Perhaps it wasn’t the greatest idea to invite some of the most outspoken homophobes in music to a benefit concert to raise awareness of H.I.V. and AIDS. The lineup for LIFEbeat’s Reggae Gold Live show planned for this coming Tuesday at New York’s Webster Hall included Beenie Man, the Jamaican toaster who sings things like “I’m dreaming of a new Jamaica/Come to execute all of the gays.” Not surprisingly, a wide range of people spoke up to protest. LIFEbeat cancelled the event, while, in a statement, executive director John Binelli seemed surprised at the uproar. “We didn’t realize the depth of the hurt in the community around the lyrics of these artists.”
Rolling Stone recently talked about the prevelance of homophobia in reggae with Damien Marley, who has generally avoided anti-gay lyrics (though Bounty Killer, a notorious anti-gay lyricist, guested on his album). “It’s a very sticky subject,” he said. “Some of the time it’s almost like we’re being crucified, while a lot of the other genres have musicians who speak about their feelings on certain subjects and they’re not crucified for it. You try and believe in freedom for all,” he added. “You have a person who wants to be free to be gay, and then you have a person who wants to be free to say that he doesn’t agree with it. So, it’s six of one, half-a-dozen of the other.” Sounds like fuzzy math.