Drugs and Music

 (Or, "No, Virginia, You Can't Be A Rock Star and a Junkie, Too")

B. K. Hart - President, DSR Records


Drugs. One of the absolute worst diseases to plague the world, and more

specifically, the entertainment business. One would think that if the

Sixties taught us anything, it was that drugs and music are a bizarre

combination. The very thing you believe makes you beautiful, sexy,

powerful, unstoppable, invincible, creative, dynamic, adored by fans and

 envied by all actually turns out to be the principal implement of your

destruction, up to and sometimes including your untimely demise.


Drug use among the elite didn't begin in the Sixties, though. Nor was it

 confined to musicians. But since we are musicians, we'll just stick to

our own.


In the ancient East, minstrels and songmakers were sometimes known to

indulge in opium, a substance which today directly relates to heroin. It

 was said that this practice would incite these artists to spells of

abstract thought and bizarre behaviour, and by doing so, expanded their

scopes of creativity. It actually made most of them great musical

innovators, and got them boundless recognition. But true to form, the

periods of adulation were all too brief. Over time the addictive

properties of the substances overwhelmed the artists' powers of rational

 thought, making them erratic and bumbling. And by the time they

recognized their folly, it was too late to correct, and as a result of

frustration they became irrational and destructive, some even to the

point of suicide.


During medieval times, mostly in and around Europe, minstrels and

jesters were often taken to the drink, and usually in excess. In these

cases, when they became inebriated and unable to amuse the monarchy,

they were taken out and executed.


In the Old West, before the White man came from Europe and settled in

America, the Indians (so called because some explorer thought he was in

the West Indies) had their own dealings with drugs (of sorts). During

some ceremonies, particular tribes would dance and chant for long

periods of time, and while doing so, would drink potions made from

peyote cactus and mezcal plants (mescaline). The effects of these were

said to place the participants "closer to the heavens" so that they

could "speak to the spirits". Sometimes they believed themselves to be

as soaring eagles, or as powerful as the great bear. It is safe to say

that when they found out the truth, it was usually too late.


So you see, histroy is packed with direct examples of drug abuse in

entertainment, but unfortunately it doesn't stop there. What about more

modern examples, in places like Harlem, Kansas City, New Orleans,

Chicago and even Nashville?


Billie Holiday, one of the greatest names in jazz music, died at age 44

after a life of hard heroin abuse. Although her name is legendary, her

reign in music was relatively short. Because she was so addicted, she

actually missed most of her own stardom.


Another bright star in jazz music was Charlie "Bird" Parker, who battled

 his own heroin addiction while carving his name in the company of jazz

music's elite. He died one night of an apparent massive heart attack

following a life of hard heroin use.


Richard Pryor was a self-proclaimed cocaine addict whose indulgence

caused him to be disfigured after a freebase accident left him burned

over most of his body. He still lives, but stricken with multiple

sclerosis, a condition which could possibly have been a by-product of

his cocaine abuse.


Jimi Hendrix was a rock icon who died as a direct result of heroin abuse.

 As you may know (or not), the legendary guitarist, in a heroin-induced

stupor, aspirated and subsequently drowned in his own vomit.


David Ruffin, former lead singer for the legendary Temptations, died as

a result of his involvement with drugs. Though it has not been

concretely established exactly how he died, it is known that drugs were

in his system at the time of his death.


Sometimes the artists themselves don't even have to be involved with

drugs to be victims. Most recently, R&B star Aaliyah was tragically

taken from us in a plane crash along with her entire entourage. It was

later established that the pilot of her plane had cocaine in his system.



So at this point you're probably saying, "yeah, yeah, B. K., we know all

 that. Why bring it up?" You mean to tell me you still don't get it?

Alright, then, let's do it like this.


Let's put together a list:

Billie Holiday

Jimi Hendrix

Jim Morrison

Janis Joplin

David Ruffin

Kurt Cobain

Charlie Parker



Now, I will call the attention of all you young artists out there who

love to get high, act like "gangsters" and "rock stars" and live on the

edge in an effort to be "different", "unique", and "totally unlike the

rest", and all that crap. Then I want to ask you one simple question;


What do all these artists have in common?

Give up?

I thought you would. Check this out:







Simply because they, or someone around them decided they wanted to get

high. Damn fools!


Now you think about that the next time you spark up that blunt. Or that

pipe. Or pop that pill. Or snort that line. Or tip that bottle. Or take

those works out of the drawer.


There could be some sad singin' and good eatin' at ya momma's house next time.

Think about it.


B. K.


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