Music, Media and Mythology

Posted on May 13, 2013

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Music, Media and Mythology.


‘Sex, drugs and rock and roll’ became universally recognized when Ian Dury named a song after the phrase in 1977. The mantra led to the perception that promiscuity and substance abuse are inherent in the life of a rock star. This portrayal of icons through the media has become a theme in many genres across the board.

For artists to be interesting to fans and writers, a lifestyle of extreme behaviour is necessary. Nick Kent wrote in a review of Guns ‘N’ Roses that “bad things happened whenever they got together, but the negativity only made them more popular” (Kent, 2003).

According to Fiona Sturges from The Independent, in order for musicians to write authentic music, they have to be consumed in a troubled and dramatic life (Sturges, 2010) – often with drugs being their emotional outlet. Tom Hawking from flavorwire.com stated that “the level of one’s creative output is inversely proportional to the level of one’s drug intake” (Hawking, 2013). With this in mind it prompts us to question who some of the most infamous names in music would have been without their personal issues. Would Kurt Cobain have been a significant icon of the 90s without frequent drug abuse and chronic depression? Would Amy Winehouse have succeeded in the music industry without her admission to rehab and destructive marriage?

Journalists revel in musician’s turbulent lives, filling up papers and magazines with accusatory words and explicit images. The media articulate stories by choosing which facts to include. This can lead to inaccurate constructs that steer readers away from what should be important – the music that is produced.

The ‘27’ club exemplifies how the media can create ideologies. The phenomenon involving troubled musicians who have died at age 27 include: Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin. Despite its logical and empirical incoherence, this superstitious club has created moral panic within anyone who is a believer of transcendent, paranormal activity. Christian Saunders from forteantimes describes the deaths as occurring “under mysterious circumstances” (Saunders, 2012), heightening the panic within spiritual believers. But it is purely a media construct and scientists writing in the British Medical Journal have shown that it is simply an illusion – just as many artists die at 25 and 26 (Rao, 2011). A statistician from Queensland University stated that “the 27 club has been created by a combination of chance and cherry picking” (Smith, 2011). It is easy to create ideas by leaving out other relevant facts.

The media thrive on the destructive nature that stems from iconic figures. But once a musician dies, writers change their tone. When Amy Winehouse died, Q magazine featured her on the front cover with the headline ‘The Voice Of Our Time’ (Barton, 2012). Suddenly this person was actually a person, rather than an animal at a zoo, with their every move being scrutinized, waiting for you to step one foot out of place. If you’ve appeared on front covers time after time again, falling out of clubs or being admitted to rehab, then you’re probably 6 foot under, with a huge following of people who claim ‘they loved your music’.

Bibliography:

Barton, L, (2012) Amy Winehouse: Only Now Can We Glimpse Her Legacy. The Guardian. 19 July. [Online]. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jul/19/amy-winehouse-glimpse-true-legacy [Accessed: 22 April]

Hawking, T, (2013) Beyond the rock ‘n’ roll myth: 10 artists whose personal lives overshadowed their work. [Online]. Available from: http://flavorwire.com/367857/beyond-the-rock-n-roll-myth-10-artists-whose-personal-lives-overshadowed-their-work/view-all [Accessed: 16 April 2013]

Kent, N, (2003) Meltdown. The Guardian. 3 January. [Online]. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2003/jan/03/popandrock.artsfeatures [Accessed: 21 April 2013]

Rao, M, (2011) The ’27 club’ myth debunked in a study for the British Medical Journal. Huffington Post [Online]. Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/21/the-27-club-myth_n_1163493.html [Accessed: 22 April 2013]

Saunders, C, (2012) The forever 27 club. [Online]. Available from: http://www.forteantimes.com/features/articles/6250/the_forever_27_club.html [Accessed: 22 April 2013]

Smith, R, (2011) Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain may have died aged 27 but its not a doom-laden age for musicians: research. The Telegraph. 21 December. [Online]. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8967701/Amy-Winehouse-and-Kurt-Cobain-may-have-died-aged-27-but-its-not-a-doom-laden-age-for-musicians-research.html [Accessed: 23 April 2013]

Sturges, F, (2010) It’s only rock ‘n’ roll but are you prepared to die for it? The Independent. 28 May. [Online]. Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/its-only-rocknroll-but-are-you-prepared-to-die-for-it-1984777.html [Accessed: 15 April 2013]

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