Jam Session Guitar Forum

You don’t say: The darker side of guitarists

slash-guns-and-rosesGuitarists are perhaps the greatest rock stars on the planet. Right from Slash to Joe Walsh they are legends of the music world. As fans, we look up to these musicians as Gods. Modern media let us know almost everything they do and we gobble it all up. When our heroes take to drugs, often we see it as a cool thing to do. After all, they’re everything we want to be. Musicians using drugs is almost expected but when they go from casual drug use to abuse, they damage not only their own lives but the lives of all the people that love them. In this article, I’ll talk about many famous guitarists that have abused drugs, the reasons why so many go down that path and the ones that have recovered.

Perhaps the most famous guitarist that became an addict is Slash from Guns & Roses. High on heroin Slash once ran naked through a resort in Arizona. Drug and alcohol abuse was common for the entire band. Izzy Stradlin, their rhythm guitarist once swallowed all the drugs he was carrying. Rather than throw away the drugs before landing in Japan as his manager suggested, Stradlin decided he would rather ingest them. He was in a coma for 96 hours. Their bassist Duff McKagan had such a severe addiction that he did not stop even when it began to pose serious health concerns. His pancreas exploded leading to third-degree burns in his body.

Syd Barrett was the force behind Pink Floyd. Their first album was a phenomenon largely because of Barrett’s voice and guitar work and he wrote almost all of the songs. As he began abusing LSD he lost his ability no only to write good music but also his guitar skills. His major problem was being unable to play the guitar except to strum one string during live performances. Eventually, he was kicked out of the band.

Sid Vicious’s story of drug abuse is possibly the most haunting of them all. Former bassist with the Sex Pistols he was charged with murdering his girlfriend. He was so high on heroin he did not recall any details of the incident yet his knife was used to kill his girlfriend. A few months later he was arrested for a fight at a rock show. A day after making bail he died of an overdose at a dinner party.

While drug abuse is not selective of professions, musicians do tend to be the most common abusers. It could be because playing in nightclubs and large venues drugs are more abundant. The money more famous guitarists make ensures they have a good and steady supply of their drug of choice. A lot of musicians start young and do not have the life skills necessary to avoid stupid decisions. They are also prone to be influenced by their peers. Their problems with addiction are often overlooked because of their talent.

Whatever the reason, the life of an addict is painful for all of their near and dear ones. There are guitarists that realized their mistakes and decided to get sober. Slash, Joey Santiago, Joe Walsh among others – who got their lives back. Their path has been difficult but they’ve come out better in the end. Guitarists with great talent are rare and when they become addicts a part of their talent is lost.

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