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For Chiefs fans, Gary Glitter may be evil, but his song is not

Chiefs fans voted for the new touchdown song, but they won’t know which one was the winner until the Chiefs score. Kansas City plays the Denver Broncos Thursday night.
Chiefs fans voted for the new touchdown song, but they won’t know which one was the winner until the Chiefs score. Kansas City plays the Denver Broncos Thursday night. File photo

If it’s possible to love the sinner but hate the sin, is it possible to love a song but loathe the singer?

Apparently the National Football League and the Kansas City Chiefs don’t think so.

Thursday night, when the Chiefs play their home opener against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium, the team will unveil a new song to be played after the Chiefs score a touchdown. For decades, that song had been “Rock ’N’ Roll Part 2,” a classic-rock hit written by Gary Glitter.

Glitter (born Paul Gadd) has a sordid history as a sex offender. He has been convicted and imprisoned for possession of child pornography and for having sex with children. After his 2006 imprisonment for sex crimes in Vietnam, the NFL asked teams to stop playing “Rock ’N’ Roll Part 2” at their stadiums. The Chiefs compromised by playing a cover of the song by a band called the Tube Tops.

In February, Glitter, 70, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in after he was convicted of attempted rape and having sex with a girl younger than 13, incidents that took place between 1975 and 1980.

That was the last straw for the Chiefs, who announced in August that “Rock ’N’ Roll Part 2” had to go.

In an online poll that closed Aug. 31, fans were asked to vote on a replacement from a field of three other songs: “Hey, Kansas City!” by David George and a Crooked Mile, “Song 2” by Blur and “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Cool. The winner has not yet been named. Instead, the new touchdown celebration song will be played for fans for the first time at Arrowhead this week, provided the Chiefs aren’t shut out by the Broncos.

On Wednesday, the Chiefs announced that “Hey, Kansas City!” by David George and A Crooked Mile had won the vote.

Rituals may be glorified habits, but they die harder. As expected, fans were angry and upset. The song had become a tradition at Arrowhead — one few wanted to say farewell to.

There is some irony in all this, starting with the NFL, a league that has given second chances to Michael Vick, a convicted animal abuser, and Adrian Peterson, who last year pleaded no contest to assaulting his 4-year-old son and who has been accused of using money from one of his charities to pay for an orgy that included his under-age brother.

I understand the Chiefs’ decision. It has been reported that Glitter had been receiving as much as $250,000 annually in royalties for the song — even cover versions of the song — which has been a staple at sports stadiums and arenas for decades. Glitter is a serial offender and predator and any association with him ought to be severed permanently.

However, the music world is rife with performers who have been convicted or accused of crimes or acts of deviance and violence. Where’s the tipping point, the point at which someone’s behavior eclipses or impeaches his music or art?

In the wake of the Kansas State University marching-band caper involving the Kansas Jayhawk, K-State band director Frank Tracz announced that his band’s future performances include a tribute to Bruno Mars and Michael Jackson. Hmmm.

Jackson was never convicted of any sex crimes but he was indicted for several and reached a $25 million out-of-court settlement with one of his accusers. His unexpected death in 2009 resurrected his status as one of pop music’s biggest stars ever and pushed to the background the allegations of pedophilia.

Part of being a fan is believing what you want to believe about a celebrity and rationalizing or ignoring the rest — separating the art from the artist. Most of Jackson’s fans refused to believe the allegations against him. His story, which is murky at best, hasn’t stopped me from listening to his music. Same with Marvin Gaye and James Brown and John Lennon and Ike Turner, all of whom left legacies that included rampant drug use and, people close to them have alleged, domestic violence.

Most fans, it seems, are inclined to forgive, even if they don’t forget. Take the case of R&B/pop star Chris Brown. In 2009, Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault, a charge stemming from a savage attack on his then-girlfriend Rihanna that left her hospitalized. His punishment included community service plus domestic violence and anger management counseling.

However, in 2014, Brown spent time in jail after being kicked out of a rehab center for violent behavior. He and Rihanna have since reconciled, and many of his fans have forgiven him, too. In August, more than 10,000 attended his show at the Sprint Center, giving him a hero’s welcome.

Music can be a deeply emotional transaction. Songs impress themselves upon our memories of people, places and experiences, and the impressions can be indelible. Expunging them is no easy task, even when there’s a valid impetus, like: The singer is a pedophile.

Chiefs fans will deal with that when a different song breaks out after a Chiefs touchdown. I won’t be surprised if fans deliver some kind of live, improvised a cappella version of “Rock ’N’ Roll Part 2,” for the sake of tradition. And everyone will be reveling in the joyous sports moment, not thinking about Gary Glitter and his despicable past.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

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