by Craig Grau

Music frees our souls and enslaves them in the most polite manner, simultaneously — a double helix from the heart to the hands to the ears that binds bloodlines across borders. It’s no wonder those of us called to the forefront of this vibration rank among the most sensitive souls — those driven to push the sonic envelope ever farther.

Music commands life; you can’t create when you’re dead. Logic dictates this. Our Great Family has lost enough aural heroes on addiction’s battlefield. The energy in our veins demands to smolder, not be extinguished.

“I burn a fire to stay cool / I burn myself, I am the fuel.”

Many musicians will introduce the world’s impurities into their own bloodstreams in an attempt to shield others by absorbing the pain, like throwing oneself onto a grenade. So much love goes lost, so much passion eludes, unfulfilled.

The casualties continue to mount.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information tallied 220 celebrity deaths from 1970 to 2015. Powerhouses like Janis Joplin, Bradley Nowell, Scott Weiland and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. And those were just the famous names, each leaving behind a wake of grief and loss.

Of that list, ages averaged 38.6 years old. And three-quarters of those fatalities were male. Looking over their medical histories, a common thread of musculoskeletal pain from constant touring and mental issues from performance anxiety and depression wove through the wreckage.

Any musician knows it’s not just the doctor’s office that provides the starting point for often-fatal addictions. The upstart performer often finds relief on the Internet, meeting in parking lots or other locales to meet their needs with often dubious wares.

Just this week, the San Diego County sheriff’s office reported four overdose deaths in 24 hours from fake oxycodone pills, “Blue 30s,” unevenly mixed from a batch of illicit fentanyl. Black tar heroin’s strength is also uneven by the parcel — and sometimes loaded with botulism toxin, a paralysis-producing bacterium once weaponized for biowarfare by the Soviets.

Meanwhile, a 30-watt guitar amplifier still delivers a reliable 30 watts of power. And an afternoon spent nailing down a new song in the practice hole still provides a consistent thrill.

Faced with the choice of inspiring the next generation or showing up for another rockstar funeral, there’s really no choice.

If this piece speaks to you, get help. Put down your instrument for a minute. Pick up the phone.

(Quote by Ian MacKaye, Fugazi, “Shut the Door.” Dischord Records, Copyright 1990)

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