If Only I Had Their Talent

July 25, 2011 § 4 Comments

Singer Amy Winehouse joined the 27 Club this past weekend.

This is not a prestigious group – it’s a growing collection of gifted performers who’ve left this world all too soon, at that young age, the result of running on a collision course with excess drug and alcohol use.

Other members of the Club include musicians Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones, and Janis Joplin.

They all enjoyed more fame in their less than three decades on earth than most of us will see in a lifetime – not that most of us want to be front page news regularly. These entertainers were more often the subject of headlines for all the wrong reasons.

When I heard of Winehouse’s demise, my immediate reaction was that some of the most talented individuals in the world seem to have no idea of the breadth of their abilities and how far they could rise if they really wanted to. On the other hand, there are people who’ve yet to realize their talents or just need that one break to rise to stardom. Many deserving of the chance will never get it.

What is it that causes the likes of Winehouse to author their own destruction, despite promising careers? Was she troubled all along and the fame and fortune did her in? Did she not realize what she had and did not care? Did she think herself invincible?

My friend Gina MacArthur had an interesting observation with this post on Facebook: “I’m not sure what’s sadder, that a talented young woman died way too young, or that the first reaction of most when they hear about it will be that it was only a matter of time.”

The 27 Club is a group of entertainers whose members’ deaths are associated with excesses of illicit drugs and alcohol. The list of other stars that died before their time, in part because of their own behaviour, could fill pages. There is just a spike at that age.

Keith Moon, one-time drummer with The Who, died at age 32. His Wikipedia profile could read like so many others: “He gained acclaim for his exuberant and innovative drumming style, and notoriety for his eccentric and often self-destructive behaviour.”

With Dan Akroyd in Grande Prairie this past weekend to help fundraise for the dinosaur museum being built just west of the City, I couldn’t help but think about his Blues Brothers co-star John Belushi, who died of a drug overdose at age 33.

Even Marilyn Monroe was only 36 when barbiturates did her in.

Singer Elton John aptly referenced her in a song as a “Candle in the Wind.”

It’s ironic that actor James Dean would be quoted as saying, “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.”

While the 24-year-old Dean would perish in a car crash, his words appear to typify the sentiments of the stars who live in the moment. It seems they don’t realize just how their own gifts influence those who dote on them. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they are too self-absorbed to care. Maybe the drug use wipes out any sense of their real self worth.

Maybe the families and handlers of these megastars can do more to set them straight before it’s too late.

Of course, those of us who adore these entertainers, literally to death, also need to take a step back. While news of Winehouse’s passing was sweeping the world, actual world tragedies were unfolding with news of more than 90 people in Norway dying as a result of a shooting spree and bomb attack.

Chiara Dalfini, a writing colleague in London, England, puts this in perspective: “All are sad for what happened to Amy Winehouse … well…. what about what happened in Norway????????”

And then there were the more than 43 victims of the bullet train crash in China which resulted in another 200 injuries.

Those who lost lives or were hurt in these incidents had only fate against them –  they weren’t party-going, pill popping rock legends or movie stars. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sometimes I think of those who have gifts like the John Belushis, the Jim Morrisons and Amy Winehouses of the world and liken it to winning the lottery jackpot. I tell myself that I wouldn’t waste the talent or the money if I were given the chance to prove it.

However, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket so I won’t ever make it to the Karaoke Hall of Fame. I have a face most suited for radio but not the voice, so I will never be mistaken for a movie star hunk.

My biggest lottery win was on an unintended correct pick on a sports betting ticket.

Instead, I will be thankful for the talents and gifts I have been blessed with and not allow successes to let my head get too big.


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