Does music get a little help from drugs?
Musicians have seemingly had a part in the drug and alcohol scene throughout their careers, with legends like Whitney Houston, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and many others having met their demise due to overconsumption or overdosing on various substances. As far back as 1830, substance abuse played a part in the music culture with Hector Berlioz, a French romantic composer who used opium while he wrote "Symphonie Fantastique," according to PBS documentary "Keeping Score."
“Drugs and music, I mean it’s been in the music culture for so many years that it is now the normal for me to hear lyrics about drug within today's music,” said Santa Monica College music theory student Ashton McCreight.
Drug use can be found in many of the music industry's top artists. With Rihanna rolling a joint on top of her security guard's head at last year's Coachella, or Lil Wayne having a seizure from drinking too much of a promethazine-codeine cough syrup nicknamed “purple drank," overindulgence of substances seems to be prevalent today.
However, there are those who think that musicians using drugs is not a bad thing.
“I feel that it’s good that artist use drugs; it lets them truly express themselves," said SMC student Trayvon Gordon. "Drugs help artist explore another realm which they can’t access while being sober. I feel that can be one reason why drug usage is so common among artist of all ages.”
SMC music department chair James Martin feels that if a musician truly feels that their creativity is enhanced by doing drugs, there is not much that can be done to stop their behavior.
"Some of the music was created by drugs in the '60s and '70s, and a creative mood is a tough mood to leave once an artist finds out how to get there," said James Martin, music department chair at Santa Monica College. "If an artist thinks smoking a couple joints or sniffing a line is going to get you there, an artist is going to do it again."
Musicians Institute professor Daniel Gilbert believes that the careers of artists such as Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix would be different if they had not ever done drugs.
“Look what happened in the '60s," said Gilbert. "Would that have happened without drugs? I’m not advocating drug usage, but if Morrison or Hendrix stopped using drugs, I would have to say there is a possibility that they would not be as iconic as they are now."
However, Gilbert also sees the end of the drug abuse spectrum.
“Don’t get me wrong; musicians can still be amazing when off drugs," Gilbert said. "Sometimes drugs can bring someone up for a moment, but one way or another, that artist will be coming down from their high.”
SMC student, rapper and producer Alex Crawford said he has been smoking marijuana since he was 16, using it to sometimes to "kind of release any anxiety I might have so I can perform my best."
“Personally, when I write music when I’m high I feel invincible," Crawford said. "I honestly feel someone who smokes weed, pops pills or does a few lines can feel free and have fun without worrying about any judgments from other people. When that person is high on whatever drug, they usually play music in their iPod or in their cars and the two marry. Drugs and music feed off each other."
Crawford is not unique when it comes to smoking cannabis. Since 2010, marijuana use is up 22 percent, with four in 10 teens smoking the narcotic. One in 10 teens now uses ecstasy and in the last three years, ecstasy use among teenagers has jumped 67 percent, according to drugfree.org, a website that provides information and support for parents of teen drug users.
While there are many artists who openly do drugs and drink alcohol to potentially enhance their creativity, release anxiety or put on a better performance, there are those who have had long, successful careers without the aid of drugs or alcohol.
Bruce Springsteen, multiple Grammy winner and a 1999 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, has reportedly never done drugs. This was confirmed by musician Steven Van Zandt, who has performed with Springsteen, in a 2012 interview with "Rolling Stone."
"He's the opposite of a drug-created monster," Van Zandt said in the interview. "He's in good shape by not doing drugs."
Tim McGraw, three-time Grammy Award-winning country singer, did an interview with "US Magazine" in 2011 about going to rehab because he would text his wife while drunk. Now he is three years sober and preparing for another tour.
Unfortunately, drugs have still cast a shadow for several famous artists of the 27 Club, artists who have died at 27 because of some sort of substance abuse. Those musicians include Morrison, Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and most recently Amy Winehouse.
Whether an artist decides to indulge in drugs or alcohol or stay sober, Marin said music will keep "reflecting artist feelings."