Monty Got A Raw Deal
March 16, 2008
A brief list of reasons why Michael Stipe would want to write a song in tribute to Montgomery Clift:
1) Identification with his sexuality. Clift had affairs with both men and women, and though he was closeted, his homosexuality was not entirely unknown to the world.
2) Identification with his celebrity; specifically the way Clift’s desire for both privacy and commercial success forced him to live something akin to a double-life.
3) Fascination with Clift’s tragedy. After an accident scarred his beautiful face and left him impotent, Clift fell into the depths of depression and addiction. His story is a reminder that great success and beauty can be ruined very easily.
4) Montgomery Clift was very handsome. I suspect that much of Stipe’s interest in Clift is based on finding him attractive and intriguing. The song is like a love letter to a ghost.
The lyrics look to the past, but I believe that Stipe is mainly interested in divining his own future. The song conveys a powerful dread and paranoia, to the point that the singer sounds as though he cannot imagine life moving on without a taste of tragedy and defeat. This is in part due to the the bleak, solemn tone of the music, but it’s also in the passivity of Stipe’s language — he comes across like a man resigned to his fate, and can only hope to find his dignity in stoicism.