In response to MattyScornD's comment:
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I should add that there are different schools of thought on this. There are certain musicians who are or were adamantly opposed to drugs. Randy Bachman of the Guess Who and BTO says he's never even had a drink in his life (he's a Mormon), and he has written and played some of the best songs in Canadian music history. (Ironically, perhaps, he's a close friend of Neil Young.)
Frank Zappa was militantly anti-drug. He would kick you out of his house or his band if you did drugs. Rory Gallagher didn't tolerate drugs around him either. And again, these are two great musicians and songwriters.
Whatever works, or doesn't work, I guess, is the bottom line.
I think using the words Randy Bachman and "good" and tying it into never having a drink explains why Randy Bachman isn't that good. lol
It's like Ted Nugent. The guy can't write a song to save his life and he's never had a drink, smoke, nothing. Yet, Nugent would mock Jerry Garcia, which is hilarious to me.
I am a firm believer in creative people using creative things to alter their minds a bit. Obviously, losing your edge is another story.
Just because you don't like Bachman's or Nugent's work does not mean they have not written good songs. And what about Zappa and Trower? No put downs for these two? If someone is already creative why do they need substances to alter their mind? What is gained in doing so? Be specific.
I'm going to jump in here and de-emphasize the "creativity" aspect of drug use, because I think it's misguided, at best.
I think it's absolutely true that some creative people can still create without chemical enhancements, and yet some creatives can create with them, but that doesn't speak to why people in general take them in the first place.
For some it's purely social, not a 'lifestyle'. For others, it can streamline the thought process when the mind is racing. For some, it's purely an escape from everyday pressures. (Depends on the drug, too. Heroin is a creative black hole, IMO, while pot is just a funny-smelling herb.)
The point, I believe, is that creative people are still just people, and everyone needs a release, but I think it belabors the point to argue that the drugs are the direct cause of artistic brilliance. The Beatles were doing great work before they ever got high; all drugs did was change their perspective slightly, and/or release a bit of the intense pressure of being "The Beatles".
A worthy topic. I often think it's funny though, how fans often project their sensibilities onto their musical heroes. The truth is probably less dramatic as it's seen to be from the outside.
I agree. I think there is evidence that drugs can impact the type of music created, but it doesn't mean that the music is more creative, just different. I don't take a position that drugs are bad, that is up to the individual. I just disagree with the assumption that the music created in conjunction with drug use is necessarily more creative. Sometimes it may be, other times not.
The great Etta James wrote, "Some people can't work high. I can. I don't want to boast, but I may be one of those singers who has enough power to overcome the fog and filter of drugs."
Even for the Dead, who really explored the group dynamics of drug use and live improvisation, eventually understood that what works one day doesn't always work the next. And tragically, it's a lesson that Jerry never completely learned, to our loss.