How I Wrote…“Cult of Personality”
Guitar Player|Holiday 2021
Vernon Reid opens up about Living Colour’s 1988 breakthrough hit.
JOE BOSSO

“I LOVE THE song for obvious reasons,” Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid says of “Cult of Personality,” the Grammy-winning alt-metal smash from the band’s 1988 debut, Vivid. “Sure, it’s our most popular song. What it did for our career is incalculable. And it’s had a lasting impact on the public. The lyric has a catchphrase that, while we didn’t coin it, has become more relevant over the years.

“But there’s another reason why I love it so much,” he adds. “When we wrote it, it was the best day in our collective life. As a group, we got out of our way and allowed ourselves to create. That’s why it’s special to me.”

“LOOK IN MY EYES”

During their pre-label days in 1987, Living Colour — Reid, singer Corey Glover, drummer Will Calhoun and then-bassist Muzz Skillings — spent most days writing and rehearsing in a loft space in Bushwick, Brooklyn. One day, Glover started to sing a riff idea to Reid. “I really couldn’t get what he was doing,” Reid says, “but Muzz and I tried playing it, and we worked something up. Then we said to Will, ‘Can you put a beat to this?’ And in an eerie sort of way, the tune wrote itself.”

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