Dan Rather Would Inspire R.E.M.’s Hit Song
Today Rock N’ Roll True Stories takes a look at the creepy inspiration behind the song ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”
What’s going on my fellow rock n’ rollers. Don’t forget to hit the bell notification icon to be notified everytime i put out a new video on my channel. I had previously talked about the band REM and why they hated one of their biggest hit songs and you can check it out down below in the description box below. Today I want to talk about the REM song what’s the frequency kenneth and the strange inspiration behind it. Why did the band chose that song title and what did one of America’s most well known news broadcasters have to do with the track? Stay tuned to find out.
The story begins in 1986 when CBS news broadcaster Dan Rather was walking home in New York City at 11pm one night. According to the new york times the news broadcaster was as they put it“chased, punched and kicked by two well-dressed men near his home on the Upper East Side”
The assailants, who accosted Mr. Rather as he was walking home alone from dinner at an associate’s apartment, attacked him on Park Avenue at 88th Street on a sidewalk and then in the building lobby while badgering him repeatedly with the same words: ”Kenneth, what is the frequency?” Rather responded to the assailants telling them they had the wrong guy.
According to Rather both men were white males in their 30’s with one assailant being about 6 feet tall, with dark hair and a mustache who wore a dark suit, white shirt and black tie; the other was also well-dressed.
According to the report Rather was dressed casually at the time , had his wallet on him but strangely was not robbed. The attack was stopped when a doorman of Rather’s building called the building superintendent and they both came to his aid. Upon seeing the two men run towards them the assailants ran away.
Initially a spokesperson for his home network CBS put out a statement saying
‘We are assuming it was a case of mistaken identity since one of the assailants called him Kenneth.’ The police attributed the fact that Rather being dressed casually may have caused the assailants to mistake him for someone else.
Rather, who was 54 years old at the time was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital and suffered mostly minor injuries including bruising on his back and a swollen jaw.
Rather’s wife, was at the Rathers’ country house for the weekend, a CBS official said.
Over 10 years would go by before one of Rather’s assailant would be identified. A man named William Tager who was already serving prison time starting in 1994 for the shooting death of an NBC technician is one of the men who attacked Rather. How did this come to light? though
Tager was identified when his psychiatrist interviewed him after he was arrested in 1994 following the shooting death of an NBC technician. He would serve 25 years in prison. The NBC technician was killed when he alerted the police about Tager trying to enter NBC’s ground floor studios. The motives for Tager’s attacks were attributed to the fact that he thought media companies were coming after him and beaming messages into his brain, hence the reason why he asked the question of Rather, kenneth what’s the frequency? He thought if he found the frequency it would stop the companies from sending him messages.
But how did REM get involved?
The band was working on their album Monster in August 1993 and the phrase “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” would serve as the song title for one of the album’s tracks. The song was written in October of 1993 and released as a single the following year.. Lead singer Michael Stipe has stated in interviews that that the lyrics are sung from the point of view of an older person trying to understand Generation x by watching the mass media, when the mass media in fact don’t often understand the things they are talking about including understanding generation X.
Rather was a good sport about the whole thing even appearing on stage with the band in 1994 during a show in New York that David Letterman poked fun at.
The song would prove to be a huge hit for REM with it peaking at #2 on the mainstream rock charts an #21 on the top 40 charts.
Tager for his part was released from prison in 2010 on parole and is believed to live somewhere in New York City.