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
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:
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?
I thought you would. Check this out:
NONE OF THEM WILL EVER GET TO BE OLD FOLKS LOOKING
BACK AND SEEING JUST HOW BRILLIANT THEY WERE!!!
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.
News Page Home Page