It’s been a week since Scott Weiland died.
The outpouring of fan grief for the former Stone Temple Pilots frontman has been voluminous and feels genuine. Many have noted Weiland’s death as a tragedy. And it is.
In a scathing open letter written by Weiland’s ex-wife (mother of his children), she noted it was a tragedy that didn’t have to happen. That Weiland’s death was the final stage in a long process of horrifying self-destruction. A path encouraged and abetted by a rock world ethos and drug culture that fetishizes the immolation of its stars.
It’s hard to argue with those points. We all but demand that stars live by the twisted cliché of “sex, drugs and rock and roll.” That they destroy themselves by inches to win our devotion.
Weiland was a talented man. At their best, his songs communicated an acute sympathy for the pain of being human. As a reward, the rock world encouraged him to be something inhuman. Rock stars are supposed to live bigger lives than ours. They must drink heavily, consume mounds of pills and powders, romp with groupies, trash hotel rooms and indulge every excess. They’re supposed to live at extremes to make them worthy of our fandom.
Would Scott Weiland’s music have meant less had he lived a healthier life? If he’d avoided drugs, drank moderately, eaten his vegetables and run marathons, would his songs have felt less “authentic?” Would radio have had no interest in the music of a man who spent his nights with his family instead of in clubs or jail cells?
It’s impossible to say if the demons of addiction would have found Weiland even if he’d never entered the rock world. Or which way the cause and effect flowed. Did Weiland become a rocker because of his predilection for addiction? Or did addiction result because he became enmeshed in a world where “no” is never uttered and drugs permeate the culture?
For all the stars who have destroyed themselves for our benefit, we shed tears. We wail and scream about how horrible it is.
But nothing changes. People like Scott Weiland are allowed to kill themselves bit-by-bit. Encouraged to do so. We demand their suffering for the privilege of making art. And then hypocritically keen the next time an artist’s path leads where a life of addiction so often does.
The industry let Scott Weiland down. His fans let him down. He needed to hear that he’d be loved and accepted no matter what. That his health was more important than unit or concert ticket sales. If that message was sent at all, it was undercut. That may be the real tragedy. That a damaged and troubled human being was allowed to self-destruct because it was good business.
Scott Weiland deserved better.
The industry needs to change. Its culture needs to change. The life of the next Scott Weiland depends on it.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on December 10, 2015.