You’re too old to lose it, too young to choose it (Bowie, Rock ‘n Roll suicide)
Far more musicians die from natural causes. Far more musicians die from heart attacks and cancer. Far more musicians die from substance abuse. Even knowing that, there is an almost natural bond between suicide and artistry. It is because there is widespread belief that suffering and art are somehow connected, especially in poetry and music. We believe that poets and musicians have to search the deepest deeps of their soul to find the words and the imagery we love. We also believe that true art equals pain. After all, what does happiness create apart from an endless string of sugar sweet love songs. The artist-sufferer is what we expect, and at the same time we fear the artist-sufferer who goes to deep to investigate and sing about his or her demons. The ones who go to deep, eventually pay the price, but will also be rewarded with even more fans and admirers.
We love artists who suffer, and when the connection between art and suffering is hardly there, as in the case of Nick Cave losing his son at the same time as recording Skeleton Tree (2016), we just fill in the blanks and create a story.
We are so addicted to the connection between art and suffering that we even extend it to the ones who just died out of neglect or careless substance abuse. Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious, Amy Winehouse, they definitely killed themselves but it wasn’t suicide, and they didn’t do so because they collapsed under the weight of their art. Just people who made a mistake and paid the ultimate price.
They are all welcome to the gallery of tortured souls. We only can’t deal with the ones who were just unfortunate. The likes of Jeff Buckley, who drowned in the Mississippi by accident, not because he had a death wish. How many fans and admirers do actually believe that simple, unromantic story?