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In another blog I mistakenly compared Kanye West to Lord Byron. I regret this grave error. The reason was good enough at the time as it placed Lord Byron as a personality, never short of confidence, and Mr. West as somehow kindred, which seemed right. Well, that was profoundly wrong; bad enough to redo altogether.

The reason for the revision is that disturbing vision emerged of Kanye West reciting some lyric; not just some piss a bed type Keats drivel, as Byron would call it, no, this was far worse. Before raking over the lyric, like a cat in its tray, West made some bold assertions about ‘going after’ Shakespeare and Disney and some other people who have instant name check credence to a festival crowd. They might never have actually read or seen the work but its known anyway. Putting words together like Shakespeare and Disney is surprising and creates frisson. He seemed to imply that he was on their heels in terms of the greatness and everlasting fame deal which is why the names make an odd choice.

I bought a CD by Van Morrison once because he sang a song with the ending that went, “Just like Samuel Beckett, baby.” Those words and that author especially, are not normally strung in the same sentence.

While Beckett knew music very well, it’s not certain that he was keen on R&B or any of the sounds from Nashville, or Muscle Shoals; nor does his own work reek with the smell of fried chicken, corn pones, collard greens and rye. Morrison also sang, “Just like James Joyce, baby” – the song was about the Irish diaspora – but ‘Joyce’ and ‘baby’ would have made the great man envious; it is something that might belong in Finnegan’s Wake, in a way that Beckett and baby could never be a part of any work by Beckett.

As far as Disney and Shakespeare conjoined make a semblance of sense it’s best to avoid. It was right after their names were slammed together like a couple of cabs at an intersection that was really troubling. “Whether you believe it or not; you can only achieve as high as you believe.” The second half is repeated three times presumably because it makes it not only more attractive to the ear, it also becomes more convincing. The logic of the line is contradicted by the tautology in the opening clause. The second part which is used for repetition, “You can only achieve as high as you believe” is not a lyric, but the motto of an elementary public school, or a third rate brand advertiser.

If Byron had heard this he’d say to Keats,” Johnny, I am truly sorry; you are not a pissant oik and your poetry is really quite good.”

We are left with the question as to whether Kanye West can really go after Shakespeare and Disney. No, he Kanye’nt.

Guy Cranswick
22nd June 2014