Eccentricity and the fabled ‘sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll’ lifestyle has always been a major part of music writing, with tales of crazy drunk and drugged up nights, televisions being thrown out of windows in true punk tradition, and the jagged slope down to the bottom for out of control musicians always pulling in a mass readership and sparking heated debates. The mythology of rock musicians is the alternative readers’ answer to the glossy gossip magazines, with in depth interviews revealing the literal highs and emotional lows of a person thrust into the spotlight and handed a little plastic bag for the journey.
Sometimes the almost unbelievable tales published create a conflict of duties for a journalist; the aim is to document the lives of musicians and their impact on the music scene, but with readership being a precious commodity in recent years the need for shocking stories has meant that many forget the human behind the escapades. It is like trying to imagine Gene Simmons sitting in full Kiss outfit r
eading the newspaper, or taking the dog for a walk, platforms stomping along the Californian sidewalk.
The creation of ‘legends’ and ‘rock ‘n’ roll royalty’ in music such as ‘The Prince of Darkness’ Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy from Motörhead on the surface is a tool used by journalists to celebrate great and influential musicians, “Fuck Elvis and Keith Richards, Lemmy’s the king of rock ‘n’ roll – he told me he never considered Motörhead a metal band, he was quite adamant. Lemmy’s a living, breathing, drinking and snorting fucking legend. No one else comes close” (Grohl, 2009). However, with Lemmys notability also being for supposedly drinking a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey a day, it could be suggested that the media unofficially encourages musicians to live the stereotypical life of excess with tragic consequences.
Casting an eye to the not so distant past, and the assault on Amy Winehouse and her troubling addictions by the media serves
as a poignant reminder that as journalists we can make or break a person’s life based on how we talk about them. From being a “drug-addled wreck” (Paris, N. 2008) to an “immeasurably gifted singer” (Bentley, P. 2011) after her death, Amy Winehouse was slated and heralded in the most contradictive ways by the press. Images of her constant Sunday hang-over covered the pages, and little was mentioned of her singing unless as a “troubled star” (Eliscu, J. 2011). Nowadays images show her bright and conscious of the world, and she is lamented as a lost treasure, with charity events and a charity itself being heavily influenced by her story. Winehouse’s death is a tragic self-fulfilled prophecy, and it can’t be ignored that if the press had focussed more on her music she and so many others like her might have been saved from an early, very-public death.
- Bentley, P. (2011) A death foretold: The rapid rise and tragic fall of Amy Winehouse, the deeply flawed soul prodigy. The Daily Mail, [online] 25th July. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2018025/Amy-Winehouse-dead-Before-rise-fall-deeply-flawed-prodigy.html [Accessed: 13th April 2013].
- Eliscu, J. (2011) Amy Winehouse’s Death: A Troubled Star Gone Too Soon. Rolling Stone, [online] 24th July. Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/amy-winehouses-death-a-troubled-star-gone-too-soon-20110724 [Accessed: 9th April 2013]
- Grohl, D. 2009 http://www.southernlord.com/probot/singer.html
- Paris, N. (2008) Amy Winehouse on video ‘smoking crack’. The Telegraph, [online] 22nd Jan. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1576198/Amy-Winehouse-on-video-smoking-crack.html [Accessed: 9th April 2013].
- Sturges, F. (2010) Its only rock ‘n’ roll but are you prepared to die for it?. The Independent, [online] 28th May. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/its-only-rocknroll-but-are-you-prepared-to-die-for-it-1984777.html [Accessed: 14th April 2013]