BY SALIL CHAUDHRY
From the Grateful Dead and Woodstock, to “Gin and Juice” and “Pop A Molly.” Drugs and music have been closely related for decades. It’s also hard to ignore that some of the most celebrated musicians of all time were avid drug users. Jazz greats such as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis used cocaine and heroin. Rock legends like The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin used marijuana and LSD. Many notable individuals have passed away due to overdoses. Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston. Recreational drug use has only increased over the past decade. Music festivals and concerts have become hubs for major drug use. Drugs have solidified themselves as part of our musical history.
Making music is hard. It’s a process that takes time, energy, spirit and grit. Many of the greats among music–and among all forms of art–have been troubled souls. They have been through times of great trauma. They have experienced death, and pain and suffering. This inspires them. It pushes them to the next level of creativity. Numerous greats have experienced these feelings and have turned to drugs. I can’t tell you specifically why this occurs. Maybe, they want to escape from their problems. Maybe they’re just bored. Yet, I do know that these music greats–the John Lennons, the Kurt Cobains–had brilliant and creative minds with or without drugs. Let’s say you took a high quality guitarist and put him in place of John Lennon in The Beatles. There is no way that guitarist, with or without drugs, could recreate the brilliance of John Lennon. These greats were geniuses. They had creative and colorful minds. The drugs weren’t necessary.
Nowadays, concerts and festivals are quite loud and chaotic. There are bright flashing lights, smoke, mist, neon colors, and lasers. New music is electronic-based, with heavy bass. It sounds sleeker and less organic. These tools give the listener a natural “high” feeling. These new sounds reflect the futuristic more drug-oriented culture that we have. Many will say that drugs give the listener a better experience. Like they can “feel” the music more. The truth is that only way to listen and feel your music completely is to do it sober. Drugs impair senses, functions and ability to comprehend. They take away from your complete listening experience and on top that they’re really bad for you. Recently harder recreational drugs such as heroin, acid (LSD) and ecstasy have increased greatly. Many concert-goers who takes these drugs go into fits of paranoia and hysteria. I myself don’t do drugs but I have seen people do them at concerts. It’s scary. And the worst part is that it’s on the rise.
Drugs will forever be a part of our society. People will continue to use them and it will continue to influence the culture of our music. I don’t know what the future holds but I hope that drugs don’t hurt our music in a negative way. I want people to realize that musicians are talented and that drugs aren’t needed to create beautiful music. In the end, I hope people will understand that music is an incredible, and brilliant art that doesn’t need external devices and tools to make it sound or feel right.