I’d love to know if, in the long history of human evil, a great musician ever became a mass murderer. I ask this question because I’ve always had this crazy theory that when someone is busy and obsessed with creating and playing music, he or she doesn’t think about killing other people.
For example, I can’t imagine Amy Winehouse expunging her rage by going to a gun shop and mowing down people who trigger that fury. Similarly, I can’t imagine Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik going on his rampage if his passion had been playing the guitar and writing great songs. He might write protest songs to convey his anger, but chase down kids and kill them? I don’t see it.
Of course, I might be completely and stupidly wrong on this. I have never seen any formal evidence for my theory. In fact, there’s evidence that mediocre painters who get rejected by art schools (Hitler) or who paint silly clowns (John Wayne Gacy) don’t turn out very well. But I’ve observed many artists up close over the years, and, especially with musicians, one thing I’ve noted is that most of them pour their hearts into their art and music above all else—even above their most valued human relationships.
That’s because, from what I’ve seen, their true love—their deepest passion—is for their music. Nothing satisfies their egos or constant craving to create quite the same way. Their music is their spouse, lover, best friend and sibling all rolled into one. Unfortunately, often it’s also their drug dealer. Creating and playing music can be as addictive as doing drugs. In the case of Winehouse, the two acts seem to have merged.
But for all the tragedy of her death, who lost the most? Who lost a life? Her family and friends are devastated, yes. But who is dead and who is alive?
Breivik, however, is still alive, and 76 people are dead because of him. Maybe they are dead because he had no other way to express himself but through violence.
I can only lament that he was not a passionate and tormented musician whose hatred for foreigners had led him to overdose on cocaine rather than bullets.