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Are "train wrecks" the best artists?

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Reel Mama: Are "train wrecks" the best artists?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Are "train wrecks" the best artists?

I don’t want to sound unkind.  “Train wreck” is an unfair pejorative about people whose talent is so explosive, so all-consuming, that it can’t be contained, and it, or the expectations brought about by it, sometimes destroys the artist who wields it.  
Let’s face it, there’s a little “train wreck” in all of us.  We all make mistakes, and we’re all human.

Amy Winehouse

I just got the Amy Winehouse album Frank.  It’s not as good as Back to Black, yet her brilliance shines through, and it saddens me that these two albums were the only ones she ever produced, along with a cover album.  Unless you were on the moon scoping out a spot for Newt Gingrich’s planned lunar space station, you probably heard that Winehouse died last year, though you may not know that it was from alcohol poisoning, not a drug overdose.  
And now we hear of the death of Whitney Houston.  Her years of hard-living it seems finally caught up with her, and she too has met a sad end all to soon.  I won’t compare her talent with Winehouse or any other artist because she’s simply incomparable.

Whitney Houston

It is amazing, when one looks at the greatest contributions to the arts, to examine the lives of their authors.  If you’ve ever read the Book of Questions, as I recall there’s a question about what kind of life the seeker would prefer to have, a wild roller coaster ride of a life, full of meteoric ups and plunging downs, with an inspired and prolific output, but that ends early?  Or a happy, even-keeled long life that might be described as boring?  Which would you rather have?
I’d choose even-keeled myself.  
Artists who had explosive outputs but met untimely ends abound.  They are among the ones whose work most inspires humanity: Vincent Van Gogh comes to mind.  The work of Janice Joplin, Michael Jackson, and Jimi Hendrix moves millions.  While I’m a huge Elvis fan and would NEVER call him a train wreck, he too met an untimely and sad end.
If I could take a lyric from Don McLean’s song “Vincent,” about Van Gogh, that might shed some light on the situation:
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.

Vincent Van Gogh

Did these artists simply destroy themselves, or did the world destroy these artists because their talent was too beautiful, too overwhelming, for a cold, cruel, and ugly world?  Before their destruction, these artists gave the world something that makes it much more beautiful.  We were meant to have it, and we will always enjoy their enduring contributions.  It would be an injustice to their talent to remember them only for their mistakes and their demons.  Let their artistic gifts be their enduring legacy.

Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night"


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