With the recent passing of mega music stars Prince, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson all being related to potential addictions it is becoming more and more difficult to talk about their artistry without addressing the other elephant in the room; addiction. Addiction almost seems synonymous with artistry. Sometimes the pressures of being consistently creative have been to blame but most often the elephant was always in the room; however, exacerbated by the pains and pleasures of being creative. We’ve just often chosen not to see the tortured nature of the artistic soul.
There is nothing quite like the pressures of being consistently artistic on someone else’s schedule. Everyone expecting greatness from you all of the time, sometimes even becoming critical when you don’t surpass records you previously set. It’s not hard to see how someone could find themselves at a crossroads of pushing the boundaries of right between wrong; taking too many pills, not getting enough sleep, even when it means hurting, all for the sake of success. Success which by this time has become defined by others and not so much by self.
So as we mourn the deaths of the world’s most famous artists whether Whitney Houston or David Bowie, let’s remember that artistry is personal, creativity takes time, not every song, book or painting is meant to be award winning. The artist makes some art from personal satisfaction. Some music is created to heal the artist; some the world.
We should also walk away understanding that the nature of addiction exempts no one. Everyone is susceptible to the lure of it. Being an addict doesn’t lessen the value of the person or their creativity. Perhaps leaning in to the humanness of celebrities, artists and everyone may give them the space to get help, feel the pains of life, heal the pains of life and grow from it.
There is no silver bullet for addiction and all artists are not destined to addiction but there certainly seems to be something about the two that keeps them in the same room.