Claim: Famous musician orders all audience members of a particular religious or national group to leave his concert.
There was apparently a story some years ago, which I heard less than a year ago. It reported John [Denver] asked if anyone in his audience was a Jehovah's Witness. A few people put up their hands, and John asked them to leave.
[Collected via e-mail, 2006]
I heard from a Jewish friend of mine that Phil Collins once asked all Jewish people at one of his concerts to leave before he would play. They did get to have their tickets prices refunded.
[Collected via e-mail, 2006]
This big shot western singer Keith Urban asked all Canadians to stand up at the Minot Fair. After everyone stood up he asked all the Canadians to leave the stands before he would sing because they were not helping out fighting with USA troops. Pass this around and see how his record sales do in Canada. Also Garth Brooks donated
Origins: The legend about the hate-filled musician who orders members of particular groups to leave his concerts has over the years been attached to a number of performers, including Clint Black, Phil Collins, John Denver, Gloria Estefan, Don Ho, and Keith Urban. Usually the music lovers being ostracized are Jehovah's Witnesses, but when the rumor attaches to Phil Collins, the ones being driven away are Jews, and when it is told of Keith Urban, they are Canadians. Also, in those
The most common version of the story has John Denver, he of the angelic face and kindly manner, demanding the Jehovah's Witnesses in his audiences depart. No reason is given for his enmity, no explanation offered as to what they might have done to have so incurred his wrath. He orders them away, and (we are left to surmise) they meekly get up and leave.
Given the many thousands of performers who populate the music scene and the variety of temperaments among them, Denver seems ill-suited for the role of "singer who turns on his fans and sends them packing." Then too, so does the second most common target of the rumor, Phil Collins, a performer who exudes an aura of approachability and geniality. Interestingly, both he and Denver are the subject of other widespread false tales, Denver as a sniper who served in Vietnam, and Collins as a singer who used his song "In the Air Tonight" to finger an audience member who had earlier left a man to drown.
This following twist is sometimes added to the story of concertgoers told to leave:
I was once told that John Denver (folk singer of songs like Rocky Mountain High and such) was on the Tonight Show one night. He was a huge patriot and apparently had no love whatsoever for JW's. Apparently as the story goes, John gets up to sing a patriotic song and before he begins tells the audience "If there are any Jehovah Witnesses in the audience, you may want to leave right now." And then he sings his song. When he's done and goes to the couch to chat with Johnny, Carson apparently says "I want you to know something. You see that camera guy? He's a JW, and so is that lighting guy and so are a bunch of people on my staff. I hire them because they are honest and hard working. And now, I'd like YOU to leave."
When the dismissed concertgoers legend is told of John Denver, sometimes it includes the additional detail of his ordering all Witnesses to their feet and, while he strums the National Anthem on his guitar, telling them to leave. In that detail is contained a putative explanation for his having sent them packing: patriotism. Jehovah's Witnesses strive to maintain strict neutrality in the world's affairs, neither taking sides nor serving any government. They therefore do not serve in the military, nor do they salute the flag. These twin refusals anger some who believe Jehovah's Witnesses thereby demonstrate a lack of love for their country.
A more benign view of John Denver's possible awareness of that neutrality posits that the legend sprang from a misunderstanding or mischaracterization of an attempt to recognize his Jehovah's Witness fans' potential distaste for some of his musical offerings and provide them an alternative to having to sit through a set they might find objectionable. This theory turns the legend on its head, changing the intolerant performer out to punish members of a group he dislikes into one whose attempt to be sensitive to the religious hot buttons of others:
A sister I knew used to get mad when the Denver urban legend came up. She claimed she knew some JWs who were at a JD concert, and JD, who knew that JW's were not supposed to join in patriotic stuff, said, "If there are any JWs in the audience, you might not enjoy this next set, this would be a good time to go to the bathroom or get food or drink."
On 21 July 2006, Keith Urban performed in Minot, North Dakota, to a crowd of 12,069 at the North Dakota State Fair. No mention surfaced in the news arising from that nine-day extravaganza of the singer's having ordered concertgoers (Canadian or otherwise) to vacate the stands. Given that coverage of the fair included such
According to fair officials, Urban did address Canadians in the crowd during his North Dakota performance, but he merely offered them a friendly greeting:
"He did ask how many Canadians were in the audience, then gave them a special welcome and thanked them for attending the show," Bullinger said. "It's very unfortunate because it was a special welcome that he gave to Canadians."
Wendy Howe, executive director of the Minot Convention and Visitors Bureau, was there for the entire concert and confirms that Urban did in fact give all the Canadians in the audience a special greeting
"He said, 'I hear we have a lot of Canadians in the audience tonight. Can I have all the Canadians here stand up or give a shout,'" Howe said. "When they did (stand), he said something about a special greeting or a special welcome and that "It's great to see you.'"
Barbara "cowed" Mikkelson
Last updated: 5 August 2014
Dedekker, Jeff. "Keith Sets Record Straight on His View of Canadians." Regina Leader-Post. 22 February 2011. Feldner, Dan. "'Urban' Legend Still Making Rounds." The Minot Daily News. 27 August 2007. Grantier, Virginia. "Judging a Hunk of a Harvest." The Bismarck Tribune. 24 July 2006 (p. A1). Poirier, Jack. "Crowd in Love with Urban." Sarnia Observer. 14 July 2006 (p. A1).