By Lauren Wise
By New Times
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He may not be out there peeing in public, he doesn't have his own brand of self-named beer, and he hasn't taken any personal loans from Libya.
But that doesn't mean Roger Clinton is any less noticeable than the last notorious presidential brother, lovable buffoon Billy Carter. Goodness knows (that's one of Ol' Rog's favorite expressions), Bubba's half-brother has seen to it that the spotlight has landed on him plenty in the last two years. There were the much-publicized tales of an almost Keith Richardsian coke habit that landed him a stretch in prison, the frequent bad-boy nights of booze and babes, the firings from low-level jobs while Bill (no saint himself) rose through the ranks.
But unlike fellow Southern brother Billy Carter, Roger doesn't play the role of the Hee Haw rube, purposely going too far just to show he don't give a damn about no high-falutin' Office of no Presidency, blood kin or not.
Roger, overwrought goofball that he may seem to be, only wants the best for the half-brother who is ten years his senior. You saw Roger up there onstage at the Democratic Convention, weeping openly and leading the jubilant crowd in song while holding hands with Bill. Or maybe you've caught one of his self-help speeches, the "A Change Is Coming" talk that led Roger around the country (at $10,000 a gig) sharing inspirational secrets with the confused.
But this week, 37-year-old Roger Clinton will reveal to the American people his true labor of love, the thing nearest and dearest to his heart: Good Things Don't Come Easy, an album that represents the culmination of 21 unheralded years in the music business. (Apparently, titles don't come easy; according to Clinton's press kit, the CD is called Nothing Good Comes Easy. And Ringo, by the way, was not involved with the project.)
So. Is it any good? Easy is a collection of agreeably mellow, adult contemporary music. Which is just fine, if you like agreeably mellow, adult contemporary music. On the two cuts prereleased to the press, Clinton shows himself to be the owner of a pleasant, high-pitched tenor, sort of a laid-back Michael Sembello. Or a Christopher Cross, without as much guts.
But you've got to give him credit for trying, even though it was probably just pure coincidence that Roger landed a record deal after his brother moved to Washington, D.C.
It's easy to take pot shots at Roger Clinton--he's grown used to it--but on the last phone call in a grueling day of nonstop interviews, he is friendly, polite and downright charming. So he's been a little naughty over the years? So he may wear his heart on his sleeve a bit much? So he may not be exactly a Daryl Hall in the blue-eyed-soul department? He's sincere as hell. Oh, and his brother's the president.
New Times: So you're a happy man?
Roger Clinton: It's the most exciting time of my life. I just had a son three months ago, I got married five months ago, now I got the album coming out. It's the greatest time of my life.
NT: A lot of people think you'd be nowhere if it wasn't for your brother.
Clinton: I choose to believe that there's not that many [of those] people out there, but I'm going to have to deal with that group, that small percentage of people, one way or the other. But I think that's going to be the same group--if I didn't take advantage of all these opportunities that present themselves--that would be the same group of people lining up to criticize me years from now for not taking advantage of all the opportunities I had. These people need to realize that I've been singing professionally since I was 16 years old, and they just started hearing about me when my brother was elected president.
NT: And your first professional job was in a topless bar?
Clinton: A topless bar called the Black Orchid in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
NT: Did that make working there, uh, hard?
Clinton: Oh, my gosh! Are you kidding!? Sixteen years old? I was getting blinded by the light, you know what I mean? It was hard, but to tell you the truth, I was so scared of performing at the time, I hadn't gotten to the stage where you just learn it, rehearse it and then feel it onstage. At that time, I was so worried that I'd forget some lyrics.
NT: What do you listen to these days?
Clinton: I listen to Talking Heads, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ray Charles. I still listen to Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley were probably my two biggest musical influences growing up. NT: Do you ever get sick of your brother being president?
Clinton: No. That'd be like him being sick of me having an album out.
NT: But it must be a pain in the neck sometimes.
Clinton: Not too long ago, I started finally realizing that everything has two sides or more, and you can't just deal with the one side. You might be a completely positive person, but you can't ignore the negative or it'll get to you when it comes up. You have to be able to deal with it, weigh them both and realize that the good outweighs the bad. But I'll tell you what--the personal attacks [on Bill] get old. They come from people that just don't even know him. It's tough for me to deal with; I just try and concentrate on my music.