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23 octobre 2006


Joseph Arthur puts his faith in the healing power of art. Plus, the dude can sing.

At the Bowery Ballroom last month, Joseph Arthur had a costume change before his encore and came out wearing a white suit, no shirt, and a big cross dangling around his neck. With tangled hair and a three-day beard, he looked like some mental-ward Evangelist, and then he started singing like one, too. Joined onstage by Michael Stipe, Arthur belted out his signature anthem “In the Sun,” with its rousing hook, “May God’s love be with you, always, always.” The crowd, a typical downtown assortment of 30-year-olds in hoodies and jeans, knew every word and lustily sang along, as if trying to atone for all those Sunday-school classes they blew off.

“I hate religion,” Arthur had told me a few days earlier, when we met at his loft in Dumbo. "But I do believe there’s some intelligence guiding this whole thing. You can call it Jesus or whatever you want.”

Onstage and on record, Arthur exudes a coolness that makes you think he could be world famous. And at one point in his career, he was marked for stardom. The mini-legend of Joseph Arthur goes like this: When he was a 25-year-old nobody working at a guitar shop in Atlanta (“They told me I was the worst employee in the history of the store,” he says), a demo tape of his made its way, via friends of friends, into the hands of Peter Gabriel, who invited him to record at his studio in England. This is, in certain music circles, the equivalent of being summoned to Rome to pray with the pope. Arthur went with proper humility. “There were all these major people there, like Joe Strummer. I thought they’d maybe let me play a little bass. But then Peter asked me to write some lyrics, and the next thing I know, I’m in there singing with him.”...

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