A Music Career Is Not Always Fun
I am releasing this posting as a supplement to my series on Great Music. Obviously I am not intimately knowledgeable about the lives and careers of the distant past of composers and performers, like Beethoven, Chopin etc. I do have some first hand knowledge of what life is like for more recent composers and performers in the era of pop music.
Life as a pop performer looks very glamorous on the surface. Millions of young men and women aspire to be like their idols performing on stage to the thunderous applause and adoration of the fans. However, when you pull back the curtains on these lives, a completely different picture of their life emerges.
First is a Video of a song written by Amy Lee of the group Evanescence. The song “Lost in Paradise” reflects the confusion she feels on the road performing versus a life back home with her husband, a quite normal guy who is a psychiatrist. I choose a video that included the lyrics because through the lyrics the emotion of the music becomes clear. The song was written during a period of Amy’s life where the call of the performance was still strong but also while feeling the pull of her husband at home and the desire to become a mother.
To someone who has never been on the road performing they will never understand the absolute loneliness of being on stage in front of thousands of strangers who really know nothing about you and care only for what you can give them. In the 1970’s my wife Cinder and her band, LovinFun, signed a record contract with Atlantic Records and hit the road opening for the group, Foghat. The first few weeks were everything she ever dreamed of. LovinFun was a normal 4 piece band, drums, bass guitar, lead guitar and Cinder on the keyboard and lead singer and songwriter for the group. She started the band as an outlet for her original music. It was much more fun when she started and played locally since she could be home every night. But once the record deal was signed, life changed dramatically.
First the record company assigns and A&R man (Artist & Repertoire) who tells what to wear on stage, what songs to sing in what order, where and when to perform etc. and the band manager who is assigned by the record company controls your day to day life. The gigs are usually over by 11:30 at night but by then you are so wound up it takes a couple hours to calm down in order to sleep. Cinder’s choice of calming fluid was Jim Beam in an ordinary hotel or motel room. Usually she would sleep until lunch time, breakfast was a distant memory of a past life. It is not surprising that so many touring musicians end up in addiction treatment programs. It takes a very strong person to handle all the stresses and upheaval associated with a performing music career.
Only one album was ever recorded, the band was on the road so much there was never enough time to seriously take the time needed in the recording studio. The record company wanted the band to build up a bigger following before releasing many recordings. One single was released and sometime in the future I’ll post a YouTube of that song from the 70’s. It has a disco feel (some of you are old enough to remember the Disco era) called “I Feel”. While the record is long out of print, I rescued an old master tape from the hands of Atlantic.
This went on for about 4 years during the 1970’s and when she was finally home on a break, I could tell how much she was hurting inside because of this life. At this point we had been married for 6 years and had two sons, age 3 and 5. I was trying to establish my career at Prudential’s corporate headquarters in Newark, NJ and was kind of at my wits end juggling day care, babysitters etc. It was a beautiful and calm June Sunday afternoon. She told me she wanted to play a new song she had written the day before after a performance in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the song she played. It was about an hour later when our two boys were playing in the back yard and the older one fell while trying to climb a tree. He ran into the house yelling “daddy, daddy I hurt my knee”. That was it!! When even her own child did not recognize that it is the mother who is supposed to heal those kind of childhood hurts – she knew she had to return to motherhood.
She cancelled to rest of the tour, told Atlantic Records to go to hell, she was DONE. The breakup with Atlantic was not fun since it involved ownership of numerous pieces of music but was finally over and done with. In the end, her music and her band were never good enough to break into the big time. They could never find the format and music that would be unique enough to differentiate themselves from the thousands of other bands trying to make it in the music world.