has struggled to think about how other people think and believe. A great many of his problems with live performances and his anger with fans as well as his disastrous tweets, spring about from him thinking about things from his own perspective and not knowing how they sound or how they are to be received by others. This is not a problem that he has alone–many of us share a strong tendency to know what we are thinking and feeling but to be upset when our version of reality clashes with how what we say and do is taken by other people.
What lessons can we take from this? Most of us will not be famous at all, even if in the fleeting fashion that has been the case for Mr. Green. Yet if the life of fame and fortune and even modest popular success is far beyond most of our experiences, we can all better understand the importance of living our lives in such a fashion that we are aware of how we come across to others. We may not be able to convince others to see us the way we see ourselves. We may not be able to fit in or get along with everyone around us, regardless of our desire to do so. That said, we can all live our lives recognizing that our opinions and perspectives are important because they are important for everyone else as well, and to treat others as if their dignity and their opinions and their interests matter to us as well as our own. It should not be a shock to us that people who we shortchange would feel upset about it. It should not be a surprise that people would feel attached to the lyrics of an admittedly overrated and not very good song. And it should definitely not be a surprise that we should bring a storm of trouble upon ourselves for denying the reality of the horrible experiences of those who have been taken advantage of because they were unable to defend themselves from unwanted advances, however those defenses were overcome. Likewise, it should not be a surprise that if we verbally abuse others that we would suffer repercussions for the way that we slur other people, even if we do not think we need to apologize. Life is about overcoming, and that almost always involves first repenting and then changing. And if celebrities do not necessarily always have more to repent of than the ordinary human being, they do show us how fame and ego and pride get in the way of repentance, and that is as true for us as it is for them.