Good post from Serdar Yegulalp on the myth of the tortured artist.
I’ve long wrestled with, and rejected, the idea that damage or sickness is a prerequisite of good art — that the artist needs to be a screwed-up person in order for his art to be “genuine”. The most obvious problem with this formulation is how it leads us to believe the reverse: that in order to become an artist, you have to get screwed up.
I have to agree with every word of that.
One of the things that really gets my goat is the way the media, especially some sections of the rock press, glamourise self-destructive behaviour. It’s the mindset that encouraged Amy Winehouse to piss away her talent and eventually killed her. It’s why I’m still unapolagetic about ripping a Guardian music writer a new arsehole a few years back. I know too many singers and musicians of Amy Winehouse’ age, and I wouldn’t want it to happen to them.
It’s been suggested that the only reason the media gave Pete Doherty so much underserved hype was that they could see what a drug-addled trainwreck he was going to be, and wanted trot out the “tragic tale of lost genius” story yet again. But then he didn’t die, and instead went on make a string of mediocre records, leaving them with egg over their faces.
I’ve always believed self-destructive substance abuse in the music world wasn’t about “enhancing their art” but about their inability to cope with the pressures of fame. Far from enhancing their art, it’s more likely to diminish it.
What great music might Jimi Hendrix or Phil Lynott have produced if drug abuse hadn’t cut their careers short? And I can’t help feel that even those who didn’t actually die, such as Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page, might not have burned out early had it not been for drug addiction.