Dissent of the day
From Tori Taff, the Gaitherite wife of Gaitherite Russ Taff:
OK, I do realize that attempting to address the vitriolic Gaither-hating on this site is an exercise in futility, but you know… sometimes the wife of a “histrionic, emotionalistic, over-singing, Gaither-light waving, badly dressed, prematurely atrophied career” singer just needs to get a couple of things off her (smoking hot) chest.
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I am not a delicate little flower with no discernible sense of humor who’s never said a bad word about anybody. I am also not a hard-core SG music lover. I did not grow up listening to the singers and groups that so many of your readers (and my husband) have loved for years. I cannot debate the comparative vocal merits of Big Chief or Hovie or Rosie or, um, other old quartet guys with weird names. And frankly, I still get some of the family groups mixed up. Also who they used to be married to. So the fact that I have been so disturbed and offended by the relentless disrespect and downright pissiness aimed at certain SG performers on this site is surprising even to me.
But here’s the thing: those Gaither Homecoming artists? I actually KNOW THEM. They are not just faces on videos or figures on the stage to me, they are human beings. I have traveled and vacationed with them, my children have grown up with their children, I have been at their weddings and I have been to waaaaay too many of their funerals. Mock if you will (and I know many of you will!) that whole “Homecoming Family” thing—I have lived it. My opinion of these people is not based on hearsay, rumors, wishful thinking or hype. I don’t have them on pedestals, I am not crazy in love with all of them, I am closer to some than others, and a few can get on my last nerve. But dare I say, that though of course each and every person is entitled to their opinion AND is also entitled to vomit that opinion all over the blogosphere, may I humbly submit that my opinion on this particular subject may be just a squidge more informed than some.
I honestly don’t think that just because this is ‘gospel music’ people will never have a negative word to say about performances, new releases or certain artists. It’s a free country, blah blah blah. What I fundamentally don’t get though, is the gleefully mean-spirited tone behind some of the things said here. It is hard to make a case for this site being dedicated to ‘criticism, commentary and observation’ when very personally pejorative adjectives like “schlocky, arrogant, ridiculous, nauseating, midlife crisis on stage” are flying around. And let’s not forget the GVB post below—it’s a veritable cornucopia of insults: “advanced stage of self-induced mania, vocal afterthought, pure schtick, overweight, out of shape middle-aged amateur.” Yep folks, that’s pretty much the same kind of insightful, constructive ‘criticism/commentary/observation’ that Jesus used to take those high and mighty disciples down a peg or two, I bet!
When this site has come up in conversations I have had with artist friends of mine, the main reaction is not anger or disgust, although those feelings are certainly present. The universal response is always that they are just baffled by the haters. They honestly don’t understand what it is about them that would cause people who do not even know them to attack their character, their appearance, their talent… even their children. And let’s talk about the children a minute.
On that much-maligned video clip above, at around the 2:00 mark, you will see my sweet daughter Madi. Surprisingly, she wasn’t there to try to weasel her way onto stage, or jockey for camera-time or advance a career. She was there because she loves those people. They have been a steady source of great fun and unconditional love throughout her young life. She isn’t a SG fan, she just likes being around her friends, and appreciates their talent. Her iPod has the Isaacs and Lynda Randle on it (right alongside M.I.A and the Fleet Foxes) which is a little unusual for a 16 year old girl! See, Madi doesn’t know that Ernie Haase is ‘narcissistic’ and ‘opportunistic’—he’s the guy that teases her and treats her like a big brother and sends her funny, encouraging text messages. And she’s blissfully unaware that Sheri Easter is a coldhearted dragon lady and Jeff is a buffoon—she knows them as the family that bought her dad a beat-up, 20 year-old blue pick-up truck and drove it from Georgia all the way to Nashville to give it to him, because Russ was going through a hard time and Jeff thought he needed “something to tinker with” to make him feel better. And Gloria doesn’t strike her as a sappy sentimentalist. Gloria rocked her to sleep when she was a baby, taught her how to make seashell collages, and rode paddleboats in their pond with her. She quite looks up to her. Madi doesn’t realize Bill is a megalomaniacal despot– he’s just the sweet old guy that cracks corny jokes and tries to make her promise she’ll never grow up or start dating. Thanks to your website, maybe Madi can finally wise up.
I guess, Doug, what I’m trying to say to you and your negative commenters is that it is disingenuous and dishonest to pretend that you are unaware of the hurt that is caused by your very personal diatribes against artists. If someone used a public forum to make disparaging comments about your wife’s weight, or comment on the fact that she didn’t appear to be aging very well and was actually kind of crappy at her chosen profession—would you be OK with that?
Does it somehow please you that your dismissive, insulting remarks about Wes Hampton were upsetting to him? Is there some secret pleasure when artists’ kids show up here and leave comments trying to defend their families? And exactly what, if anything, IS off-limits to the armchair musical quarterbacks and music biz ‘pundits’ on your site? Let’s see… Sheri Easter and Janet Paschal have both had mastectomies, how about uni-boob jokes? No? Well, Anthony Burger dropped dead on a Homecoming cruise, that’s gotta be good fodder for some anti-Bill material, right?
I know this little epistle of mine isn’t going to really change anything. You guys are not going to clutch your pearls and say, “Oh dear Lord, she’s so right, I’ll never do that again!” But maybe, just maybe the next time you use your time, energy and education to take a cheap shot at another human being, one that you don’t really even know except through their talent? Maybe it won’t be quite as much fun.