We needle our cultural heroes and then are delighted when they dissolve in front of us. It happens again and again, in Whitney Houston and in Michael Jackson and in Don Cornelius. They show us the way and when the way becomes treacherous we wish nothing more than to see them fall.
That is why so many "star" memoirs are so fraught. The star has a swift rise, a period of wandering, massive drug addiction, and reflection/renewal. Then the rest of their output sucks or they stop producing altogether.
Mike Doughty is, arguably, a rare exception. His recent memoir, The Book Of Drugs, tells the story of a young man - he was 22 when he founded Soul Coughing with a bassist, drummer, and keyboard player at New York's The Knitting Factory - who entered the music industry at its near-nadir. His band was arguably successful, especially in a decade of one-hit-wonders (remember "Sex and Candy?") and addled grunge rock, and he had a close relationship with the arguably more well-known Jeff Buckley. Doughty tells his story in the context of a decade that gave and took away the aforementioned Buckley, Nirvana front-man Kurt Cobain, and Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon. The music industry was always cruel to the ones it blighted with success. In the 1990s, with the rapid destruction of the industry as a whole and the rise of file sharing, it was particularly rancid. Read the rest