Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Death and rock: Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be rock stars

"Rock and menopause do not mix."
Stevie Nicks

"Living fast and dying young" isn't just rock 'n' roll marketing: A new study has found that rockers actually die younger than average humans.

The A-List is well-known: Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Keith Moon, John Bonham, Cass Elliott, Eddie Cochran, Sam Cooke, Dennis Wilson, Freddy Mercury, Gram Parsons, Otis Redding, Jim Croce, Ronnie Van Zandt, Marvin Gaye, Andy Gibb, Brian Jones, Michael Hutchence ... and the list gores tragically on and on. Texas alone has contributed hugely to the death toll with Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson (whose casket was exhumed in Beaumont last March, pictured at left), and Dimebag Darrell Abbott.

Researchers at Liverpool's John Moores University found rockers they are more than twice as likely to die a premature death as ordinary people. They sampled 1,064 stars from the rock, punk, rap, R&B, electronic and new age genres in the "All Time Top 1,000" albums published in 2000.

The prematurely-dead rockers' age at death was 42 for North American musicians and 35 for European stars, the study said. So if you are older than 42, you are older than the average dead rock star; if you're younger than 42, there's still time!
The reason for many of those deaths isn't a mystery: Drug or alcohol problems accounted for more than one in four of the deaths. And "rookies" to fame are more likely to croak ... the study found the first few years of fame are the most dangerous, with rockers three times more likely to die than the average person during that time.

The good news is: After 25 years of fame -- think Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson and Mick Jagger -- the death toll returns to normal.

Having an "artistic personality" probably contributes, too, one psychiatrist says. That pattern holds true in many artistic pursuits. Shelley, Fitzgerald, Poe, Van Gogh ... all died prematurely.

"You could argue that rock stars and pop stars have a sensation-seeking personality, that they have this desire to put themselves in these terrifying situations -- performing in front of a large group of people -- that also makes them vulnerable to dependence on substances, which markedly increases mortality," said Dr. Tim Williams, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction at the University of Bristol

Considering that they also must travel a lot in airplanes (the Nos. 5 and 6 causes of death for rockers), and cannot always pick their friends as carefully as the rest of us (murder caused twice as many rockers' deaths as alcohol), there are many reasons behind the higher body count in rock 'n' roll ... even including a romantic tendency toward suicide and mood swings that generate the highs and lows that lie beneath our greatest songs, books, poetry, paintings and plays.

But given the nature of the creative mind, it's unlikely that human nature will "fix" this tragic reality. The risks required to succeed in art are the same risks that put life in danger ... and eventually make our normal, humdrum lives richer as we experience vicariously what artists intended for us to feel

1 comment:

Jill said...

Yeah and I haven't been "on the road, again" boozing and doping and staying up all night with wine,men and song. Guess I missed my chance. Of course I can't sing, but since when did that stop a rock star?