The great lie of rock and roll
From Wayne Kramer of the MC5, who has been there:
As time goes on, I find myself further distanced from, and acutely aware of, The Great Lie of Rock and Roll.
There is no job category for “Rock Star.” This is because it doesn’t exist. It’s not a job. The number of people who reach the level of “Rock Star” is so small that the odds are far worse than reaching the NBA or NFL or professional baseball. I put it at a million to one.
This is one component in the Great Lie. The other is that if you have a hit (fill in the blank record/book/movie/TV show) you will be delivered and your life will be ok. That somehow fame and success and money will fix whatever is wrong with you. It just ain’t so. Not only will it not fix you, but it will make whatever is wrong with you worse.
This has been my experience. I see it over and over again in the lives of young folks who get some recognition in their chosen field of music, TV, sports or movies. They lose their minds. The ego gets inflated and they don’t even know it’s happening. I have great empathy for folks who get into trouble with drugs and booze and sex and who try to get help. The problem is, they are surrounded by a world that tells them You are special! and The rules don’t apply to you! Rules? They’re for the little people.
But the lie is very powerful. It’s sold to the public in very seductive ways and it’s believed wholesale. Every day at LAX, hundreds of new hopefuls arrive here to chase that dream. Problem is, they don’t have a clue of what is involved in the business of being a self-employed artist. But sure, they’re going to “make it,” whatever that might mean to them. It would be funny if the results weren’t so tragic. The trail of dead is as long as the trail of damage.
But it doesn’t matter what I say about it, or what anyone else says based on their own real life experience, because the dream is too strong. The lie is too powerful, the lure of deliverance too great for understanding.
This business of show is something to do only because you can’t not do it. You do this because you love the actual work involved. It can be a living, but it’s a tough living. Don’t do it for security, or a steady paycheck, because those things are not here. Most of all, don’t do it for stardom. That price is too high. There is nothing wrong with wanting–or getting–the respect of your peers, but to exceed that is inviting trouble.
Do this because you love music and you love to write songs or you love playing your instrument or you get a kick out of singing and dancing and making a complete fool out of yourself in front of everybody. Do it because you’re a natural born show-off.
But don’t think it’s any more than what it is. There are moments of transcendence and beauty. There are instants of joy. But those things are gifts to the artist, as they are gifts to the audience. They are fleeting. Beware of the lie.