Everyone knows the stereotype; headlines about musicians overdosing and going to rehab, heroin addiction splitting bands apart, cocaine being a staple of the wealthy. Long has the media glorified drugs, labeling usage as part of the image. All the way back to the days of Elvis and Hendrix, drugs have been used to combat the punishing lifestyle of a musician while simultaneously functioning as a staple of coolness for decades.
The first time I learned of drug addiction in music was when I was rather young.. My parents, who were huge fans of early Pink Floyd, were listening to their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and discussing how much LSD had helped Syd Barrett craft such a creative work of art. I was still in elementary school, so they assumed I wouldn’t understand that they were glorifying addiction for the sake of creation. I was gifted with a strong musical upbringing, raised with all of the great artist of the seventies and eighties. However, as I got older, I noticed how okay my family was with drug usage if it made the music better. This is a dangerous belief that has been endorsed by both the music industry and the consumers. Most of the industry seemingly only cares about making a buck, most consumers only care about getting quality music, so where does that leave the artist? In the wrong head space, it could be perceived that the world encourages usage, even if the dialog has changed in recent times. People may not be chanting “Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll” anymore, but we still support the bad habits of an artist for the sake of quality content.
When you take into account the areas these artist travel to and how frequently they travel, it’s not hard to understand the pull of drug usage. Life on the road is exhausting, demanding a lot of any one person. Imagine not sleeping in a bed for weeks, having to sleep on a bus or van in between shows and then expected to be full of life and energy on stage. Most people turn to coffee before work despite a good night’s sleep in their own bed and are still tired. These musicians have the money, the recognition, and the desire for a pick me up that caffeine can’t quite deliver. Lesser known artists are also at risk of giving into the pull of recreational drugs. No matter where you turn, vices are available for those who want an escape. Between the pressure of wanting to succeed in a world saturated with music and struggling with trying to make music outside of a typical job, the chances are most artist aren’t living a stress free life. It’s hard to make it as a musician, it takes an insane amount of work and dedication to your craft as well as long nights of writing and practicing. The human body can only take so much before reaching a point of exhaustion, whether it be mentally or physically. It’s a hard line to walk with drugs and alcohol to readily available, most venues being bars themselves.
The more we support this type of thinking, the harder it will be to pull musicians back from the edge. The justifications will continue to pile up with the dead bodies unless we stop excusing addiction for the sake of content. Musicians need realistic expectations, easier tour schedules, and more understanding fans. Unfortunately, this is merely a wish from an idealistic music lover. With social media spreading hate along with music and the internet making it nearly impossible to escape the spotlight, artist struggling with addiction are even more at risk for staying that way. As much as I may hope otherwise, it doesn’t look like it will end any time soon.
*Disclaimer: Opinion pieces do not reflect the views of Static as a whole, but only of the individual author themselves.*