Here’s a clip of super po-faced, self-styled ‘generation terrorists’ Manic Street Preachers with their 1996 song “Kevin Carter” as taken from their album Everything Must Go, their first album as a trio after the disappearance, and presumed death, of their rhythm guitarist/lyricist Ritchie Edwards.
The titular Kevin Carter was a South African photojournalist who won a Pulitzer prize for his image of a Sudanese toddler, weak from malnutrition, evidently being stalked by a vulture while a plane unloaded foodstuffs for her village. Carter was lauded, yet also criticized for his lack of action to help the girl, choosing instead to capture the image.
Carter’s effectiveness at unveiling the plight of many children in the Third World is arguable on that score. But the experience, and those like it when he similarly captured images of cruelty while exposing Apartheid in his own country, deeply affected Carter who later ended his own life as a result.
As for the Manics, they were making a statement about voyeuristic journalism, and about what happens when the observer is drawn too far into his subject matter, and doing so in a pretty lyrically strident manner. It’s an approach for which the group was often criticized. Yet I think this song is a propulsive rock song, and certainly one of the best the group put out in this second phase of their career, post-Ritchie Edwards.
Edwards himself was something of a tourist to the dark side, often given to bouts of depression and self-mutilation. In February 1995, Edwards’ car was discovered in a service station near the Severn Bridge, leading many to believe that he, like Carter, took his own life. But many also believed that he simply dropped off the grid. Ritchie sightings were popular in the mid-90s.
Perhaps the Manics, having moved on despite the murmurings of Edward’s possible survival, were working it out through the story of Kevin Carter who also faced fame and notoriety, ultimately to be consumed by it.
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