Morrissey

Morrissey
Morrissey crop tie.jpg
Morrissey in 2005
Background information
Birth nameSteven Patrick Morrissey
Born (1959-05-22) 22 May 1959 (age 59)
Davyhulme, Lancashire, England
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • author
InstrumentsVocals
Years active1977–present
Labels
Associated acts
Websitemorrisseyofficial.com

Steven Patrick Morrissey (/; born 22 May 1959), known mononymously as Morrissey, is an English singer, songwriter and author. He rose to prominence as the frontman of the Smiths, who were active from 1982 to 1987. Since then, Morrissey has had a solo career, making the top ten of the UK Singles Chart on ten occasions and reaching number one on the UK Albums Chart three times.

Born in Davyhulme, Lancashire, to a working-class Irish family, Morrissey grew up in Manchester. As a child he developed a love of literature, kitchen sink realism and popular music. Involved in Manchester's punk rock scene during the late 1970s, he fronted the Nosebleeds, with little success. Beginning a career in music journalism, he authored a number of books on music and film in the early 1980s. With Johnny Marr he established the Smiths in 1982, soon attracting national recognition for their eponymous debut album. As the band's frontman, Morrissey attracted attention for his unconventional yet expressive baritone voice, witty and sardonic lyrics, and idiosyncratic appearance; deliberately avoiding rock machismo, he cultivated the aesthetic of a social outsider who eschewed drugs and embraced celibacy. The Smiths released three further studio albums and had a string of hit singles. Personal differences between Morrissey and Marr resulted in the break-up of the Smiths in 1987.

In 1988, Morrissey launched his solo career with Viva Hate. This album and its follow-ups—Kill Uncle, Your Arsenal, and Vauxhall and I—all did well in the UK Albums Chart and spawned a number of hit singles. During this time his image began to shift into that of a more burly figure, who toyed with patriotic imagery and working-class masculinity. In the mid-to-late 1990s, his subsequent albums, Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted, also charted but were less well received. Relocating to Los Angeles, he took a musical hiatus from 1998 to 2003 before releasing a successful comeback album, You Are the Quarry, in 2004. Ensuing years saw the release of albums Ringleader of the Tormentors, Years of Refusal, and World Peace Is None of Your Business. He released his autobiography in 2013, followed by his first novel in 2015. His eleventh solo album, Low in High School, was released in 2017.

Highly influential, Morrissey has been credited as a seminal figure in the emergence of indie rock and Britpop. Acclaimed as one of the greatest lyricists in British history, his lyrics have become the subject of academic study. He has courted controversy with his forthright opinions—endorsing vegetarianism and animal rights, condemning royalty and prominent politicians, and promoting a vision of English national identity and Britishness. In a 2006 poll held by the BBC's The Culture Show, Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British cultural icon, behind only David Attenborough.

Early life

Childhood: 1959–1976

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born on 22 May 1959,[5] at Park Hospital, Davyhulme, Lancashire.[6] His parents—Elizabeth (née Dwyer) and Peter Morrissey[6]—were working-class Irish Catholics.[7] They had emigrated to Manchester from Dublin with his only sibling, elder sister Jacqueline, a year prior to his birth.[6] They had given him the forename of Steven after the American actor Steve Cochran.[8] His earliest home was a council house at 17 Harper Street in the Hulme area of inner Manchester.[9] Living in that area, as a child he was deeply affected by the Moors murders in which a number of local children were murdered by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley; the killings had a lasting impression on him and would be referenced in the lyrics of the Smiths song "Suffer Little Children".[10] He also became aware of the anti-Irish sentiment in British society against Irish migrants to Britain.[11] In 1970 the family relocated to another council house at 384 King's Road, Stretford.[12]

Following an early education at St. Wilfred's Primary School,[12] Morrissey failed his 11-plus exam,[13] and proceeded to St. Mary's Technical Modern School, an experience that he found unpleasant.[14] He excelled at athletics,[15] although was an unpopular loner at the school.[16] He has been critical of his formal education, later stating that "the education I received was so basically evil and brutal. All I learnt was to have no self-esteem and to feel ashamed without knowing why".[15] He left school in 1975, having received no formal qualifications.[17] He continued his education at Stretford Technical College,[17] and there gained three O-levels in English Literature, Sociology, and the General Paper.[18] In 1975 he travelled to the United States to visit an aunt who lived in New Jersey.[19] The relationship between Morrissey's parents was strained, and they ultimately separated in December 1976, with his father moving out of the family home.[20]

"I lost myself in music at a very early age, and I remained there ... I did fall in love with the voices I heard, whether they were male or female. I loved those people. I really, really did love those people. For what it was worth, I gave them my life ... my youth. Beyond the perimeter of pop music there was a drop at the end of the world."

— Morrissey, 1991.[21]

Morrissey's librarian mother encouraged her son's interest in reading.[22] He took an interest in feminist literature,[23] and particularly adored the Irish author Oscar Wilde, whom he came to idolise.[24] The young Morrissey was a keen fan of the television soap Coronation Street, which focused around working-class communities in Manchester; he sent proposed scripts and storylines to the show's production company, Granada Television, although all were rejected.[25] He was also a fan of Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey and its 1961 film adaptation, which was a kitchen sink drama focusing around working-class life in Salford.[26] Many of his later songs directly quoted from A Taste of Honey.[27]

Of his youth, Morrissey said, "Pop music was all I ever had, and it was completely entwined with the image of the pop star. I remember feeling the person singing was actually with me and understood me and my predicament."[28] He later revealed that the first record he purchased was Marianne Faithfull's 1964 single "Come and Stay With Me".[29] During the 1970s he became a glam rock fan,[30] enjoying the work of British acts like T. Rex, David Bowie, and Roxy Music.[31] He was also a fan of American glam performers Sparks, Jobriath, and The New York Dolls,[32] the last of which were a significant influence on Morrissey, to the extent that he organised a British fan club for the band through small adverts in the back pages of music magazines.[33] It was through the Dolls' interest in female pop singers from the 1960s that Morrissey too developed a fascination for such artists,[34] who included Sandie Shaw, Twinkle, and Dusty Springfield.[35]

Early bands and published books: 1977–1981

Morrissey idolised American film star James Dean and published a book on the subject

Having left formal education, Morrissey initially gained employment as a clerk for the civil service, and then for the Inland Revenue, also working in a record store and as a hospital porter, although subsequently quit and began claiming unemployment benefits.[36] He used much of the money from these jobs to purchase tickets for gigs, attending performances by Talking Heads, Ramones, and Blondie.[37] He regularly attended concerts, having a particular interest in the alternative and post-punk music scene.[38] Having met the guitarist Billy Duffy in November 1977, Morrissey agreed to become the vocalist for Duffy's punk band The Nosebleeds.[39] Morrissey co-wrote a number of songs with the band[40]—"Peppermint Heaven", "I Get Nervous" and "I Think I'm Ready for the Electric Chair"[39]—and performed with them in support slots for Jilted John and then Magazine.[34] The band soon disbanded.[41]

After The Nosebleeds' split, Morrissey followed Duffy to join Slaughter & the Dogs, briefly replacing original singer Wayne Barrett. He recorded four songs with the band and they auditioned for a record deal in London. After the audition fell through, Slaughter & the Dogs became Studio Sweethearts, without Morrissey.[42] Morrissey came to be known as a minor figure within Manchester's punk community.[43] By 1981, Morrissey had become a close friend of Linder Sterling, the frontwoman of punk-jazz ensemble Ludus; both her lyrics and style of singing influenced him.[44] Through Sterling, he came to know Howard Devoto and Richard Boon.[43] At the time, Morrissey's best male friend was James Maker; he would visit Maker in London or they would meet up in Manchester, where they visited the city's gay bars and gay clubs, in one case having to escape from a gang of gay bashers.[45]

Desiring to become a professional writer,[46] Morrissey considered a career in music journalism. He frequently wrote letters to music press, and was eventually hired by the weekly music review publication Record Mirror.[38] He authored a number of short books for local publishing company Babylon Books: in 1981 they released a 24-page booklet he had written on The New York Dolls, which sold 3000 copies.[47] This was followed by a volume he wrote about the late film star James Dean, titled James Dean is Not Dead.[38] Morrissey had developed a love of Dean, having covered his bedroom with pictures of the deceased film star.[48]

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