Why Addicts Make the Best Rock Stars

Seriously, think about it: Why is it that hard drug addicts (including Jerry Garcia, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, and countless, countless others) seem to make the best rock stars?

I once talked to a brain scientist who actually had an answer to this question. She probably wouldn’t want to be named, but argued forcefully that the endogenous brain chemicals produced in the presence of vast fame (huge crowds cheering, blinding sex appeal, etc) were so powerful that only the most potent of external substances, such as heroin, could possibly match that high. She speculated that people who are driven to become famous need these chemicals — hence the logic of heroin.

I believe that’s true. But it’s also true, as this hilarious graphic from the Onion shows, that sometimes these same addicts make really good music. Amy Winehouse is the latest, for good or ill. She has reinvented Motown with a wit no one has managed in three decades. Hope she can stay on top of it:


September 5, 2007 | Issue 43•36

The Troubled Life of Amy Winehouse

Friends and family have been in the news recently urging British pop singer Amy Winehouse to
quit using drugs, saying that she has a problem. What have the warning signs been?

Follow-up single to "Rehab" was "Big Fat Lid of Black Tar Heroin"

Beehive hairdo occasionally drops baggies, spoons, poppy plantations

Always in good mood or bad mood

Keith Richards seen leaving her flat looking defeated

Constantly screams "God, I love taking drugs!"

Before a show at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, Winehouse refused to go on until the stage had been cleared of all the four-headed snakes and ghosts of her ancestors

Her music thus far is pretty cool


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

8 thoughts on “Why Addicts Make the Best Rock Stars

  1. mebbe. but i think it’s just that drugs enhance any creative artist’s vision or sounds, and thus the need, sometimes, to go in that direction. But not everyone has to do drugs. Then again, they work!


  2. also, i think that creative people, some, are often depressed by sensitibity to life, i mean, normal people do not become artists or musicians, so they need drugs to feel normal at times…

    maybe that brain scientist, name name, has never known depression…?


  3. Have you ever played in a band that played gigs? I did in the late 70’s/early 80’s, on the LA club circuit. If a gig went really well musically and the crowd was good and there was that special energy there, it was *impossible* to come down from that buzz after the show. I’d have to smoke some pot and drink some beers just to chill out and ever have a chance of going to sleep.

    Being a touring rock musician is really, really, really boring, except for the shows, so I can see why people turn to chemicals to alleviate boredom.

    The English psych band The Bevis Frond has a song called “Why Stars Die” and when I saw them do it live, the bass player introduced with something like “Why is that as soon as some songwriters stop doing massive amounts of drugs, the songs turn to shite?”. Hmmmmm…..

    Certainly, the first Pink Floyd record (“Piper at the Gates of Dawn”) wouldn’t be the same without the massive amounts of LSD that Syd Barrett took.


  4. Henry, I wish I could play, and I don’t doubt for a minute that coming down from playing that kind of gig would require a beer or two…or more.

    But I still think that some performers (and not just musicians) are driven by needs so powerful that it’s quite possible that endogenous brain chemicals (which are as potent as opiates, if not as easy to get) play a role.

    An example: even before “Nevermind” came out, Kurt Cobain was getting into heroin, according to his biographer. I love Cobain’s music, and still miss his presence, but I think part of what drove his originality was a need for far more than just relaxation and sleep.


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