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Scott Weiland, 1967-2015: RIP

posted December 21, 2015, 10:23 am by JasonHillenburg | Filed Under Editorial | comment Leave a Comment

Celebrity culture seldom touches me. The headline dominating affairs, arrests, public meltdowns, stints in rehab, and frequent comebacks aren’t grist for my mill. Scott Weiland’s death, however, is different for me. It resonated more deeply than I thought possible. I’ll be forty-one years old soon and he died at forty-eight. We shared similar histories – longstanding alienation, addiction, mental illness, and a wont for glamorizing self-destructive behavior. He left two children behind; I have two little girls, ages three and five. Weiland and Stone Temple Pilots entered my life shortly after my eighteenth birthday when I first heard “Sex Type Thing” on MTV’s then-popular Headbanger’s Ball. I saw myself then as crossing some shadow line demarcating youth and adulthood and Stone Temple Pilots’ music played a huge role in that soundtrack. I have heard Scott’s voice for over half my life.

I used to hear people in recovery say, “It isn’t that we thought too highly of ourselves, but rather we thought too often”. The statement softens an addict’s arrogance and, in the end, arrogance kills addicts; the actual mechanism for death is inconsequential. It isn’t an arrogance saying you are better than everyone else is. Instead, it’s ego in reverse. I don’t believe Scott Weiland believed himself worth saving. In a world brimming over with malignancy and evil, who is anyone to say they carry sins dwarfing even the faintest possibility of reprieve? It isn’t a short distance from thinking your crap doesn’t stink to thinking you are crap. I struggle with it every day. They’re just two sides of the same self-absorbed coin.

Self-absorption and arrogance are essential for artists. However, there are limits. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke abandoned a wife and child to fend for themselves when he believed their presence in his life limited his creative potential. Other examples are legion. The self-absorption demanded for public performance has a transformative effect – compelling performers synthesize craft and instinct to unlock their innermost selves in full for audiences who, in turn, reflect that energy back onto the artist. Visiting injury on those who love you, however, isn’t essential for one’s art and neither is self-immolation via intoxicants.

He knew the way out. Each addict, however, eventually passes an invisible threshold when the effort required for continued decline vanishes and salvation seems insurmountable. It becomes easier to die than live again. A forty eight year old man wheeling around the country downing liquor, smoking cocaine, and scarfing down an assortment of pharmaceuticals isn’t affirming the value of life. He’s brazenly tempting death and, in the end, seeking death trumped everything. It pushed out any obligation he felt to his two children and it isn’t difficult to imagine Weiland fully aware he doubled down with his own kids on every scar his own parents left on his psyche. It derailed his career until he descended to playing shambolic sets in half-empty mid level clubs backed by band members and management propping him up for name value alone. It sapped his creative fitness and clearly superseded his passion for collaborating and creating.

Despite this, Weiland reputedly hoped people remembered his writing. Drugs and premature death will color virtually any evaluation for some time to come, but Weiland’s talents assure him a meaningful slot in our musical canon. The price is steep. While tracks like “Vaseline” and “Plush”, among others, are locks for any list of the era’s representative songs, so many of his best lyrics are swimming in self-pity, fear, and dread.

Goodbye, Scott Weiland. Your death will change nothing for the sick and healthy alike still drugging. While some of them will survive their excesses, most of them will die like you. Few are future platinum selling musical artists, but they’ll leave some good memories behind, along with grieving families. We’ll remember your songs and voice. I’ll never forget you or how you died. Goodbye, but I’m not dying that way.

Thanks to Alternative Nation for the quote regarding how Weiland hoped to be remembered.


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