Sunday, July 24, 2011

That Stupid Club

It seems to have become accepted that the price of genius is a tortured mind, and more often than not an early death.
Thus scribbles Telegraph blogger James Rhodes, on the sad death of chanteuse Amy Winehouse.  The link between genius and self-destruction is always made when stupendously talented individuals die or otherwise annihilate their abilities, and often there's much truth in it.  Nonetheless, I think we too often imbue such senseless waste with romantic qualities that the brutal reality doesn't merit, as a way of rationalising loss.

Not always, of course - I thought Scorcese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator faithfully depicted the link between its subject's brilliance and his downfall, for example.  Hughes' achievements and his destruction both sprang from his obsessive personality, which could be channelled into impressively creative or wantonly self-destructive behaviour.  Man's quest to conquer the skies may be a romantic ideal, but here isn't much romance in a shut-in surrounded by bottles of his own urine.

There's always a temptation to portray junk habits and excess as the penalty for genius, but I suspect the truth is more prosaic.  Put simply, the music business is renowned for drug abuse because musicians have lots of money to spend and much time to fill, and live in a toxic environment for people with the kind of chronic self-esteem and self-control problems of Janises, Kurts and Amys.

If you showed up for work whacked out of your skull on horse tranquilisers, you'd be fired on the spot.  Rock stars who do that are plied with whatever substances are required to keep them upright and mobile, then pointed towards the stage and pushed.  They're enabled, rather than discouraged.

When you're famous and wealthy in a drug-rich environment, a serious addiction is as easily acquired as the circle of groupies, male and female, who always latch on to musicians.  Even well-adjusted people with real willpower struggle to overcome such addictions, and musicians seldom struggle to score if they're in the mood. Usually, it's no more glamorous or poetic than that.

Maybe in a parallel dimension, Jimi Hendrix just released his seventh Greatest Hits collection, and Amy cleared up her act enough to claim the decades of international superstardom that were rightfully hers.

In the one we're stuck with, unfortunately, that awesome virtuosity was snuffed out by years of serious substance abuse.  It's all terribly sad and wasteful, and not romantic in the slightest. 

For info - The title refers to the words of Wendy Cobain, on her son's accession to the group of rock superstars who died needlessly at the age of 27.

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