Hard Rock International When the plane carrying Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper…
- Posted on Jan 23rd 2013 2:40PM by Cameron Matthews
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Well, we wanted to know how gun violence has affected the rock 'n' roll community, and if there was anything we could learn. Below are four stories, all pivotal moments in rock history that pose serious questions about guns in America.
"I like guns. I just enjoy shooting them," Cobain said in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1994. The Nirvana frontman kept a loaded gun in his home, and had several other high-powered rifles in his collection.
"I don't have bodyguards. There are people way less famous than I am or Courtney who have been stalked and murdered. It could be someone by chance looking for a house to break into. We have a security system. I actually have one gun that is loaded, but I keep it safe, in a cabinet high up on a shelf where Frances can never get to it."
Cobain's words seemed like just another day in the In Utereo writer's life. No one knew how wrapped up the singer would become in his depression, and that just several months later the legacy of Nirvana would come to an end.
"It's the only sport I have ever liked. It's not something I'm obsessed with or even condone. I don't really think much of it."
Within the last 10 months of his life, officers showed up at the Cobain household, responding to reports of domestic violence. The Register-Guard reports that several of Cobain's guns had been confiscated by police. But in March of 1994, Cobain wanted to buy a new weapon: A 20-gauge shotgun. He was worried that if he purchased the gun, he would be flagged by police, and his daughter Frances taken away from him.
Kurt's old roommate and best man, Dylan Carlson, was one of the last people to see the grunge star before he ended his own life.
Cobain said he needed protection, and gave the friend $300 dollars to buy the gun for him. The pair went to Stan's Gun Shop in Seattle. "They looked like two perfectly ordinary young people," Del Olsen, the person working the counter said. It was almost too easy to purchase. It was March 30, 1994. Kurt disappeared a day later and was found dead on April 8.
In 1983, Marvin Gaye was an aging Motown star. His life had spiraled out of control, but the hit song "Sexual Healing" was keeping him relevant. He began stockpiling weapons while on tour and wore a bulletproof vest nearly all hours of the day. The singer's drug-fueled paranoia grew. He thought that someone was going to kill him.
The soul man couldn't take care of himself any longer, so after an extravagant tour Gaye moved back in with his parents in Los Angeles.
The family was shattered. Marvin Gay Sr. had a tremendous amount of bad blood toward his wife Alberta and their famous son. The three lived together for nine months, each family member trying to isolate themselves within the mansion Gaye had purchased for them.
"If he touches me I'll kill him," the singer told his daughter while staying at the home. During that period, Gaye freebased cocaine daily while constantly watching porn videos. His mother was powerless in bringing the family back together.
On April 1, 1984 Marvin Sr. and his wife began arguing about a lost tax document. This rubbed Gaye's last nerve. He leapt out of his bed in a drug-induced haze, years of hatred for his father igniting a hostile response in the singer.
Gaye came out of his room and beat his father, protecting his mother Alberta from further verbal harassment. That's when Marvin Sr. grabbed his gun -- an unregistered .38 pistol that his crooner son had purchased for him. Filled with anger and embarrassment, Marvin Sr. shot his son directly in the heart. He unnecessarily shot him a second time at point-blank range.
Sparklehorse frontman Mark Linkous was a gun owner, even though he suffered with mental instability for years.
While on tour with Radiohead in 1996, the singer passed out in a stupor of Valium. He slept for too many hours with his legs pinned underneath his body and went into cardiac arrest. Thankfully, Linkous was taken to a hospital. Though he recovered, the singer's legs never fully regained total mobility. A life of depression would follow.
Somewhere along the line Linkous was allowed to purchase several guns, despite his recorded attempts at suicide. By 2010, the Virginia native was in the process of moving to Knoxville, Tenn. He was staying with some friends while setting up a studio and trying to finish a new record, but seemed to be a bit off.
On the afternoon of March 6, the 47-year-old said he was going for a walk. He had been drinking, strolled to a nearby alley and shot himself in the heart with a rifle. He left no suicide note.
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John Lennon's killer Mark David Chapman had been struggling with mental demons for years. He purchased a Charter Arms .38 Special revolver for $169 in Honolulu several months prior to the assassination. The sale was legal, as Chapman had no criminal record and had never been committed to a mental institution. At the time, Hawaii had some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.
Chapman became obsessed. He read books and watched films about Lennon, trying figure out everything about the rock idol. He also became obsessed with the devil. His hatred for Lennon grew and grew until Chapman sank into a place of no return. He flew to New York with his pistol but failed to obtain ammo. He then traveled to Atlanta where he received five hollow-point bullets from a friend who just so happened to be a deputy sheriff. When December 1980 came, Chapman returned to New York to find John Lennon in the dark, outside the Dakota Hotel.
The Beatle was with wife Yoko Ono, returning from a late night recording session. Lennon had even signed a copy of Double Fantasy for the deranged murderer just hours earlier. Chapman's final objective was to be famous, so he pulled the trigger on the singer's back, ending what could of been one of rock music's finest careers.
Each of these stories have two distinct patterns: Access to guns and mental illness.
Cobain, Gaye, Linkous and Chapman all suffered from depression. Despite some of them being clinically diagnosed with the disorder, they were still all able to obtain guns. In Cobain's case, it's extra shocking considering his public struggles with depression, addiction and his previous encounters with law enforcement.
According to The Huffington Post, "No effective system exists that can prevent those with mental illness from getting hold of deadly firearms or reliably predict who may act out in violence."
Since 1993, the so-called Brady Bill has given way to the National Instant Criminal Background Check Systems Index, which prevents dangerous people from owning firearms in America. But there is still a disconnect between state and federal databases, creating a loophole for many depressed and mentally disturbed people to access guns.
Though President Obama is pressuring Congress to close these gaps, there remains one question: How far is too far? Should Chan Marshall of Cat Power be allowed to own a gun despite her challenges with anxiety? Should Ray Davies or Sinead O'Connor be allowed to purchase guns, even though they suffer from bipolar disorder? Where do you draw the line with mental illness?
We certainly can't answer those questions, but what we can say is this: Over time artists' willingness to be public about their depression and mental illness has grown. Bruce Springsteen admitted to battling depression and suicidal thoughts, and Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos has been hospitalized several times after attempting to kill himself. The stigma of depression is fading thanks to their candor.
Half of Us, a campaign to help young people with depression and suicide has received extraordinary contributions from rock 'n' rollers. Pete Wentz, Mary J. Blige, Billy Corgan, Max Bemis and more have all shared their stories and struggles with mental health and hopefully prevented some people from turning toward the worst.
Lady Gaga's upcoming Born This Way Ball tour even includes on-site counseling, where fans can hear professional, private and group advice about mental health, depression, bullying, school and friends.
As far as prevention goes, Ringo Starr has been working with the Non-Violence Foundation, a Swiss-based non-profit focused on youth outreach and anti-violence education, while Yoko has always supported gun control through her Imagine Peace campaign.
The rock community can certainly do more when it comes to violence prevention and mental-health education. With so many people looking up to their celebrity heroes for advice, musicians have an unseen responsibility to their fans. We're moving in the right direction thanks to them and we can only hope more artists will join the cause.