Full frontal exposure to a rerun of the 1979 Lawrence Welk Easter Show is more than I can take, so I’ve retreated to my sister’s bedroom and closed the door. The sound is only slightly diminished, but still perfectly clear, as the door is hollow-core plywood and the volume is cranked since my 101 year-old mother is largely deaf (but clearly not deaf enough). I go find my earplugs.
That’s better, although I can still identify the schmaltzified melodies. I’m sensitive to sound — I recognize voices easily, and it’s difficult for me to ignore music. And bad music is honestly painful to me, so an hour of the Lawrence Welk Show is like a little taste of hell, which feels right at home here in the rolling farmland and tedious two-lane roads of central PA. Ten days here and I feel like I’ve died more than a little.
And my despair gives rise to an uncharitable thought: I wish there was a special little hell — a hell-ette, if you will, or maybe just a Heck — for people who commit unforgivable aesthetic crimes. Like Lawrence Welk, who was probably a very nice man, but who did terrible things to music, reducing everything he touched — popular songs, hymns, hoary classical bits — to indistinguishably greasy, sentimental pap.
So now that we have one, who else should we consign to this minor perdition? First, the guy who invented the Precious Moments line. My mother-in-law once gave us a Precious Moments Bible, and the only adjective that could adequately encompass that cutesy abomination was obscene. I may be an atheist, but it is shockingly wrong — sacrilegious, if you will — to trivialize the central mythos of Western Civilization with such pallid, maudlin cartoons.
Second, I nominate Thomas Kinkaid (need I explain?), although he’s also earned a spot in regular old Hell as well for shafting all those poor suckers who bought his art store franchises. I know people who’ve bought his “paintings,” and it distresses me to think how, in nearly every community in America, it is possible to buy genuine, original works of art for a fraction of what the tastelessly deluded spend on Kinkaid’s mass-produced dreck.
But it’s not bad taste that disgusts me. Bad taste can be fun, and fun is good. Simple bad taste doesn’t feel like a violation of the soul, but that’s how Lawrence Welk et al make me feel. Each of them has corrupted his art, discarded any wildness, or brilliance, gone straight for the comfortable and cloying, and reduced it to an uninteresting bauble.
So I consign these three to Heck. Any other nominees?