Even his brother, Tito, has publicly acknowledged that there was a serious problem as far back as the ’90s. Because he was rich and famous, Jackson was able to get pretty much anything he wanted.
Michael was surrounded by enablers, yes-men and various other hangers-on which made it that much easier. They formed a fence around him that blocked the outside world, which included concerned people who could have helped him.
BILLIE HOLIDAY was, and will always be, one the finest jazz singers of all time. In fact, she, Ella Fitzgerald and Betty Carter rank as the three most accomplished and effective female jazz vocalists ever. They are untouchable.
Holiday was plagued by an addiction to heroin that hampered her every step of the way. However, it was only near the end of her celebrated
career that this affliction began to affect her special voice.
But even then she was still capable of brilliance. “Lady in Satin” is one of the most powerful and soul-touching albums ever recorded, featuring Billie with an orchestra. The sound is lush and beautiful. By this time there was a ravaged edge to her voice, but she still delivers songs like “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and “I Get Along Without You Very Well” superbly. In a strange, almost haunting way, the condition of her voice made the songs that much more effective.
AMY WINEHOUSE is a fascinating singer from England with a voice and style steeped in Black culture and music traditions (R&B and jazz especially).
Her 2006 album, “Back to Black,” was a huge success, finding favor with music buyers of many persuasions and ethnicities. Its success and artistic merit also resulted in Winehouse receiving the coveted Best New Artist Grammy.
But while all this was happening, the songstress with the exotic look reminiscent of the Ronettes from the 1960s, was, with much media attention, battling substance abuse (cocaine, heroin and more). Interestingly, one of her biggest hits is titled “Rehab.” Fans are wishing the best for the talented lady.
SLY STONE (real name: Sylvester Stewart) exploded on the music scene in the latter half of the ’60s, offering sounds and looks no one had heard or seen before.
The music of Sly & the Family Stone was exciting, energetic and often life-affirming. The best of the best included “Dance to the Music,” “Everyday People,” “Hot Fun the Summertime,” “I Want to Take You Higher” and “Stand!”
In 1971, he introduced a completely different, much slowed down sound with “Family Affair” and continued with “If You Want Me to Stay” and others. But drug use ultimately made Sly undependable and far less creative. Eventually he became a recluse and today is only seen occasionally.
WHITNEY HOUSTON knows there is a lot riding on her “I Look to You” album, which will probably be released by the time you read this. It can be accurately defined as a comeback project because Houston is rising from the depths of drug hell, after reaching megastardom in the 1980s with a gift-from-God voice and outstanding material.
Some blamed her downward plunge on her former husband, Bobby Brown, also a recovering addict, but that is not fair. She made her own decisions, and now she has made the decision to get her life and career back together.
The odds are in her favor.
RAY CHARLES was a heroin addict for many years, was arrested for it and had to go through an extremely difficult detox program, all of which was made graphically clear in the remarkable movie “Ray,” with Jamie Foxx turning in an Academy Award-winning performance.
Although Charles would never in a million years have advocated anyone using drugs, he said he had no regrets about his own drug use because that was what he chose to do at the time and had to go through. Like so many before him, Michael Jackson, one of the greatest entertainers and recording artists of all time, became, much like Elvis Presley, a prisoner of his massive fame.
In many ways another legend, jazz icon Miles Davis, was representative of the many jazz musicians who were addicted to hard drugs.
No one knows for sure why jazz musicians tend to be more prone to drug abuse. But some believe it has something to do with the music itself emerging from such a deep place in the musicians’ psyche and heart.
This is compounded by the pain of making music that is not fully accepted or understood, and the fact that so many jazz musicians have to struggle to survive.
NATALIE COLE has many people praying for her and sending out other expressions of support as she gallantly fights a battle with hepatitis C, the result of hard-core drug use in the past.
Cole, with dozens of major hits to her credit and known worldwide as a class act, seemed to have it all. Few knew that she had a drug issue. But she looked great when she made a guest appearance on “American Idol” last season.
Esther Phillips is another special lady of song afflicted by drug addiction. The blues songstress’ voice was like no other, used to great effect on hits like “Release Me,” “And I Love Him,” “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” and the big surprise, her disco rendition of Dinah Washington’s signature song, “What a Difference a Day Makes.”
JUNE POINTER was always the liveliest member of the Pointer Sisters, and that’s saying a lot because everyone in the group has always been strictly high energy.
It was so sad to hear that June had become enslaved by drugs. For a long time Anita and Ruth attempted to work around it, but it got to the point where that was no longer possible.
Sometimes June wouldn’t show up and promoters, as well as audiences, would not accept two ladies on stage. Eventually she was replaced by Issa Pointer, the daughter of Ruth Pointer from her brief marriage to Dennis Edwards.
Robert Downey Jr. is one of the greatest actors of all time, and also one of the most likable people, quirks and all.
One would be hard-pressed to find anyone with a drug problem having so many well-wishers. It hurt his supporters when he had to do time after being arrested yet again. But today Downey is doing well, personally and professionally. “Iron Man” was a huge success, and the sequel is highly anticipated.
These are but a few of the many drug stories (Rick James, the DeBarges, etc.) One can only hope that the problems they had, and in some cases continue to have, will serve as a deterrent to others contemplating drug experimentation.
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