I was inspired to talk about this topic after reading Nick Duerden’s book ‘Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars’.
I’ll pop in here the notes I made after reading the book, and add in some Youtube clips of related music:
The problem with fame in pop music is it tends to happen to young people – the least prepared, so there are some sad stories of addiction, bankruptcy, breakdowns. But while I was braced for an unending stream of tales of disaster, instead these little vignettes of pop stars afterlives in the book were in the end, on the whole, uplifting. A pattern emerged and it went like this:
- In the end Awen + Craft rules! Their love of music gets them through – nearly all still make music. Bardism = Awen + Craft. See Dr. Andy Letcher’s Mt Haemus paper. A few wonderful examples: Joan Armatrading ( her inspiration: Awen) Suzanne Vega (they’re still successful BTW but just in a more limited way, not mega-stars anymore.)
(Suzanne Vega starts singing part-way through this extraordinary section of ‘One World One Voice’. Included here in these 4.5 minutes are the voices of Peter Gabriel, Stewart Copeland, Geoffrey Oryema, Suzanne Vega, and Lou Reed)
- Their fall requires them to look within. Often to face their demons. This might involve painful crashes, addiction, breakdowns, financial ruin. But if they eventually work with the challenge (sometimes it takes them years) through rehab, therapy/psychotherapy, spirituality, shamanism, meditation, they make it through to more mature and satisfying version of themselves. A few examples:
The wonderfully-named Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol
Paul Cattermole of SClub 7; Tim Burgess of The Charlatans: getting clean then TM saved him; Kevin Rowland ‘Dexys Midnight Runners’: Who says at age 66: “I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the years… I used to believe if I got successful all my problems would be over. But I had no tools for living, for growing up.” Since quitting drugs he has explored Buddhism, Taoism, “anything really, a bit of meditation.”
Tim Booth – James – Voice Dialogue Therapy, Acting, Shamanism, Music. He lives in Topanga Canyon CA: “I’m interested in those therapies that straddle the boundary between creativity, therapy and for want of a better word, the metaphysical interest that changes people’s lives, and the crossroads between the three” ie creativity, therapy, spirituality.
- Some may or may not even take that journey: they perhaps don’t need to. I’m thinking of Natalie Merchant who works with underprivileged kids now. Then others come out of their transformational death/rebirth and choose to focus on others: Brian Nash ‘Frankie Goes to Hollywood’ who is now a funeral celebrant, Dennis Seaton ‘Pass the Dutchie’: became a born-again Christian and works with ladder safety.
Although we can find similar themes in all these stories, each is of course unique. And let me finish with two examples which demonstrate this well: the stories of Shirley Collins and Edward Tudor-Pole. He was the grandson of Wellesley Tudor-Pole who believed he had found the Holy Grail and brought it to Chalice Well in Glastonbury. His band and his only hit: Tenpole Tudor singing “Swords of a Thousand Men”.
Shirley Collins a folk singer who at the height of her fame in 1978 lost her voice with dysphonia at age 43. 26 years later she sings and gets to work – in her 80s!
Let’s finish with a quote from Tina Turner who told a Times interviewer: “When I was going through some of my hardest times, perhaps it would have felt easier to give in to quick fixes, like smoking, alcohol, or drugs. Instead I chose to look inward, to tap the wellspring of my greater self. My dear friend David Bowie, who had a lifelong interest in Buddhism, used to call me a phoenix, the mythical bird who rises from the ashes. If there’s one lesson my life serves to teach, it’s that encountering big problems doesn’t have to dictate your future. It’s what we make of adversity, how we use it to shape ourselves, that determines our success and happiness.”
The reason Meditation has helped people who have been through the whirlwind of success, fame, abuse, and so on, is because it leads to a place of stillness where we can reconnect not only to ourselves but to the heartbeat of the world, of Nature all around us. Let’s just go into the forest grove now for a few moments of peace and calm and reconnection…
Or…we could just dance and go a little wild (and take a rather unusual Rorschach test at the same time)!