As a card-carrying member of Generation X, it seemed when I was growing up that all of the bands that I liked from my parents record collection were dead. Or should I say, the key figures from each group were dead. John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison- all gone. When I started getting to get into film, the same thing seemed to be a common thread of everyone I liked: James Dean- car accident at age 23; Marilyn Monroe- drug overdose. Basically, death was a common denominator to anyone I found remotely interesting; this made the whole ‘burn bright, die young’ thing seem like something to strive for, something glamourous. Why end up being old and wrinkled and forgotten when you could blaze out at the height of fame and glory? Plus, 27, the age when Jim, Jimi and Janis all passed away, seemed SO FAR AWAY. LIKE SUPER OLD.
Fast forward to my own life: I have just done the Northern California leg of a tour with Nirvana. I am 18. I love the band; they are the first group of people around my age who seem to be singing about how I feel, about topics that I know. It’s the Clinton years in the US; we are in recession; all anyone talks about is how there will be no jobs when we leave Uni; it feels like everything has been done and is used up. Unlike all of the glam bands- which I also loved- of the time (see: Motley Crue, Guns N Roses, etc), the boys in Nirvana LOOKED like me. They liked the same things I liked- vintage clothes, cheap beer, records, random punk bands, Sub-Pop. As a kid from a lower middle-class household, they came from a similar place as me. It looked like for a hot minute, when Nevermind toppled Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the number one spot in 1991, that the outsiders, the weirdos could, WOULD have some power to change things.
Then it was all over the radio. Plastered over all of the newsprint. Kurt was found, dead, after having gone missing for several days. All of the possibility of what he could be, of what he had started, seemed to come crushing down in an avalanche. If he could not deal with the world, how were the rest of us supposed to get by? Unlike Morrison and Joplin and Hendrix and Lennon, all who seemed so old and from another time, I had met Kurt. I had shared cigarettes with Kurt. I had joked about body odour with Kurt. And now he was gone.
I can’t help but remember this, one of the first deaths of someone I knew that I experienced, when I heard the tragic news of the passing of Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer, Scott Hutchinson. I was reminded of all those times that it seemed somehow cool to be struggling, to be pouring all of this hurt into your art. This horrible tradition of loving a tragedy, of only coming forward about the struggles of mental health once the person is gone, must change. Why is it ‘mental health?’ Why not just ‘health?’
I wanted to give the website for anyone struggling, or to pass on to someone who may need it. Help Musicians UK is a confidential charity who is there to help artists and those that work in the creative industries. Everyone I have met there is very non-judgemental and supportive. As someone who does not have a family in the traditional sense, I know how lonely and overwhelming and crap things can seem sometimes. But remember, you are not alone. And tomorrow can be better.