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Oldies But Goldies: Pop Stars And Addiction


After reading an earlier post on Mackenzie Phillips, I began to think of the other side of addiction in the music industry. Recovery/sobriety. Some songs inspired by sobriety are- Wasted by Carrie Underwood- I am changing Jennifer Hudson- Through me by Laura Berman- Sober by Tool- Sober by Pink . But, the song I want to talk about is ” Amazing” by Aerosmith . In the early 1980s , drugs and alcohol were ripping the group apart. Ian O’Malley a DJ at New York’s classic rock station said when he met Steven Tyler, the man was such a mess he felt sorry for him. Steven Tyler entered the Caron Foundation in 1986 a drug and alcohol rehab center in Pennsylvania well aware that this was the groups last chance. Steven Tyler did get sober in that rehab and we got to keep Aerosmith and we also got Amazing (released in 1993) a song that documents the struggles the band had with drugs and alcohol, creative differences in the group and about hitting bottom and crawling your way back up.
The song delivers emotional lyrics by Steven Tyler including his legendary scream towards the end of the song urging us to “LET GO” , with a guest appearance by Don Henley singing background vocals.

Also, awesome guitar solos by Joe Perry and Brad Whitford. Lyrics like “You have to learn to crawl, before you learn to walk, but I just couldn’t listen to all that righteous talk….” A reference to 12 step groups and the trouble swallowing the concept of a Higher power and it’s true for some people faced with the decision of death or a spiritual solution the choice is not an easy one. The line “got one last shot at permanent vacation…how high can you fly with broken wings” a euphemism for addiction and about feeling broken, also refers to the Aerosmith comeback album Permanent vacation(the make or break album) which climbed the charts and the” broken wings” is a reference to their logo and the internal band strife they were experiencing. The integration of these two themes blend seamlessly but it is a song primary about the struggles of addictions and the hope in a sober life and is written for “the kids at the Caron Foundation”. The song speaks about the denial of addiction” I thought I could leave, but couldn’t get out the door ” and hope “It’s amazing…with the blink of an eye you finally see the light” and “when the moment arrives you know you’ll be alright” and empathy for other addicts “sayin’ a prayer for the desperate hearts tonight”

I’m sorry we didn’t get sobriety inspired song by Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, or a sobering up celebratory guitar riff from Jimi Hendrix but they didn’t find the other side of addiction and so we lost them and the gift of their music . But, I am confident we will hear one from Whitney Houston with and maybe we’ll get a revised “rehab” from Amy Winehouse. I am waiting for it.

And to close with the last line of “Amazing”: from all of us here at Aerosmith to all of you out there, wherever you are …….. remember …the light at the end of the tunnel may be you. Goodnight

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