Sunday’s Grammys are being applauded for highlighting domestic violence. President Obama delivered a PSA on sexual and domestic violence, and the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign. Then activist Brooke Axtell performed powerful spoken word about her experience as a survivor of sex trafficking and domestic violence. And finally Katy Perry sang a song, “By the Grace of God,” which may be about domestic abuse as well.
The Grammys are getting criticized, however, for undercutting their anti-domestic violence messaging by having nominated Chris Brown, who pleaded guilty to assaulting his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, in 2009. And R Kelly married an underage Alliyah, when she was 15 and he was was 27, and was indicted on charges of making child pornography after a video surfaced in which he is seen having sex with and urinating on a 14-year old girl. He was ultimately acquitted but has settled several cases of sexual assault out of court. The truth is that the Grammys has a long history of nominating or awarding singers who have been accused of sexual assault or domestic violence. To be conservative, I’m only going to list the men who have actually been charged or arrested. This means that I don’t have Ike Turner on the list because although he admitted to hitting Tina Turner in his 1999 biography, he was never charged or arrested for domestic violence. He was arrested over drug use. Nor is Jimmy Page on the list, though it is alleged that he committed statutory rape against his then-14 year old girlfriend. And his other wife also accused him of physical abuse. And to be fair to the Grammys, I’m only including people who engaged in the behavior before they were nominated or won. This means, for instance, that I don’t include Axl Rose or Steven Adler or Slash, or Tone Loc or Vanilla Ice, because they were charged or arrested for domestic abuse after they were nominated. 1. Ozzie Osbourne. Ozzie Osbourne, the lead singer of Black Sabbath and a solo artist in his own right tried to strangle his wife to death in 1989. You’ll be glad to know that it wasn’t something he totally planned or is totally OK with: “I regret trying to kill Sharon,” Ozzy said. “It wasn’t my plan to go out, get pissed, try to strangle her and wake up in jail.” Phew! This is how his wife Sharon recalls the incident:
He came down in his underpants, sat on the sofa right opposite me and said, “We’ve come to a decision.” I was like, “Yeah” — sort of sarcastic — “What’s the decision?” and he said, “We’re very sorry but you’re going to have to die. There’s no other option.” I said, “Yeah, shut up, f— off,” and he jumped on me and his whole body weight was on top of me… He had his hands around my neck, he landed on top of me, I just kept thinking, ‘The kids, the kids, you cannot do this, I’m not ready.”
Osbourne was arrested that night. Osbourne won a Grammy for his song “I Don’t Want to Change the World” in 1994. And his band Black Sabbath won a Grammy for “Iron Man”, in 2000 and for “God Is Dead? in 2014. 2. James Brown: This is how James Brown’s daughter, Yamma Brown, remembers her father:
I ran to the front door and peered outside… My mother was dressed in her blue and white robe. Her legs were splayed wide open and my father was straddling her, pummeling her with clenched fists. Doosh. Thud. Doosh. Thud. Blood spurted from my mother’s face. She started thrashing around, kicking her legs, holding up her arms to ward off the punches and trying to break free, trying to save herself.
Though he didn’t go to jail for beating Yama’s mother, he was arrested for beating another wife, Adrienne Rodriguez, with a lead pipe and shooting at a car she hid in 1988. In 2004, Brown pleaded no contest to charges of domestic violence against his other wife Tomi Rea Brown. In 1992, Brown was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 34th annual Grammy Awards. In 2007, After he had died, Brown was honored during the 49th Annual Grammy Award. His legendary cape was draped over a microphone at one point. And, CHristina AGuilera sang his song, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” appropriately enough. Perhaps the most fitting honor was when a dance routine in Brown’s honor was performed by… Chris Brown, coming full circle. 3. Tommy Lee. In 1998 Tommy Lee, the drummer from Motley Crue, pleaded no contest to a felony charge of spousal battery against then-wife Pamela Andserson. In 2009, Motley Crue was nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance for “Saints of Los Angeles.” 4. Wilson Picket. The R&B and soul singer and songwriter was arrested for domestic abuse in the early 1990s. He was nominated for a Grammy for his album it’s Harder Now, in 1999. 5. Vince Neil. The lead singer of Motley Crue pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge brought against him by a sex-worker who accused him of grabbing her by the throat and throwing her against the wall.