Addicted to Grief?

When time doesn’t heal, the brain’s reward system may be playing a role

When Anne Schomaker lost her husband in 2002, she did everything you’re supposed to do to heal from grief. She went to therapy, she volunteered, she traveled, she took up new hobbies, and she dated. To the outside world, she looked like she was moving on. To the outside world, it looked like she was healing the “right” way. But inside, she was frozen in mourning, unable to move forward emotionally. Nine years after the death of her husband, nightmares still haunted her in her sleep and she avoided reminders that would push her further into despair, such as the arias from the operas they had enjoyed. “I wasn’t really doing well. I had terrible pangs of sadness and despondency. I was missing my husband so badly. The pain just didn’t go away.”

Complicated bereavement is a disruption of the normal grieving process after a loss. While the loss of a loved one can be expected to be deeply painful and elicit emotional distress long after the loss has occurred, the symptoms of grief usually dissipate over time. Sometimes, however, healing does not occur. Instead, you become locked in a state of ongoing mourning; the emotional wound of your loss remains wide open and you are unable to move on. You may be preoccupied with constant thoughts of your loved one, experience intense longing, and be overwhelmed with feelings of sorrow, numbness, or anger. You may feel intense loneliness, even when you are surrounded by others, and may go out of your way to avoid reminders of the person you have lost. Or you may do the opposite—you may surround yourself with objects that make you feel close to your loved one, continuously return to the places that elicit memories of your time together, and live as if you are constantly waiting for their return. You are especially likely to experience complicated bereavement if you lost a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly, without the opportunity to emotionally prepare yourself for their death.

Many people with complicated bereavement are encouraged by well-meaning friends and family to move on, and you may feel that your emotional state is nothing more than a personal shortcoming. You’re told that you’re not grieving the right way. However, research indicates that complicated grief is actually a complex psychological illness with a neurological basis. A study by Mary-Frances O’Connor, published in NeuroImage, examined the effect of grief on brain function via functional magnetic resonance imaging. When people with complicated bereavement were shown pictures of their loved ones, “the nucleus accumbens – the part of the brain associated with rewards or longing – lighted up.” Those who experienced “normal patterns of grieving” exhibited markedly less nucleus accumbens activity.

This area of the brain is also associated with the longing for alcohol and drugs, suggesting that memories of loved ones may actually have an addictive effect on those with complicated bereavement, providing a new understanding of why you are unable to move beyond acute grief. As Dr. O’Connor says, “It’s as if the brain were saying, ‘Yes I’m anticipating seeing this person’ and yet ‘I am not getting to see this person.’ The mismatch is very painful.” Recognizing the neurological underpinnings of complicated bereavement may help researchers and clinicians develop more effective treatment protocols. More importantly, it may help you better understand your experience and reduce the feelings of self-blame and shame you may feel.

Unfortunately, the addictive qualities of your memories may also lead you to develop other addictions. In your attempt to cope with the overwhelming pain of your loss, you may have turned to drugs or alcohol or even food, compounding your emotional distress and presenting new dangers to your well-being. While using substances to escape psychological suffering is common among people experiencing grief, people with complicated bereavement are particularly vulnerable to developing substance addiction issues as they seek to soothe themselves from severe and ongoing mourning. However, any relief you find is only temporary and once the effects of the alcohol or drugs wear off, you’re back where you started or even worse off, as the effects of the substances themselves exacerbate your distress. The resulting cycle of grief and addiction can have serious implications for your ability to function, your physical health, and your fragile psychological state.

If you are suffering from complicated bereavement and a co-occurring substance addiction, healing is within reach. However, effective treatment requires specialized care designed around your unique needs to address the full scope of your emotional and behavioral health issues. In practice, this means that both your grief and addiction must be treated simultaneously to ensure that you process your state of bereavement while attending to the physical and psychological effects of your substance use.

Through comprehensive clinical care, you can develop the skills you need to move forward with your grieving process, cope with your pain in healthy, productive ways, and regain your sense of joy and possibility. Meanwhile, you will learn how to gain control over your addictive drive toward harmful substances as well as safely exploring the complex relationship between your use and your grief to give you a complete picture of your psychological state within an environment of hope and support.

The goal of treatment is never to minimize the loss of your loved one, but to discover ways of expressing, understanding, and coping with that loss in ways that are nourishing, revitalizing, and restorative. With the right therapies delivered with compassion and respect, you can begin the process of meaningful recovery to reawaken your spirit and enhance your quality of life.

 

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Tales of Rock – Catherine Evelyn Smith

Catherine Evelyn Smith (born 25 April 1947 in Hamilton, Ontario) is a Canadian occasional backup singer, rock groupie, drug dealer, and legal secretary, who served 15 months in the California state prison system for injecting original Saturday Night Live cast member John Belushi with a fatal dose of heroin and cocaine in 1982.

Smith had been paid for a front-page headline story in the Hollywood tabloid the National Enquirer, where she stated she was the person who injected Belushi with a fatal drug overdose. Smith co-wrote the book Chasing the Dragon (1984) which told her life story; its title alludes to Smith’s heroin addiction. Smith appeared prominently in the Bob Woodward book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi (1984) and was played by Patti D’Arbanville in the 1989 film adaptation.

Smith became notorious in the Belushi case, but her association with celebrities went back at least 20 years prior to her confession in the National Enquirer. Her earliest acquaintance was with Levon Helm, who later joined the Band, in 1963.  In his autobiography, Helm recalls that Smith first met him in Hamilton, Ontario. Helm, with a friend and bandmate Rick Danko, was in a band called the Hawks at the time (see Ronnie Hawkins). At one point, the musicians were in Toronto facing a drug bust.

Smith has been connected to the Band’s famous song, “The Weight” (1968). Smith says in Rock and Roll Toronto: From Alanis to Zeppelin (1997), that Richard Manuel offered to marry her, but she refused. Nevertheless, she continued to tour and party with Helm, Danko, and Manuel through the 1960s, and at one point became pregnant with a child known as “the band baby,” as its paternity was unclear.  She later had an affair with Gordon Lightfoot. After the affair ended, Smith returned to Helm and the circle whose members made up The Band.

Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot), 1974 | Helytimes

Smith became an employee and then mistress of Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot in the early to mid-1970s.

The Smith-Lightfoot affair was volatile and illustrated in the lyrics of “Sundown” (1974), Lightfoot’s No. 1 hit and most lucrative song. It reflects the dark feelings Lightfoot was experiencing at the time, with lyrics such as: “Sometimes I think it’s a shame / When I get feeling better when I’m feeling no pain.” Drinking too much and married to another woman, he on one occasion broke Smith’s cheekbone in a fight. Lightfoot has stated of his three-year relationship with Smith, “I was sometimes crazy with jealousy”.

Bluegrass musicians Bruce and Brian Good, The Good Brothers, who were one of Lightfoot’s opening acts during that time, got fired by Lightfoot for “flirting” with Smith.  Smith was cited in Lightfoot’s divorce papers, and shortly after his affair with Smith ended, Lightfoot was a party to the most expensive divorce settlement in Canadian history to that date.

In a 1975 interview, Lightfoot expanded upon “Sundown” and hinted at the worry he experienced in his relationship with Smith:

All it is, is a thought about a situation where someone is wondering what his loved one is doing at the moment. He doesn’t quite know where she is. He’s not ready to give up on her, either, and that’s about all I got to say about that.[15]

Lightfoot gave another insight into his relationship with Smith in a 2000 interview when he remarked upon “Sundown” being:

[A] back-alley kind of tune. It’s based on infidelity – I’ve seen both sides of that.

In 2008, Lightfoot gave an interview confirming that “Sundown” was written with his then-girlfriend in mind:

I think my girlfriend was out with her friends one night at a bar while I was at home writing songs. I thought, ‘I wonder what she’s doing with her friends at that bar!’ It’s that kind of a feeling. ‘Where is my true love tonight? What is my true love doing?’

In 2014, Lightfoot added further insight into his writing of “Sundown”:

Well, I had this girlfriend one time, and I was at home working, at my desk, working at my songwriting which I had been doing all week since I was on a roll, and my girlfriend was somewhere drinking, drinking somewhere. So I was hoping that no one else would get their hands on her, because she was pretty good lookin’! And that’s how I wrote the song ‘Sundown,’ and as a matter of fact, it was written just around sundown, just as the sun was setting, behind the farm I had rented to use as a place to write the album.

After Lightfoot and the Band, around 1976, Smith became a backup singer for Hoyt Axton, who was struggling with cocaine addiction at the time. She sang on his song “Fearless” (1976) and co-wrote “Flash of Fire” (1976) with Axton.

Cathy Smith, who admitted to killing John Belushi, was a woman of mystery - The Globe and Mail

Smith began using heroin in the late 1970s. In Bob Woodward’s book Wired, she appears as a drug dealer to Rolling Stones band members Ron Wood and Keith Richards during their touring and rehearsals as The New Barbarians. She moved to Los Angeles and, as her addiction increased, she became a full-time drug dealer and courier to Wood, Richards, and others in the entertainment world. Smith first met comedian John Belushi on the set of Saturday Night Live in 1976, when the Band was the musical guest.

She later met Belushi again through Wood and Richards, when Belushi contacted her to purchase the drugs that eventually killed him. Smith alleges that she injected Belushi with 11 speedballs (a combination of cocaine and heroin) at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, California in 1982 and that this injection led to his death. According to Woodward, Robin Williams was on the scene at the time and was “creeped out” by Smith, whom he deemed a “lowlife.” Belushi had been battling cocaine addiction for years and combining it with occasional heroin use.

Released after initial questioning on the morning of Belushi’s death, Smith spoke briefly to freelance writer Chris Van Ness. Then, two National Enquirer reporters, Tony Brenna and Larry Haley spoke with her and published their lengthy in-person interviews with her under the headline: “I killed John Belushi. I didn’t mean to, but I am responsible.” Her revelation led to the charge against Smith in Belushi’s murder and 13 counts of administering cocaine and heroin. The National Enquirer reporters refused to testify at the subsequent trial and were threatened with incarceration by Judge Brian Crahan; however, he later vacated the contempt order.

After the police released her on March 5, Smith went to St. Louis on the advice of her lawyer, Robert Sheahen, to avoid reporters. Discovered there, she flew back to Los Angeles. Then she traveled to New York and eventually returned to Toronto. Smith ultimately returned to the United States in June 1986, where she accepted a plea bargain by pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and several drug charges. She served 15 months in prison at California Institution for Women between December 1986 and March 1988. She was deported to Canada after her release and moved to Toronto, where she worked as a legal secretary and spoke to teenagers about the dangers of drugs.

Smith was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia in July 1991 with two grams of heroin in her purse, for which she received a fine of CDN$2000 and 12 months’ probation. She appeared in the E! True Hollywood Story episode on Belushi’s death which first aired in 1998. Smith currently resides in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada.

 

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Tales of Rock – SPECIAL REPORT: Little Richard, Founding Father of Rock Who Broke Musical Barriers, Dead at 87

Pianist-singer behind “Tutti Frutti,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Long Tall Sally” set the template that a generation of musicians would follow

Little Richard, a founding father of rock and roll whose fervent shrieks, flamboyant garb, and joyful, gender-bending persona embodied the spirit and sound of that new art form, died Saturday. He was 87. The musician’s son, Danny Jones Penniman, confirmed the pioneer’s death to Rolling Stone, but said the cause of death was unknown.

Starting with “Tutti Frutti” in 1956, Little Richard cut a series of unstoppable hits – “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up” that same year, “Lucille” in 1957, and “Good Golly Miss Molly” in 1958 – driven by his simple, pumping piano, gospel-influenced vocal exclamations and sexually charged (often gibberish) lyrics. “I heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and that was it,” Elton John told Rolling Stone in 1973. “I didn’t ever want to be anything else. I’m more of a Little Richard stylist than a Jerry Lee Lewis, I think. Jerry Lee is a very intricate piano player and very skillful, but Little Richard is more of a pounder.”

Although he never hit the top 10 again after 1958, Little Richard’s influence was massive. The Beatles recorded several of his songs, including “Long Tall Sally,” and Paul McCartney’s singing on those tracks – and the Beatles’ own “I’m Down” – paid tribute to Little Richard’s shredded-throat style. His songs became part of the rock and roll canon, covered over the decades by everyone from the Everly Brothers, the Kinks, and Creedence Clearwater Revival to Elvis Costello and the Scorpions.

Little Richard’s stage persona – his pompadours, androgynous makeup and glass-bead shirts – also set the standard for rock and roll showmanship; Prince, to cite one obvious example, owed a sizable debt to the musician. “Prince is the Little Richard of his generation,” Richard told Joan Rivers in 1989 before looking at the camera and addressing Prince. “I was wearing purple before you was wearing it!”

Born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5th, 1932, in Macon, Georgia, he was one of 12 children and grew up around uncles who were preachers. “I was born in the slums. My daddy sold whiskey, bootleg whiskey,” he told Rolling Stone in 1970. Although he sang in a nearby church, his father Bud wasn’t supportive of his son’s music and accused him of being gay, resulting in Penniman leaving home at 13 and moving in with a white family in Macon. But music stayed with him: One of his boyhood friends was Otis Redding, and Penniman heard R&B, blues and country while working at a concession stand at the Macon City Auditorium.

After performing at the Tick Tock Club in Macon and winning a local talent show, Penniman landed his first record deal, with RCA, in 1951. (He became “Little Richard” when he about 15 years old, when the R&B and blues worlds were filled with acts like Little Esther and Little Milton; he had also grown tired with people mispronouncing his last name as “Penny-man.”) He learned his distinctive piano style from Esquerita, a South Carolina singer and pianist who also wore his hair in a high black pompadour.

For the next five years, Little Richard’s career advanced only fitfully; fairly tame, conventional singles he cut for RCA and other labels didn’t chart. “When I first came along, I never heard any rock & roll,” he told Rolling Stone in 1990. “When I started singing [rock & roll], I sang it a long time before I presented it to the public because I was afraid they wouldn’t like it. I never heard nobody do it, and I was scared.”

By 1956, he was washing dishes at the Greyhound bus station in Macon (a job he had first taken a few years earlier after his father was murdered and Little Richard had to support his family). By then, only one track he’d cut, “Little Richard’s Boogie,” hinted at the musical tornado to come. “I put that little thing in it,” he told Rolling Stone in 1970 of the way he tweaked with his gospel roots. “I always did have that thing, but I didn’t know what to do with the thing I had.”

During this low point, he sent a tape with a rough version of a bawdy novelty song called “Tutti Frutti” to Specialty Records in Chicago. He came up with the song’s famed chorus — “a wop bob alu bob a wop bam boom” — while bored washing dishes. (He also wrote “Long Tall Sally” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” while working that same job.)

By coincidence, label owner and producer Art Rupe was in search of a lead singer for some tracks he wanted to cut in New Orleans, and Penniman’s howling delivery fit the bill. In September 1955, the musician cut a lyrically cleaned-up version of “Tutti Frutti,” which became his first hit, peaking at 17 on the pop chart. “’Tutti Frutti really started the races being together,” he told Rolling Stone in 1990. “From the git-go, my music was accepted by whites.”

Its followup, “Long Tall Sally,” hit Number Six, becoming his the highest-placing hit of his career. For just over a year, the musician released one relentless and arresting smash after another. From “Long Tall Sally” to “Slippin’ and Slidin,’” Little Richard’s hits – a glorious mix of boogie, gospel, and jump blues, produced by Robert “Bumps” Blackwell — sounded like he never stood still. With his trademark pompadour and makeup (which he once said he started wearing so that he would be less “threatening” while playing white clubs), he was instantly on the level of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and other early rock icons, complete with rabid fans and mobbed concerts. “That’s what the kids in America were excited about,” he told Rolling Stone in 1970. “They don’t want the falsehood — they want the truth.”

As with Presley, Lewis and other contemporaries, Penniman also was cast in early rock and roll movies like Don’t Knock the Rock (1956) and The Girl Can’t Help It (1957). In a sign of how segregated the music business and radio were at the time, though, Pat Boone’s milquetoast covers of “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” both also released in 1956, charted as well if not higher than Richard’s own versions. (“Boone’s “Tutti Frutti” hit Number 12, surpassing Little Richard’s by nine slots.) Penniman later told Rolling Stone that he made sure to sing “Long Tall Sally” faster than “Tutti Frutti” so that Boone couldn’t copy him as much.

But then the hits stopped, by his own choice. After what he interpreted as signs – a plane engine that seemed to be on fire and a dream about the end of the world and his own damnation – Penniman gave up music in 1957 and began attending the Alabama Bible school Oakwood College, where he was eventually ordained a minister. When he finally cut another album, in 1959, the result was a gospel set called God Is Real.

His gospel music career floundering, Little Richard returned to secular rock in 1964. Although none of the albums and singles he cut over the next decade for a variety of labels sold well, he was welcomed back by a new generation of rockers like the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan (who used to play Little Richard songs on the piano when he was a kid). When Little Richard played the Star-Club in Hamburg in 1964, the opening act was none other than the Beatles. “We used to stand backstage at Hamburg’s Star-Club and watch Little Richard play,” John Lennon said later. “He used to read from the Bible backstage and just to hear him talk we’d sit around and listen. I still love him and he’s one of the greatest.”

By the 1970s, Little Richard was making a respectable living on the rock oldies circuit, immortalized in a searing, sweaty performance in the 1973 documentary Let the Good Times Roll. During this time, he also became addicted to marijuana and cocaine while, at the same time, returning to his gospel roots.

Little Richard also dismantled sexual stereotypes in rock & roll, even if he confused many of his fans along the way. During his teen years and into his early rock stardom, his stereotypical flamboyant personality made some speculate about his sexuality, even if he never publicly came out. But that flamboyance didn’t derail his career. In the 1984 biography The Life and Times of Little Richard (written with his cooperation), he denounced homosexuality as “contagious … It’s not something you’re born with.” (Eleven years later, he said in an interview with Penthouse that he had been “gay all my life.”)

Later in life, he described himself as “omnisexual,” attracted to both men and women. But during an interview with the Christian-tied Three Angels Broadcasting Group in 2017, he suddenly denounced gay and trans lifestyles: “God, Jesus, He made men, men, he made women, women, you know? And you’ve got to live the way God wants you to live. So much unnatural affection. So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God.”

Yet none of that seemed to damage his mystique or legend. In the 1980s, he appeared in movies like Down and Out in Beverly Hills and in TV shows like Full House and Miami Vice. In 1986, he was one of the 10 original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1993, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys. His last known recording was in 2010, when he cut a song for a tribute album to gospel singer Dottie Rambo.

In the years before his death, Little Richard, who was by then based in Nashville, still performed periodically. Onstage, though, the physicality of old was gone: Thanks to hip replacement surgery in 2009, he could only perform sitting down at his piano. But his rock and roll spirit never left him. “I’m sorry I can’t do it like it’s supposed to be done,” he told one audience in 2012. After the audience screamed back in encouragement, he said – with a very Little Richard squeal — “Oh, you gonna make me scream like a white girl!”

God Bless Little Richard! Rest in Peace.

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More deaths in Pennsylvania, and New Jersey’s reopening plans move tentatively forward

The pandemic proved as relentless as the rain on Sunday, as the death count from the coronavirus continued to rise in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and larger plans for a safe reopening remained in flux.

An additional 4,800 cases were diagnosed in both states, and nearly a thousand people were being treated in Philadelphia hospitals.

Nationally, the one certainty remained uncertainty.

Americans should expect social-distancing measures to continue through the summer, White House Coronavirus Taskforce Coordinator Deborah Birx said, adding that the nation needs a “breakthrough” in testing to gauge the virus’ spread accurately. Top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said the United States must at least double its testing capacity before restarting the economy, up from the current 1.5 million to 2 million tests that are being conducted a week.

Governors in states where the numbers of new infections have been slowing are grappling with when to reopen, while health experts cautioned that the ability to test, trace, and isolate positive patients is crucial to managing the inevitable spike of infections that will follow.

“We’re going to move as one state,” Murphy said, “recognizing you’ve got density issues in the north that you just don’t have in the south.”

New Jersey needs additional money from federal lawmakers to recover, Murphy said, warning that while “we won’t go bankrupt” without it, the state will have to “gut the living daylights” out of essential jobs such as teachers and first responders.

An additional 3,730 New Jerseyans tested positive, officials announced Sunday, bring the total to 109,038. And 75 more deaths were reported, raising the toll to 5,938.

In New York state, officials announced 367 new deaths on Sunday, the lowest tally in almost a month, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke of a phased reopening that could start as soon as May 15.

The pandemic continued to produce odd, societal side effects:

This has already been the deadliest year for tornadoes since 2011, a major news story subsumed by the coronavirus. Gas prices have tumbled a dollar a gallon in Pennsylvania and 89 cents in New Jersey from a year ago, according to AAA, the result of people obeying government stay-at-home orders.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey casinos have lost millions in gaming revenues.

The Philadelphia Zoo, though closed by the pandemic, still picked a name for newly born sloth bear, “Keematee,” the Hindu word for “Precious,” selected by an on-line poll.

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flight teams plan to conduct a Tuesday flyover of New York City, Newark, Trenton, and Philadelphia to honor front-line COVID-19 workers, the Air Force and Navy announced, with the schedule to be released on Monday. People should stay home to watch, the military branches emphasized.

In Philadelphia, officials announced 237 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 12,566. Six more deaths were added, raising the city toll to 472. About half of those fatalities were in long-term care facilities.

Across Pennsylvania 1,116 more people tested positive for a total caseload of 41,165, and 1,550 people have died, state officials said. Deaths in nursing and personal-care homes account for 61% of the total, according to government data.

“As we see the number of new COVID-19 cases continuously change across the state, that does not mean we can stop practicing social distancing,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said. “We must continue to stay home to protect ourselves, our families and our community.”

 

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Tales of Rock – 6 Musicians Who Predicted Their Own Death in Song

Everybody dies. That’s no secret. Even you, you’re going to die some day. Accept it. Once you accept it, write a bizarrely specific song that details how exactly you’re going to die, live up to your prediction and voila! You’ll be an entry in a Cracked article, just like these guys.

 

6

Richie Rich feat. Tupac – “Niggas Done Changed”

Let’s just get it out of the way: Nobody knows who the hell Richie Rich is. According to the lyrics of this song, he’s got a hand full of game. For all we know, that is still true. Maybe even a sack full of game by now. We don’t care. The real star of this tune, featured on the Seasoned Veteranalbum, is Tupac Shakur. His verse on “Niggas Done Changed” is the stuff that conspiracy theories are made of.

This probably isn’t the right one.

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“I been shot and murdered, can tell you how it happened word for word, But best believe niggas gon’ get what they deserve.”

What Happened Next:

Pac was shot and murdered, just like he said. The shooting happened on the strip in Vegas after a Mike Tyson fight. Obviously, at a time like that not many people were around, so nobody saw the shooter and the case remains unsolved. Unsolved for most people anyway. Some others are convinced they know exactly what happened. Tupac faked his own death! The logic went as follows: Since Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli advocated faking one’s own death, and Tupac used Makaveli as a stage name, then he must still be alive. That’s shaky reasoning, even before you take into account that the real Machiavelli didn’t actually say much of anything about faking your own death.

If he was dead, could he do this?

But when “Niggas Done Changed” was released less than two months following Tupac’s death, the “Pac’s Still Alive” movement was off and running, and it hasn’t let up since. Group psychology experts contacted by Cracked attribute the movement’s seeming refusal to die (sorry) to the fact that Tupac Shakur has released at least seventy-three studio albums since his death and also to the fact that he’s totally alive, y’all.

 

5

Lynyrd Skynyrd – “That Smell”

Have you ever put a curse on somebody? Like if you came home and found that your roommate ate your leftover Chinese food and you got pissed and told them you hoped it gave them explosive diarrhea and then it actually did and you felt really bad because you didn’t realize your own powers? Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That Smell” is kind of like that. Except substitute “diarrhea” with “horrible plane crash” (although with a title like “That Smell” it totally could have gone either way).

The song was written to express lead singer Ronnie Van Zant’s disappointment with the lifestyle lead and rhythm guitarist Gary Rossington was leading, as his drug and alcohol problems had started to negatively affect the band. After a verse poking fun at a recent alcohol-fueled car accident Rossington had, Van Zant starts pouring on the ominous.

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“Say you’ll be alright come tomorrow, but tomorrow might not be here for you.” “Angel of darkness upon you.” “The smell of death surrounds you.”

What Happened Next:

On October 20, 1977, just three days after the release of the now unfortunately titled Street Survivors, the plane Lynyrd Skynyrd was traveling in crashed in a forest near Gillsburg, Mississippi. The line “the smell of death surrounds you” took on a whole new ugly meaning after Rossington survived but three bandmates, including Van Zant, perished. As if the song and the album title weren’t enough, thanks to the plane crash, Street Survivors now had, quite possibly, the most inappropriate album cover ever.

Yes, that’s the band and, yes, they are on fire. In the wake of the plane crash, original copies of the album were recalled and replaced with a cover image of the band standing against the completely non-depressing black background. Of course, the fire cover was restored for the deluxe CD reissue of the album in 2008. Like almost every other crime, there is a statute of limitations on bad taste. Apparently, it’s 30 years.

 

4

Jeff Buckley – “Dream Brother”

Jeff Buckley’s “Dream Brother” is said to have been written about a friend who was about to leave his girlfriend and child. In the song, he warns of the sadness to be had by following in the footsteps of Buckley’s father, Tim Buckley. The elder Buckley was a promising young musician who had his career cut short by an accidental heroin overdose. He also walked out on Jeff and his mother shortly after Jeff was born. It’s that last part Buckley is singing about, but he probably should have considered penning a few lines to himself regarding the “musician gone too soon” part. Or, did he?

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“The dark angel he is shuffling in.” “Don’t be like the one who left behind his name.” “Asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over.”

What Happened Next:

We’ve never given relationship advice to a friend that involved any mention of a “dark angel shuffling in,” so we’re not sure how that first line would apply to a dude leaving his girlfriend, though we will concede that the second one fits. But the third? “Asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over,” well, that’s just pretty fucking creepy. Less than three years after the release of “Dream Brother” Buckley died. By drowning. This leads us to an obvious question: “Hey, Jeff Buckley, how about taking your own advice?” We’re guessing the reply would be something like, “Hey, leave me alone you assholes, I’m dead.”

3

Hank Williams – “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive”

Immediately, there’s nothing too shocking or particularly insightful about the title of this song. It’s obvious that everyone is going to die at some point. Most of those people, however, won’t crank out a comical tune about it right before they go. Released in 1952, “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” was the last single Hank Williams released in his lifetime. The lyrics are your standard down-on-your-luck type of stuff. Troublesome, sure, but nothing life threatening going on. But still, there’s that chorus…

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“No matter how I struggle and strive. I’ll never get out of this world alive.”

What Happened Next:

After reportedly struggling and striving, Hank Williams barely made it out of the rest of the year alive. On the morning of January 1st, 1953, just months after the song was released, he was pronounced dead at the Oak Hill Hospital emergency room.

“Doctor, hurry, he’s struggling. And striving! Oh no…”

There is a myth that the song was actually #1 on the Billboard charts at the time of his death, but “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” actually didn’t reach the top spot until shortly afterhis death. Today, Hank Williams is hailed as an innovator in the field of record promotion for being the first to employ the “Die Young and Sell a Ton of Records” technique.

 

2

John Lennon – “Borrowed Time”

You may not know this, but most posthumously released songs are indeed recorded before the artist dies. Although “Borrowed Time” wasn’t released until four years after the death of John Lennon, it was actually the first song he recorded following a five year exile from the music business. The unnervingly upbeat tune wraps lyrics about the frailty of life around the type of instrumentation you would expect to hear during dinner on a Carnival cruise ship. It was inspired by a Final Destination-like escape from death Lennon pulled off while sailing to Bermuda through an intense storm. An experience like that would probably just inspire us to shit our pants and stop showering. Lennon, on the other hand, was inspired to start rocking again.

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“Living on borrowed time, without a thought for tomorrow”

What Happened Next:

John Lennon was sometimes criticized for not practicing what he preached. Like how he sang about imaging no possessions but lived in a million dollar apartment. You could argue that he totally lived up to the lyrics of “Borrowed Time,” but you’d be a fucking prick for doing so. We only mention that criticism because it was Mark David Chapman’s main beef with John Lennon.

Speaking of beef, holy shit, right? Mooo, right?

Chapman delicately handled this beef by shooting Lennon to death, about six months after the song was written. Hopefully, Lennon practiced what he preached this time and genuinely didn’thave a “thought for tomorrow,” because, unless that thought was “be dead,” he was guaranteed to be pretty disappointed.

 

1

Jimi Hendrix – “The Ballad of Jimi”

In 1965, before most people even knew who he was, Jimi Hendrix entered a New York recording studio and probably weirded out everybody in the room by cutting a new tune about how some dude named Jimi was going to be dead in five years. “The Ballad of Jimi” starts with a declaration from Hendrix that the song is dedicated to the memory of his best friend. That the friend’s name is a guitar player named Jimi is apparently to be chalked up to coincidence.

Hendrix further confuses matters with the line “that is my story” before ratcheting the creepiness up considerably.

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“Many things he would try, For he knew soon he’d die.” “Now Jimi’s gone, he’s not alone. His memory still lives on.” “Five years, this he said. He’s not gone, he’s just dead.”

What Happened Next:

“I’m gonna go over there and die, now.”

Next, Jimi Hendrix suffocated in the most horrible way imaginable that doesn’t involve cock. He choked on his own vomit. Conveniently, for the purpose of this article, he died almost exactly five years after recording “The Ballad of Jimi.” “Five years, this he said. He’s not gone, he’s just dead.”

Disturbing as all fuck, isn’t it? Probably the only reason he didn’t get more specific than that was that nothing rhymes with “choked on vomit.”

 

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