The train wreck we call ‘art’: music and our responsibility as a global family

The Train Wreck we call ‘Art’: Music and Our Responsibility as a Global Family

The train wreck we call ‘art’: music and our responsibility as a global family

What could be so threatening about an open letter written by Mary Forsberg, the ex-wife of the late Scott Weiland, Stone Temple Pilots singer, and mother of their two teenage children that was published in Rolling Stone magazine? Written with her children a day after the rock star’s death at age 48, the family’s refreshing honesty about their personal experience and tragedy offers a revealing insight into issues that we as a society have come to see as normal and accept as part of music industry culture.

That is; glorifying a self-destructive, self-harming lifestyle in the name of ‘art’ affects more than just one life and only gives licence for more of the same.

Comments thrown back at Mary, accusing her of judging and soiling Scott’s ‘rock legend legacy’, largely dismiss her and the crucial point she offers and paint an alarming picture of defending music at all costs, as the true reality of lives lived and destroyed is ignored.

So what is being defended?

“ . . . at some point, someone needs to step up and point out that yes, this will happen again – because as a society we almost encourage it. We read awful show reviews, watch videos of artists falling down, unable to recall their lyrics streaming on a teleprompter just a few feet away. And then we click "add to cart" because what actually belongs in a hospital is now considered art”, Mary Forsberg writes.[1]

Music has a history of young troubled artists who end up dying in tragic circumstances, but we want the music regardless of the life cost. Why?

The question must be asked, what is it about our own existence that champions or even calls for the disintegration of the life of another? As a reflection of the inner workings of our own life, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture, revealing an epidemic of hurt and emotional pain that in fact, runs rampant through the lives of many.

Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimmy Hendrix, Bon Scott, Whitney Houston, Janice Joplin . . . the famous ones, and the casualty list goes on, as unknown musicians who battle with the same demons die quiet yet equally tragic deaths.

We continue to want the ‘services’ of ‘out of it’ rock stars. Young people who struggle to be in their own skin and spend most of their time being ‘out of it’. They don’t want to be in their bodies, yet we want to be part of their toxic experience. A toxic exchange – we pay for the music, and in turn, they pay for it too . . . crazy!

Where in any other profession does this happen or be seen as acceptable?

Imagine your talented and much loved carpenter or accountant keeps showing up to work, out of it on drugs or alcohol, but you tolerate it because you think no-one can ‘do it like they can’.

Over time and as a result of not being able to fulfill their role you would at some point let them go. It may have been a slow decline or a series of sticky events, you may have had gentle words, firm words, been angry, given ultimatums of rehabilitation but eventually if there was no change, the relationship would end.

If they died as a result of their addiction, you would probably feel sad or even angry at the waste of a life and feel deeply for their family and friends. Chances are they wouldn’t be remembered as ‘Keith the incredible carpenter’, or ‘Jane the sublimely talented accountant’, yet strangely and sadly this is what we do with rock stars.

We will never be able to free ourselves from the train wreck we have heralded as ‘artistic life’ while we avoid looking at and seeing the tragedy of the prop of drugs and alcohol that further perpetuate anxiety, depression, bi-polar and abuse, and the hurt and pain that lies underneath. The legacy that this leaves is one bound in helplessness, hopelessness, resigned to the idea that we have no choice in the matter, ‘we can’t help it, ‘ it is normal’.

In her letter Mary Forsberg concludes, “Our hope for Scott has died, but there is still hope for others. Let's choose to make this the first time we don't glorify this tragedy with talk of rock and roll and the demons that, by the way, don't have to come with it.”[1]

Change needs to happen, and there is always a choice to change in every moment. This is where self-responsibility begins, and the love for ourselves and others lies. A life of pain and struggle does not need to be lived to produce great music – in fact, truly, how can it? What comes through music is everything we are; what we put out into the world is what everyone else gets. As part of this global family we can remove the blinkers, see the mess, not turn away, and begin to support each other in the truest sense of the word.


  • [1]

Filed under


  • By Jenny James, Singer/Songwriter

  • By Tina Kopa, Singer / Songwriter