No junk, no soul?

I was reading an article on the link between music and drugs, and this question occurred to me……

What would the music scene be like if drugs were never invented?

Is it too hard to imagine a world where, people just go to a venue to listen to music and appreciate it with a clear head? Or, where musicians aren’t known  for their habits before their talent? Or where a genre of music isn’t defined by a drug that goes with it?

Just imagine if the creativity of the musicians of the past had come from their own brains, and not aided by LSD, Heroin or Cocaine etc.

As the article reminded me, the Jazz world in particular got taken to another level by drugs. Would jazz have moved and transformed itself into the art form that is today, if it weren’t for smoking of dope and taking of heroin, leading to the advent of Bebop and the more free Jazz elements? Would the style have moved on from the Jazz of the 40’s, which sometimes come across (to me) as a bit formulaic in structure?

Look at these old Jazz and Blues players who survived the excesses of the 60s and 70s, and I think about the friends they have lost to drugs and alcohol. Just imagine a world full of old jazz guys who didn’t get hooked on heroin or over-dose in a hotel room somewhere. The world would be overflowing with cool old guys (and women of course).

Without LSD and Marijuana, the Hippie generation would never have existed?  What would the disillusioned youth of the 60’s and 70’s have grabbed on to…. Going into the Army? Embracing religion? Alcoholism? Rioting?

There would have been no Jimi Hendrix as we know him, the man widely regarded one of the most influential guitarists of all time might never have picked up a guitar and a wah-wah pedal.

There would have been no Bob Marley…..No Rastas even.

Maybe, coffee shops would be the place to hear live music and get your fix of caffeine and other legal drugs.

If the world had of changed tack back in the sixties, there is no way of telling what music would have become today.

Personally, I like to think that the people who made the biggest musical contributions to the world would have done it with or without drugs. I believe that some people are born with such gifts, and have been since the beginnings of mankind.

Even without the psychedelic 70s, couldn’t you see a version of Jimi Hendrix with a guitar in hand, and still re-writing history in a different genre of music. Maybe Flamenco or Blues guitar….

Take a good look at the losses that have been made to the world of music, as a direct result of drug abuse.

Was it worth it?

4 thoughts on “No junk, no soul?

  1. Many of the Fifties and Sixties boppers were heroin addicts but I don’t think any actually tried to play on drugs. Most of the profound “spiritual ” music , for lack of a better word ,came from those who cleaned up, and found their way home. Coltrane is a good example.

    The leading lights of bop were selected for their great talent through the intensely competetive recruitment process of stand-up nights at New Yorks club scene. Drugs had nothing to contribute to their ability and eventually wasted their talent. They played brilliantly despite drugs, not because of them. Some even had their playing skills wrecked by gangster enforcers for drug debts, like a trumpeter’s front teeth smashed, ruining their embouchure.

    Many people through their early passage into life – then and now – are attracted to the “forbidden”. Fortunately, most resist or survive. As anyone who has tried to play an instrument while pissed, drugs and music don’t mix, – except may be for the audience, but that is a different story.

    What happens when musicians get older? Having seen some of the older guys playing into their Seventies, it’s not all good. As someone once said of painters, artists often paint just many variations of the same picture. I have one Hendrix album, which is enough. If he were still here today, would he be still playing, or advertising butter or car insurance?

  2. As a drug abusing, alcoholic musician I can say without a doubt, ‘Yes, it was and is worth it.’ Not only is it worth it, it’s necessary. Not so much the drugs, but the personality that will embrace drugs to cope with it’s existence. The individual who will shrug the pain of developing the finger callouses, tendonitis, arthritis, blown lip, etc. for the release of endorphins playing something ‘good’ brings will also likely shrug the dangers of drinking, smoking, or shooting whatever makes him feel better about his one true addiction…music.

    That said, psychedelics are their own thing. Taking them not only makes you aware of different perspectives, it allows you to be one with them. Jimi Hendrix without LSD would’ve been just another exceptional blues guitarist. Maybe more because his career coincided with the invention of distortion and other effects. But what made him stand out was his connection to things he may have never personally experienced. Watch the woodstock video of his version of the national anthem. That wasn’t a new take on the blues scale. That was him expressing what his mind’s eye had seen of war. The 1st handers didn’t get a chance to play their guitars, but he was able to fully realize their plight and express it through his medium.

    About the losses…death’s a part of life. We lose about as many musicians to plane crashes and cancer.

    LondonJazzCollector mentioned the audience and the drugs they were on. The audience is a huge part of a music’s upbringing, evolution, and overall success. How many venues have you been to that didn’t have a bar? Where you didn’t smell weed near the back door? Where you didn’t suspect someone of a self-inflicted runny nose?

    Drugs are as much a part of the music we know as an artist’s childhood, society, colleagues, or influences and it is worth it.

    ‘No junk, no soul.’

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