The Early Birds
In a modern world it seems that many musicians take drugs. It has become acceptable and part of the rock and roll life, but although drugs usually goes with rock and roll, it did go with many many famous Jazz players between 1940 and 1970 and most likely even after that.
The first; Louis Armstrong. Ol'Sachtmo mouth was well known for his love of Marijuana or as he put it his "good friend" he smoked it till the day he died, and was really always on a constant high, and this was from the early age of 14!
Another big time user of drugs was John Coltrane. Coltrane was more into heavily drugs such as heroin which was at the time THE drug to take. At the time people thought that the drugs helped him with his complex solo's, but this was in fact rubbish, Coltrane found his earlier drug habit and alcoholism to be an impediment. To comment on his solos however, Coltrane achieved that standard by simple hard practice, for hours and hours at a time every day.
Charlie Parker was again another main drug taker in the world of jazz. in 1932 he enrolled into the Lincoln High School which was where he started to learn about instruments in the school orchestra. However Parker loved wandering through Kansas City at night
listening to jazz bands, and eventually encountered
crooks, prostitutes, alcohol and drugs.
At the age of 13 Parker was taking Benzedrine (also know as purple hearts)
Sure from that point onwards he was known (and quite rightly so) as a great musician and was the buzz at that time, his social life, however, was a failure. He became a "dissolute genius" livin' each day as it came. He stuffed himself with drugs and alcohol and indulged himself in all sorts of immoderation and vice. His sexual prowess was proverbial. He was nicknamed "Bird" or "Yardbird". His famous tune Moose the Mooch was dedicated to his drug pusher who supplied him with heroin.
It seemed that in those days drugs was really associated with just players in the jazz world, however there were occasional singers that were drawn into the world of drugs and debauchery as well. Billie Holiday in her sad short life was addicted to drugs as well, in her teens she mostly smoking Marijuana although this would affect her less then what a few beers would do. It was in her later life that Holiday made a few bad choices in men, the change over came when she married her first husband Jimmy Monroe who was a heroin taker at the time, but surprisingly enough Billie was never really caught in the web of strong addiction that comes with heroin when she was dabbing with it.
The full habit came into play when she met her lover and later second husband Joe Guy who played the trumpet. Guy was well known as a hard line drug taker and eventually drew Billie into the world of hard drugs. He then fritted away her savings with a series of ill-conceived schemes.
Rock and a bit of Roll
Of course drugs didn’t just stay confined to the jazz scene, the 60s and 70s saw big rock musicians start to take drugs. Hendrix again being one of the guys that relied on drugs to help his performance and with ideas. In the 70s though it was common for the musicians to be high on some sort of drugs, but in the 30s to the 50s it seemed sleazy and not really right (not that its right anyway!).Ozzy Osborne was well known for being high on stage constantly, and his life has been in the spotlight mainly for his drugs.
The Beatles were connected with drugs, and also were accused of writing about drugs, for example the well known Lucy in the sky with diamonds was pounded to death with reports that it was connected to LSD although these reports where not really bothered with due to the unimaniglble following that the Beatles had at that time.
Do drugs help you play better? Drugs help to give some people a sense false, in my mind that they are more comfortable with themselves
and that they play a little better. Many drug takers never learn how to play any other way.
For them, "performance mode" involves some type of stimulant. This is a pity, in my opinion.
To me a musician has a certain responsibility, firstly to the crowd and secondly to themselves. A musician is there to please people, not to go on stage looking like they have just been brought though a contraption involving highly sharp and pointy pieces of metal. To make an impression is crucial, and going on stage on a trip looking out of it is not the way to go.