Overdosing in the World of Sound

I. J. Samson

St. John's, Newfoundland

By Jenni M. (Grade 9)

Drugs and musicians walk hand in hand down the super highway most of us call life. One pill induces sleep, another repels it. Some drugs just keep them alive.

I don't mean to say all performers are dropping and snorting but it seems like a whole lot of them are. Mixing drugs and overdosing is a sure way to find trouble and, eventually, the Big ole Elevator to the Sky. A huge number of legends have died because they overdosed. Stupid way to die, though, some people, like kids, think it's the best way. Could be, but I think I'll pass. I'll fill you in on some of the losses music has encountered thanks to the underground market of illegal and prescription drugs.

Janis Joplin died when she overdosed on heroin, which was then complicated by alcohol. Born 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas, Janis had a difficult adolescence. She didn't make friends easily in her early life. She always felt alone and, having been overweight and acne prone, it didn't help. After dropping out of college, Janis had gotten hooked on speed. She started to sing in low-scale blues joints, wailing out her mournful but extraordinary voice. This was the small start that led to her being labelled as the greatest white female blues singer who ever lived. She also sang at Woodstock. Joplin was working on her album "Pearl" when she was taken away from us. October 4, 1970, Janis was found dead in her Los Angeles hotel.

's death was a complicated one. Jimi liked women, music and good times. His greatest accomplishments include the hits "Hey Joe" and "Purple Haze". He was in bed when his girlfriend, Monika Nanneman, tried to wake him and found that Hendrix was unconscious. An ambulance was called to their London apartment and took Jimi to St. Mary Abott's hospital. He was D.O.A. There was controversy that James Marshall ( Hendrix's real name) had died from Seconol, a drug traced in his blood, or from choking on his vomit while he slept. Possibly, it was the combination of the two but, in any case, Jimi Hendrix remains dead.

Shannon Hoon threw away his life on October 20, 1995, in the back of his tour bus as he overdosed on coke and heroin. He had an infant son, Nico Blue, a woman who loved him, and a great place in a band called Blind Melon. Hoon had entered the Betty Ford clinic several times before realizing he had a problem but with no improvement. He was usually high during his performances, including his Woodstock '94 gig, and was thrown out at the '94 American Music Awards for being intoxicated. Hoon was a heavy drinker, like Janis Joplin, and enjoyed psilocybin, shrooms, and weed. He was a fine vocalist anyway. Blind Melon's smash "No Rain" went up on the Top Ten on America's Billboard chart. In front of Tipitina's, a resting post for the band (somewhere in the States), Shannon died. Maybe it would have been easier for him to rehabilitate if his manager hadn't supplied Hoon with his drugs. How is one person supposed to cope with an addiction when the substance is being given to him and he is asked to take it without wanting it?

I left out one important figure in this essay, Kurt Cobain, because he has been totally exploited. Everyone has heard enough about Kurt. Put him to rest. I conclude by saying it's not my place to tell people how to run their lives. I think, in the public eye, stars should not flaunt their drug habits, for they are idols to many people. Many others compare themselves to these famous persons and try to be just like them. It does not matter if it's Sprite or speed they're advertising, the media will soak it in and eat it up. It's sad when you see others thinking it's all right to kill themselves because so-and-so committed suicide down in L.A. last week. Overdosing is not as great as it looks.


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