I found it very hard to choose a song for today’s theme. There are many songs I could have picked, some or them quite legendary. But as I was trying to make my song choice, I kept on choking up with tears as I read more about the deaths of these artists. I think what I found provoking was the thought of the huge sadness and pain that those musicians were carrying within them for so long. Young, talented, successful – yet within they were in anguish. In most cases, the members of the 27 club became addicted to substance abuse, which of course would have multiplied their challenges.
Last night I was still struggling. I had decided on a song by Amy Winehouse “Valerie”, but the images of her looking emaciated and the reminder of the heartache she seemed to struggle with – I just could not hold back tears thinking of what it must have been like to be in the intense spotlight of the media.
I woke up this morning and decided that I would feature the Manic Street Preachers, who tragically lost a member of their band Richey Edwards. I think what perhaps was very hard about this loss was that Richey disappeared. He was declared “presumed dead” in 2008. There has been a number of mysterious sightings of Richey and I sometimes wonder if it makes it even more difficult to digest the tragedy around him.
Recognized especially for the huge contribution he made to the lyrical content of the Manic Street Preachers’ repertoire, I feel as if the the tragedy centred around Richey was unfolding in public for a long time. His history of depression and self-harm, insomnia and alcohol dependence were painfully public. At the last performance Richey played at, he violently smashed his guitar, and the rest of the band followed suit.
What happened to Richey disturbed me as a teenager. I never knew him in person, but the empathy I felt was deep, and I think it became a major motivation when I have supported patients and service users who have struggled with some of the same challenges Richey did. His story stayed with me for many years, and even prompted me when writing the fictional story around Annabelle Riley. Richey’s hometown in Wales was called Blackwood. I remembered that when I was in Australia with Goldfinch and found myself in a part of Adelaide called Blackwood. My novel starts in a fictional town called “Blackwood” based in Wisconsin.
During my brief time working in the music industry – I saw things I wish I never had. I saw popular musicians who I had formerly looked up to drinking excessively and using drugs. I knew I did not belong in that world. But the images of what I saw…they are hard to eradicate. When I wrote about Dean Mathers, Annabelle’s ex, I brought a lot of those memories into his character.
I have chosen the Manic Street Preachers’ track “Everything Must Go”, which some say is a message to fans after the loss of Richey. At the end of this post, I have included a video for a song that I believe was the first to be written after Richey’s disappearance. The band were in a very dark place, and the song was pure genius and became perhaps the most popular and iconic of all the tracks the band had released. It was called “Design For Life”. Life is so very very precious.
Shed some skin for the fear within Is starting to hurt me with everything Freed from the memory Escape from our history, history And I just hope that you can forgive us But everything must go And if you need an explanation Then everything must go I look to the future it makes me cry But it seems too real to tell you why Freed from the century With nothing but memory, memory And I just hope that you can forgive us But everything must go And if you need an explanation Then everything must go Freed us eventually just need to be happy, happy And I just hope that you can forgive us But everything must go And if you need an explanation Then everything must go And I just hope that you can forgive us But everything must go And if you need an explanation, -nation Then everything must go Written by: James Dean Bradfield, Nicholas Allen Jones, and Sean Anthony Moore