Something to Be
BY Ross von Metzke
June 12 2009 12:00 AM ET
When Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins used the 1993 Academy Awards ceremony as a soapbox to speak out against Haitians being detained in Guantanamo Bay for having HIV, they got themselves barred from ever attending the Oscars again. Two years later, they attended together -- and Sarandon won for Dead Man Walking .
Years before that, Jane Fonda was labeled a traitor to her country for her vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. Now, though some still question her tactics, Fonda is considered a pioneer and a hero by liberal antiwar activists.
There's nothing new about celebrities going out on a limb to shine the light on inequality and injustice -- but it doesn't change the fact that when they do, rest assured, they get attacked.
Take Rob Thomas -- smart, talented, certainly good-looking. As front man for the band Matchbox Twenty, he racked up a slew of hits. Partnering with Carlos Santana for the smash hit "Smooth" paved the way for a successful solo career, which has so far yielded the hits "Lonely No More" and the current chart-topper "Her Diamonds."
Up until recently, you'd have been hard-pressed to find much of anyone who has anything particularly negative to say about Thomas. Then he called Pat Robertson the devil.
He did it on Twitter ("If I believed in the devil, Pat Robertson might be him," were his exact words), and the hate mail started to flood in.
But that was just the beginning. The reference to Robertson was part of a bigger "Twitter-versy," as Thomas calls it. Thomas's big issue of the hour? "Why two people of the same sex shouldn't be able to make the same lifelong commitment and (more importantly) under the same god as straight people."
He followed it up with an excellent column for The Huffington Post . Titled "The Big Gay Chip on My Shoulder," the article, which Thomas wrote days before the California supreme court's decision to uphold Prop. 8, references McCarthyism, questions the motives of a "misdirected" Christian right, and suggests that straight people have an obligation to stand with their gay brothers and sisters for basic civil rights.
It's one of the most passionate pleas written on behalf of marriage equality, and it's written by a straight man who simply recognizes the need for "acceptance."
As he prepares for the release of his new album Cradlesong (in stores June 30), Thomas talked to Advocate.com about his passion for equal rights, his night with George Michael, and those "fucking great" rumors that his wife caught him in bed with Tom Cruise.
Advocate.com:It's been four years since your last album, (2005's Something to Be) -- did you finally take a break between projects or were you working the entire time?Rob Thomas: Mostly working, because when we put out the last solo record -- [ laughs ] weâ€¦ I have a problem with my pronouns, because I'm so used to being in a band. I put out the solo record and then, there was like a year of touring that record. And then, as soon as we were off the road, we took maybe a month or so and started with a Matchbox record -- recording that, promoting that, and touring that. Understand, I've had a real job -- this is better. [ Laughs ] But it just constantly keeps going. Because I chose to have the two jobs of Matchbox and the solo stuff -- this would normally be the break between Matchbox records.
So you're a workaholic, then?Well, you know -- when you love your job, it's easy to not look at it that way. But my wife has to remind me sometimes to take a break.
The album is getting comparisons to all sorts of artists -- INXS, Tom Petty, Willie Nelson. Do you consciously try to channel certain artists when you're writing?Sometimes you do that in the production stage. But for the songwriting I really try to have as little pretense about any of it as I possibly can. I just go into it with a melody in my mind and I follow that melody until it's a song. Then, later on, I worry about, sonically, how it's going to come along.