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Thursday, August 02, 2007

An Uncomfortable Truth and an Unanswered Question Part II

The real question is, what is the link between reality altering substances and artistic expression? Or creative genius? Do the drugs make the artist so great or do culture shifting artists unleash so much energy that only drug use enables those who brought it forth to survive it's impact?

When you read a book like Scar Tissue, it's easy to see that Anthony Kiedis' structureless, depraved childhood led him to his lifelong problems with drugs, and left him without any ability to form a healthy relationship with women.

But it's also obvious that the same neglect filled, drug filled pornographic youth that has left him so scarred and damaged in many ways also produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There's little chance that the Anthony Kiedis we all know and love and worship to some degree could have come from an ordinary childhood. That beautiful, uninhibited, wild animal we call the Red Hot Chili Peppers, that band that has sounded so different for over 20 years, that has endured far longer than most bands owes it's very existence to the largely screwed up, drug filled lives known as Anthony Kiedis and Flea.

In other words, the suffering and misery of four knuckleheads has ultimately produced a thing called the Red Hot Chili Peppers that we love, that we worship in a rock n' roll sort of way. The death of Hillel Slovac, the result of heroin, produced my favorite Chili Pepper song, Knock Me Down. My life is better, more enjoyable because Anthony wrote that song because Hillel destroyed himself because of HEROIN. No heroin, Hillel lives, and no song. No heroin and cocaine, and Anthony's life is much healthier with much less pain and struggle, and he doesn't write most of the band's greatest songs. No drugs, no suffering, no great songs, no Chili Peppers.

Does anyone believe that Kurt Cobain writes Nevermind as a happy healthy kid from Seattle? No alienation, no depression, no anger, no heroin, no Smells Like Teen Spirit. Dee Dee Ramone grows up in New Jersey in a family like mine? No drug abuse, no mental imbalances, no depression, no Blitzkrieg Bop. No Ramones.

However uncomfortable it may be to accept, the truth is a lot of the greatest art that has impacted our lives and shaped our culture was a product of chemical excess, whether alcohol or heroin or whatever. The use and abuse of these substances did in fact directly produce so much good for the rest of us, while destroying the artist.

Society has always been drawn to and moved by self sacrifice, and it makes sense to me that we should think of Anthony and Kurt as examples of cultural martyrs. Perhaps without really trying to, they have made us all happier and wiser while killing or nearly killing themselves.

The best art has always been to some degree a product of pain, misery and suffering, simultaneously healing the fan and consuming the artist. It's just the way it is, however uncomfortable that truth may be.

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