After the success of General Motors’ Cadillac ad campaign that used a Led Zeppelin song, for which the English band was paid a lot of money (I heard the number $17 million although GM hasn’t made that number public), other car companies were looking to buy up rights to other famous rock songs. I heard through the grapevine that one such American band was offered substantially more that what Led Zep was paid, but that they ultimately turned down the offer because they didn’t want to support the car and oil industries. Good for them, I thought, but then I wondered whether it was the best possible decision. What if one took the money and then quietly donated all, or a portion of it, to a good cause? For example, one could take money from a car company and then turn around and support climate change research.
It would be a difficult thing to pull off. The public, especially the band’s fans, might not appreciate their selling out unless they reveal that they have given the money away in a press release. In fact the idea of taking money from a tainted source and handing it over to a good player and NOT revealing the latter became a story that I have been thinking about for several years. I imagined the personal strength of character one would have to possess in order accept the scorn and hatred that could be the result. In my story a cook, or a musician, starts working for a warlord, who is despised by the people, with the intention of carefully building his influence and using that influence to help as many people as he can. He ends up saving dozens of lives and does a lot of good, but, of course, the people cannot find out about this because he would lose his influence and so he dies a lonely and hated figure. The Hollywood ending would be that someone who knows what transpired lets people know what a good person the cook or musician actually was. In the European ending nobody ever finds out and the very last scene shows a villager spitting on the man’s grave.