Once upon a time, musicians glamorized drugs. Janis Joplin, in the late 60’s, would appear on stage at The Fillmore East in lower Manhattan with a “Southern Comfort” bottle. I witnessed it as well as the audience “sniffing glue.” (the audience was as high as the performers!) Famous electric guitarist Jimmy Hendrix would often appear on stage with a “blunt.”
These talents would become members of the so-called “27 Club” and die at age 27 from overdoses along with Van Morrison of the “Doors” (although he was reported to die of “natural causes “while in the bathtub”). Much later, in 1994, Grunge singer and songwriter in Seattle, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana also died at age 27. According to his wife, Courtney Love, he had taken fifty pills.
Grace Slick of The Jefferson Airplane would sing “White Rabbit” in 1967 about “one pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small, and the ones that Mother gives you don’t do anything at all.” Alcoholic and addicted to heroin, the great rock- and- blue guitarist Eric Clapton wrote a song about Cocaine in 1977: “If you want to hang out, you’ve gotta take his out, Cocaine, If you want to get down, get down on the ground, Cocaine. She don’t lie, she don’t lie, Cocaine. “Clapton, once so drunk he couldn’t stand up during a concert, played guitar on his back the whole evening. (He overcame his addictions in the mid-80’s and now raises money for Alcoholics Anonymous and other anti-drug organizations).
Now Mentioning Rehab
In the 2000’s, songs about substance use became more confessional. They no longer “danced around the addiction problem.” Stars actually admitted to substance abuse disorders. Amy Winehouse, who won three Grammys in 2008 for “Best New Artist,” Best Album of the Year,” and “Best Song of The Year” entitled “Rehab, which was autobiographical. This British singer wrote “I don’t ever want to drink again, I just, ooh I just need a friend, I’m not gonna spend ten weeks and have everyone think I’m on the mend.” Winehouse died in 2011, (guess what age? 27) of alcohol poisoning.
Julien Baker, Memphis singer and songwriter, who happens to be gay, mimes her life intensely for material. From an early age, she struggled with substance abuse. In one song, “Faith Healer,” on her new album “Little Oblivions,” according to Mark Richardson’s Review in The Wall Street Journal, ”Climbing from Rock Bottom,” February 17, 2021, suggests “that the newly sober confront a different horror: “I miss the high, how it dulled the terror and the beauty/Now I see everything in startling intensity.” Her song “Crying Wolf,” about “wrestling with sobriety begins with the line “Day-one Chip on your dresser, get loaded at your house.”
Demi Lovato, a “Camp Rock” Disney Star who toured with the Jonas Brothers and had her own television show, rose to stardom with her hit single “Sorry, Not Sorry, her first single. But she still carried her issues wherever she went and overdosed after being six years sober in 2018. Ironically, before Lovato could legally drink, she got sober at nineteen.
Like many with substance abuse disorders, Demi had mental health problems. She admitted on the Ellen DeGeneres show in 2020 that she overdosed on pills, was revived with Narcan, but later suffered three strokes, and a heart attack. She has suffered brain damage and cannot drive a car.
Thinking that she had to look thin all the time, Lovato fell prey to bulimia. Her “team” scrupulously watched her weight. They would look at her bills to see what she ordered at Starbuck’s.
The team didn’t like what they saw and wanted to quit. They complained that it didn’t look good for them if Demi looked heavy. Lovato, who had abandonment issues to begin with because she was adopted, regarded their actions as abandonment. She began drinking again for three months until she overdosed.
Well-liked for her candor and singing expertise, in her lifetime, Demi estimates that she had twenty sober companions travelling with her. On March 23rd, you can see her documentary “Dancing with the Devil” on YouTube. It highlights her struggles with sobriety and mental health.
Drugs Aren’t Going Away
While performers may come and go to rehabs, the drugs themselves will never go away. Unfortunately, they are escalating in our society and becoming fatal with the synthetic fentanyl.
Wesley Cullen Davidson
Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.