Michael Des Barres: Following the Dream of Rock Stardom Is Like Joining an Army Perpetually at War

Rock 'n' roll is a dangerous profession — the average age of a musician's death is 39 years and 9 months.

As middle age circumnavigates the midriff of yesterday's riff masters, I began to look into the untimely demise of our former heroes and heroines of rock and roll. Some deified, some forgotten.

Getty Images"It's better to burn out than fade away," said Neil Young.

"I hope I die before I get old," wrote Pete Townshend. Well, not all his dreams came true. Thank God.

However, we do not mourn for everyone of the rock ‘n’ roll community who prematurely met their maker, then becoming label-mates of the heavenly record company in the sky. (The only one left, for the record)

All those bass players, keyboard players, drummers, guitar players, singer/songwriters …

In going through the endless list, I realized I couldn't begin to acknowledge or give examples.It seemed so emotionally gratuitous. Suffice to say the list is long.

It contains names that are famous, infamous and anonymous.

The average age of a musician's death is 39 years and 9 months.

Following the dream of rock ‘n’ roll stardom is like joining an army, perpetually at war.

A war with the road. The temptations, the accelerated existence. The nervous system on overdrive and at maximum volume.

The endless traveling. The time changes (not just the songs) of countries, zones.

Narcotics, rhythm and booze fill the hours and months of crushing boredom in between shows. The challenges of success, to say nothing of the incomprehensible notion of failure.

From bacchanalian backstage banquets to doing the dishes in your own kitchen in your own leather trousers.

The hedonistic memories of a young girl's adulation in a cheap hotel suite in Pensacola, Fla.

Finishing the evening reverie reading JK Rowling to your madcap kids.

Male pattern baldness and an ever-growing girth does not meet the job description of rock royalty.

Gods, adored by fickle fans whose interest and loyalty is fleeting. Strangers, all.

Only to those honored few do the tributes continue. The annual gatherings, the Facebook RIPs.

The YouTube videos showing the peak moments of rock stardom, forever blazing a trail of glory across computer screens with millions of hits.

The work horses. The journeymen, veterans of a 1,000 three-chord skirmishes.

They will always be remembered by their loving family and aficionados of their work. With 863 views of their videos. Perhaps some vinyl in a thrift store in Austin, Tex.

A faded poster in the back of a club that now charges a band to play.

Rock ‘n’ roll is a dangerous profession.

Its rewards are in direct proportion to the love and understanding of oneself. All this is survivable in an emotional sense, if seen objectively. Remaining un-bedevilled by bad reviews and swollen by great ones. All this observed and not judged. Justified nor condemned.

The self sacrifice on the altar of rock ‘n’ roll is not necessary if perspective outweighs self-aggrandizement!

Perhaps this is a pre-cautionary tale told to the young ones embarking on the wonderful journey of music. Played for and by the people.

A tale of 1,000 cities … 1,000 stars burning bright and still alive.

 

 

 

  • Carol Klavon

    This is such an amazing and sad commentary on the music industry–of any commercial enterprise, really. So glad to see that at least one brilliant artist did not crash and burn like so many others–keep on rockin’ Michael!