Singer Demi Lovato has battled much of her addiction with cocaine and alcohol abuse in the public eye. Her admission of falling off the wagon after celebrating six years of sobriety was also public — with a song. “Momma, I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore/ And daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor,”- Lovato minced no words in her song, Sober. The pop star who was hospitalised on Tuesday (July 24) allegedly due to a suspected drug overdose was not the first artist to write and sing about her struggle with substance abuse.
References to drugs in music — both veiled and blatant — have been fairly common. British Rock band Small Faces’ song, Here Come The Nice was reportedly about drugs – “Here come the nice (It’s understood)/ Here come the nice (he’ll make you feel so good)/ I’d be just like him (If I only could)/You know you should” and so was Beatles’ Got to Get You Into My Life, among others. Paul McCartney in Barry Miles’ 1997 book, Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, disclosed that the former was indeed about marijuana and not about a particular person. A report in Rolling Stone also cites Rihanna’s We Found Love as a similar example.
In the article ‘Taking the rap’: drugs, alcohol and popular music, writer Jeff Champney-Smith mentions three categories of drugs and alcohol related songs — “Antidrug and alcohol songs, celebration of drug and alcohol use and light-hearted commentaries on drug and alcohol use.” Apart from celebrating and providing commentary on drugs, some songs also reveal the singer’s helpless addiction with them. Amy Winehouse’s struggle with drug addiction was no secret. The singer who passed away on July 23, 2011 wrote about her struggles with addiction with great candour. The song Rehab which, in many ways, catapulted her to fame was about people coaxing her to check into a rehab centre and her reluctance to do so. — “They tried to make me go to rehab/ I said, no, no, no/ Yes, I been black/ But when I come back, you’ll know, know, know
Kurt Cobain, who struggled with heroin addiction, passed away at the age of 27. In the song You Know You’re Right, many speculate that Cobain was essentially writing about his struggles with addiction — “I always knew it would come to this/ Things have never been so swell/ And I have never failed to fail.”
Rapper Eminem too had his share of struggle with addiction and in 2007 almost died from a methadone overdose. He wrote about the episode in his song Arose.— “If I could rewind time like a tape/ Inside a boombox, one day for every pill or Percocet that I ate/ Cut down on the Valium, I’da heard everything/ But death is turning, so definite, wait!” He has been sober since 2008. In Not Afraid he wrote rather unequivocally about his struggles and how he fought through it “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid (yeah)/ To take a stand, it’s been a ride/ Everybody, I guess I had to/ Go to that place/ To get to this one.” Johnny Cash’s song Hurt is about addiction as well — “I hurt myself today/ To see if I still feel/ I focus on the pain/ The only thing that’s real.” These are but some of the instances.
It’s ironical that such dependencies and trauma have resulted in some of the greatest melodies and songs we’ve heard over the years. Yet, one must give full credit to artistes like Lovato and others who are candid about their dependencies, making it more acceptable for their audiences to reach out for help when faced with similar issues.