This article asserting that Prince self-medicated himself to death over a serious case of stage fright brought to mind the song below, sung by my old friend, Rick Danko, deceased bass player with The Band.
Rick's tremulous voice was perfect for this tune, wasn't it?
Prince was reportedly hooked on powerful combinations of opiates. Par for the course for musicians. Heroin has been the staple drug for musicians for decades.
"It really gets you in the groove," is the common saying.
I wouldn't know because there's no way in hell I'm sticking a needle in my arm. But, years ago I did try smoking black tar opium a few times and that was a dangerously blissful experience. I can see how you might want to stay in that haze forever.
Fear of the audience, and the terror of the insecurity brought on by the boom and bust cycle of the music biz probably is a major factor in the common tendency of musicians to overdose. Of course, musicians are usually hedonists, too, and the music biz is a dangerous place for a hedonist without limits. A musician's job, particularly in the rock genre, is to party all the time.
Even at my incredibly modest and momentary level of fame, I encountered plenty of groupies who invited me into the bathroom for a blowjob. As impressive as these offers might seem, such encounters are not good for your relationship or marriage back home. Musicians who take up these offers on the road soon find themselves facing divorce and alimony. And the groupies are gold diggers who are not to be trusted... gold diggers with a boy friend or husband (sometimes conniving in the entrapment plot) in the background.
The mass of strange faces out in front of the stage can be quite frightening. Everything is moving too fast. Heroin or other opiates slow things down and get one in the groove. Will they like me? Facing that night after night can drive you crazy.
I've written before about my long lost partner, Kentucky Kate, a fantastic backup vocalist and mandolin player. She blew everybody away in rehearsal or in a small club setting, then nearly peed her pants in terror when she stood up in front of a big audience. I was mightily pissed off at her for years for her inability to conquer her stage fright, but what could she do? Big audiences scared the shit out of her.
Do I suffer stage fright? Sure, when I get the rare opportunity to perform in a setting in front of a big audience. I think of the fear as the stimulus to get my adrenalin flowing.
I gave up on the fight to make it in the big time music biz 35 years ago. The boom and bust cycle of the biz is lethal. Success today doesn't imply success tomorrow. Unlike Prince or Rick Danko, I had an education and job skills. I could count on a steady paycheck.
I never listened seriously to Prince. When I gave up on the big time music biz, I also gave up on following the current hit parade stars.
My musician friends died off by the dozens in their 30s and 40s. The music biz kills. Whether it is worth it for the moments of glory and adulation is an individual decision.