Cult of Personality (4:54)

Cover of Vivid

From Vivid and 97 other releases

“Cult of Personality” is a song by the funk metal band Living Colour and the lead single from their debut album, Vivid. The lyrics and melody were written by guitarist Vernon Reid, who wrote most of their songs. Its music video earned two MTV Video Music Awards for Best Group Video and Best New Artist. Released in 1989, “Cult of Personality” reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart. It also won the Grammy award for “Best Hard Rock Performance” in 1989. The song was named the 69th best hard rock song of all time by VH1 and the solo was ranked 87 in Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Guitar Solos” list.

The song begins with an edited quote from the beginning of “Message to the Grass Roots”, a speech by Malcolm X. As it appears in the song, the quote is:

“. . . And during the few moments that we have left, . . . We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.”

The unabridged beginning of the speech is:

“…And during the few moments that we have left, we want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me — us. We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.”

At 4:35, John F. Kennedy is quoted, saying”Ask not what your country can do for you,” and the song ends with Franklin D. Roosevelt saying “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

“Cult of Personality” was performed live during the April 1, 1989 edition of Saturday Night Live with host Mel Gibson. It was also performed on The Arsenio Hall Show that same year.

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