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Michelle Shocked: Top 10 Facts You Need to Know

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Michelle Shocked, 51, a little-known singer-songwriter, former left-wing activist, and born-again Christian attracted national media attention this week after she launched into a homophobic tirade while doing a show in San Francisco. Shocked made the shocking comments at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in the Bay Area, reports the New York Times. The singer quoted bible verses and these comments have resulted in her being forced to cancel shows across the US.

Here’s what you need to know about the controversial singer…

1. Michelle Shocked Isn’t Her Real Name

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Michelle was born Karen Johnston in Texas in 1962. She was born into a military family and moved around quite a bit, but settled in West Texas when Shocked was 14. Shocked described her family as “white trash.” She took on the name Michelle Shocked as a play on “Miss Shell Shocked,” a reference to the shell-shock what World War 1 veterans went through, in 1984.

2. Despite Being a Born-Again Christian, Michelle was Raised a Mormon

Shocked’s mother was a mormon and she raised her children in that faith. It’s not known when she began to move away from the faith but she has said she found it “too bureaucratic.”

3. She Was Committed to a Mental Institution During Her Teenage Years

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Shocked’s mother committed her to a psychiatric hospital, she only left the institution when her family’s insurance ran out, Shocked never went home. At that time she moved around, living rough in Italy, Holland, New York, and San Francisco. She claims she was raped during her time in Italy.

4. During the Late 1980s She Had a Hit With Her Album: Short Sharp Shocked

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The album gained Shocked national attention, particularly on the college circuit. It gained a remastered re-release in 2003. An All Music review says:

The songs have a very personal, almost diary feel, but at the same time, they speak a universal language — none so poignant as the album’s centerpiece, “Anchorage,” a touching letter from an old friend.

5. She Contributed an Original Song to the Soundtrack of Dead Man Walking in 1995

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The song, Quality of Men, was oozing with Christian symbolism:

Did not I crucify my Lord?
Did not I bind Him in chains?
Did not I three times betray Him?
Three times deny His name?
Did not I cast the first stone?
Then justify the blame?
Did not He die for my sins
But never would I do the same?

6. She Secured her Release from Mercury Records by Claiming her Contract was “Slavery”

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Shocked’s former husband, Bart Bull.

Shocked, along with her then husband, Bart Bull, claimed her contract with Mercury/Polygram was “virtual slavery.” Together the two fought for her release through the courts. They secured this in 1994, freeing Shocked but leaving her without the benefits of major recording contract. Not to mention not giving Shocked control of her back catalog.


7. In 2011, She Was Arrested For Her Part in Occupy Los Angeles

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A report by the LA Times on the statistics of those arrested during the protests, cite Shocked as a “poet.” This was not the singer’s first brush with civil disobedience. In 1984, she was arrested for protesting both the Democratic conventions. The image of her being carried away by police was used as an album cover. She claims she:

…was arrested for protesting and demonstrating against corporations who contribute money to both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party campaigns…

Though on her past leftist-political actions she has said:

I have a different perspective on it all now

8. During the Early Part of her Career She Was Wrongly Identified as a Lesbian

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And it’s not difficult to see why, this quote comes from Outline, a newspaper from Chicago:

I was with my first woman lover about a year and a half ago. To be honest, the real fear of coming out of the closet, not fear, but the real pressures of coming out of the closet had been if you had certain problems identifying yourself one way or the other.

9. In the 90s She Joined the West Angeles Church of God in Christ and Became Born-Again

10. On March 18th in San Francisco, During a Show, She Launched into a Homophobic Rant

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According to several sources the singer was on stage at Yoshi’s at the Fillmore in San Francisco. After the first hour of her set went off incident free, the singer offered two prayers to the crowd in English and Spanish. After that she spoke about California’s Proposition 8 law which states: “…only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

The rant began:

When they stop Prop 8 and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilization and Jesus will come back. I believe the Bible is the word of God.

At which point audience members began to heckle her and leave the arena, Shocked finished with:

You are going to leave here and tell people ‘Michelle Shocked said God hates faggots

The management of Yoshi’s announced the show was over, turned on the houselights, but Shocked was defiant and continued to sing for some fans who remained behind.

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