Cult of Personality (song)

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"Cult of Personality"
Single by Living Colour
from the album Vivid
Released July 14, 1988
Recorded 1988, 2007
Genre Alternative metal[1][2]
Length 4:54
Producer(s) Ed Stasium
Living Colour singles chronology
"Cult of Personality"
"Middle Man"
Vivid track listing
"Cult of Personality"
(Track 1)
"I Want to Know"
(Track 2)

"Cult of Personality" is a song by rock band Living Colour. It was their second single off their debut album, Vivid, released on July 14, 1988. "Cult of Personality" reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 9 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart. It also won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1990. Its music video earned the MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video and MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist. The song was ranked No. 69 on VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs.[3] The solo was ranked No. 87 in Guitar World's "100 Greatest Guitar Solos" list.[4] It was also selected for inclusion in the musical reference book, 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die: And 10,001 You Must Download. In 2007, the song was re-recorded and released for the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. The re-recording later appeared in Guitar Hero Smash Hits. It also appeared in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on the radio station "Radio X". The song was also the entrance music for former ROH and WWE wrestler, CM Punk, and Living Colour performed the song live for his entrance at WrestleMania 29. The song also appeared on the soundtrack for the 2015 video game NBA 2K16.[5]

The band's founder, Vernon Reid described the song as very special for the band not just for its commercial success but because it was essentially written in just one rehearsal session. The riff was stumbled upon while practicing something else and by the end of the session they had written what was to become Living Colour's best known song.[6]

The song contains many political references, and shares its name with a phenomenon involving psychology and politics.

Political figures referenced[edit]

"Cult of Personality" prominently includes several audio samples of speeches from 20th-century political leaders.

The song begins with an edited quote from the beginning of "Message to the Grass Roots", a speech by Malcolm X. As it appears in the song, the quote is:

"... And during the few moments that we have left, ... We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand."

The unabridged beginning of the speech is:

"... And during the few moments that we have left, we want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me—us. We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand."[7]

During a rest in the music at 4:35, John F. Kennedy's inaugural address is heard ("Ask not what your country can do for you ..."). The song ends with Franklin D. Roosevelt saying "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself", from his first inaugural address. The lyrics also mention Benito Mussolini, John F. Kennedy, Joseph Stalin, and Mahatma Gandhi.


Chart Peak
Australia (ARIA Chart) 54 [8]
RIANZ Singles Chart 3 [9]
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 9 [10]
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 13 [11]
UK Singles 67 [12]

In other media[edit]


  1. ^ Terich, Jeff and Adam Blyweiss (October 3, 2012). "10 Essential Alternative Metal Singles". Treblezine. Retrieved November 14, 2015. 
  2. ^ Grierson, Tim. "Top 10 Essential Alt-Metal Songs". Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ " music". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  4. ^ 100 Greatest Guitar Solos
  5. ^ Nunneley, Stephany (July 24, 2015). "Get your groove on with the official NBA 2K16 soundtrack". VG247. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  6. ^ "Vernon Reid - Guitar World interview (part 3) Cult Of Personality". youtube. 2010-02-15. Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  7. ^ Malcolm X: "Message to the Grass Roots":
  8. ^ "Chartifacts > Week Ending: 19 May 1991 (from The ARIA Report Issue No. 69)". (original document published by ARIA). Retrieved August 24, 2016. 
  9. ^ [1], New Zealand charts for Living Colour
  10. ^ single charts for Living Colour
  11. ^ billboard chart history for Living Colour
  12. ^ "Official Charts > Living Colour". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved August 24, 2016. 
  13. ^ Sinclair, Brendan (October 5, 2007). "Q&A: RedOctane cofounder Charles Huang". GameSpot. Archived from the original on October 16, 2007. Retrieved August 17, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Rock Band Blitz Setlist and Power Up Announcement". 
  15. ^ What Happened After SmackDown, Punk’s Theme Song, Updates on Finlay & Cara | WRESTLESCOOP
  16. ^ WWE: Living Colour to Play CM Punk to the Ring at WrestleMania | Bleacher Report