Death By Pop Music

I don't believe that there are "creative people." I believe that everyone has the ability to create in what ever medium is most appealing to them, I just think that accessing that ability is easier for some than it is for others. I won't deny that there's a certain level of talent that has to be there, but I think terms like "creative genius" are thrown around to haphazardly.

I'm not one of those people who buys into the "he was just too brilliant to live" theories. There are plenty of completely sane people producing incredible works of art. You don't have to be crazy to create, and I don't believe that the fires of creation eventually burn out those who channel it on a regular basis.

To get more specific, I don't believe that Michael Jackson's talent killed him, anymore than I think that Elvis' talent forced him to take all those drugs. Kurt Cobain wasn't trying to blow the creative parts of his brain out the back of his head, he just wanted to die.

So why is it, then, that so many pop stars end up dead at a young age?

The easy answer, of course, is that the pressures of fame are too much for them. That's generally the Cobain theory (aside from the one where it's Courtney Love who killed him). It's also easy to see that being rich and famous would allow for easier access to the various substances that eventually due a lot of these people in.

But if there is a fire burning, I don't think it's some undefinable "creative" fire that they people had within them. No, I think the fire is popular culture, and these poor saps were caught playing in it for too long -- and many of them had already been doused with gasoline to begin with.

Pop culture is an entity in and of itself, a living, breathing creature that, more often than not, dictates to society more than society dictates to it. Pop culture knows us better than we know ourselves. It knows when it's time for boy bands again, so it creates them. It knows when bell bottoms can make a comeback, and it gives them to us. Pop culture will decided who is on top and for how long. It can make mediocre artists into leaders and force the best of us to die penniless and alone.

Jim Morrison was a below average poet and a mediocre singer with addiction problems who was fortunate enough to go to school with Ray Manzarek. I say "fortunate," because that's the word for it. Fortune -- pop culture -- smiled down on Morrison because he was the pop icon the world needed at that moment. He might not have been the one we wanted, might not have been the best one available, but pop culture makes these decisions without consulting us.

Was a child star from an abusive family really the best choice to break the color barrier in pop music? Was a momma's boy from Mississippi really the best choice to open the flood gates of rock n' roll? And yet that's who we get and we gorge ourselves on their music and the great beast uses them up until there's nothing left and then, if they're lucky, they finally die, many after living for years as shells of their former selves.

Pop culture is a bitch.

I wonder if Michael Jackson or Elvis or John Lennon would still be with us had they been able to break from pop culture. Had they, as someone suggested to me, gone the J.D. Salinger route, would they still be around? Would they be living happy, relatively anonymous lives in obscurity? Or was their fate determined from the start, once pop culture got its hands on them? Was there any way that Kurt Cobain could have survived?

I doubt it, and it makes me wonder who might be next.