Idol Chatter

rick.jpgThis week’s New York Times Magazine features Rick Rubin, the new “co-head” of Columbia records, who is posed as … what exactly is portrayed on the magazine’s cover? A pseudo-Jesus figure with his long beard and eyes closed in contemplation? Or perhaps just a man asleep under what looks to be a picnic blanket more than a robe?
The magazine was definitely going for something that evokes spiritual leader, since the question underneath Rubin’s largess asks: “Can Rick Rubin Save the Music Business?” The article has a lot to say about Rubin’s spiritual life and how it’s guided him as he orchestrated the comebacks of the likes of Johnny Cash.

And how exactly to describe the spirituality of the man destined to save the record industry? Well, it’s complicated, and it’s multi-faith, as Lynn Hirschberg reports about Rubin’s “spiritual presence”:

“Rubin, wearing his usual uniform of loose khaki pants and billowing white T-shirt, his sunglasses in his pocket, his feet bare, fingers a string of lapis lazuli Buddhist prayer beads, believed to bring wisdom to the wearer. Since Rubin’s beard and hair nearly cover his face, his voice, which is soft and reassuring, becomes that much more vivid. He seems to be one with the room, which is lined in floor-to-ceiling books, most of which are of a spiritual nature, whether about Buddhism, the Bible or New Age quests for enlightenment. The library and the house are filled with religious iconography mixed with mementos from the world of pop.
“A massive brass Buddha is flanked by equally enormous speakers; vintage cardboard cutouts of John, Paul, George, and Ringo circa “Help!” are placed around a multiarmed statue of Vishnu. On a low table, there are crystals and an old RadioShack cassette recorder that Rubin uses to listen to demo tapes; a framed photo of Jim Morrison stares at a crystal ball. In Rubin’s world, music and spirituality collide.”

Quite a montage. Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks weighs in about Rubin’s guru-ness, too. She comments:
“At first, I didn’t know if I was down with all that guru stuff. I thought, We’re making a record–I don’t want to be converted. But Rick’s spirituality has mostly to do with his own sense of self. When it comes to the music, he’s so sure of his opinion that you become sure of his opinion, too. And isn’t that what gurus do? They know how to say the right things at the right time and get the best out of you.”
Another interesting factoid? When Rubin was facilitating the comeback of Johnny Cash, the two took communion daily! Despite the fact that, at least originally, Rubin was Jewish:
“Rubin and Cash also had a deep spiritual kinship: during the final months of Cash’s life, they took communion together every day, even though Rubin, who was born Jewish and now sees himself as not having any specific religious orientation, should not be eligible for the holy sacraments.”
Read the full story here.

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