Anybody out there in the market for a quick video clip to validate some of the rock music world’s most unflattering stereotypes and clichés? I offer you Exhibit A: Kid Rock’s startlingly crass, tone-deaf presentation at this year’s 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony. Inducting super-group Cheap Trick into that rarefied institution, in six minutes he managed to underscore how stupid, déclassé, myopic and loutish can be the practitioners of the specific musical art form it celebrates.
Rock’s monologue — Rolling Stone understatedly styled it “irreverent” — was pocked with language so bleep-worthy I had trouble following parts of it when I first heard it on radio. I count at least nine f-bombs, variously rendered, scattered among the roughly 600 words he uncorked during April 30th’s HBO broadcast. Between his profane opening statements and an extended homage to Robin Zander and his Illinois-based band-mates, Rock — born Robert James Ritchie — interposed this random, utterly superfluous beaut: “As long as we’re keeping it real, I’d like to really quickly address the issue of drugs in America. If you do drugs, kids, there’s a good chance you’re going to ruin your life.” Dramatic pause. “But there’s also a pretty good f**king chance you’ll end up in a band and be rich and bang hot chicks!”
Vast swaths of the republic are facing a mushrooming heroin epidemic, many of them still haunted by previous and ongoing methamphetamine and crack cocaine crises, having, before these, grappled with a craze involving cocaine of the more generic sort. And what does this forty-five-year old lunkhead do? Supply to every pimple-faced garage band guitarist, every insecure teenager, every curiously experimenting, frighteningly impressionable youth additional motivation for getting high. Any imagined effectiveness Rock’s pro-forma, front-loaded warning against drug use might have had is, of course, obliterated by the rakish hipness of his quip’s latter bit
Getting wasted? Sure, there’s some risk — but what the @#&!! Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll!!
Kid Rock’s first, finger-wagging sentiments scored a smattering of polite, perhaps mildly surprised applause from the assembled. But his unexpected punchline? That really got ’em whooping and howling. Y’know, there’s nothing like a good substance-abuse joke to bring down the house.
Making funny about this scourge would be inappropriate even in the most halcyon of times. But in 2016? Turns out, it’s especially tin-eared stuff.
In 2014, the number of America’s drug-related deaths reached a new peak: roughly 125 per day. Across the United States, in locales as diverse as Currier-and-Ives-worthy New Hampshire, the West Virginia area (Appalachia) and New Mexico have been reeling under a torrent of overdose cases — a majority of them involving opioids: the “Big H” (heroin), fentanyl and prescription painkillers.
As related by the New York Times, “Nationally, opioids were involved in more than 61 percent of deaths from overdoses in 2014. Deaths from heroin overdoses have more than tripled since 2010 and are double the rate of deaths from cocaine.”
Last year alone, in comparatively lightly populated New Hampshire, somewhere in the vicinity of 400 individuals perished from narcotics overdoses — the most in the state’s history. And that’s not including the stats regarding emergency responses to drug-related incidents which didn’t result in a fatality. Granite State addiction rates are skyrocketing — among the highest per-capita in the country. Narcan — preferred drug of medical professionals for reversing the effects opioid overdose — is doing a brisk business there; and countrywide.
I get it: even conservatives are supposed to be terrifically impressed with Kid Rock, falling at his feet because he sends out patriotic signals: he seemingly respects our military (and, indeed, unreserved kudos to him for that); he’s unashamed brandishing our flag and assorted red-white-and-blue accouterments (thumbs up to him on that front, as well). Furthermore, he’s a full-throated Donald Trump supporter (What? A toilet-tongued loudmouth who digs The Donald? No comment). But when one chortles about suicidal habits that have been disemboweling the futures of millions of young — and not so young — men and women for decades? At that point, all those other, arguably commendable qualities get steamrolled into goo.
No, “Bob” — not cool. At all.
Had Kid Rock purposefully aimed to flaunt why his brand of music and the dissolute lifestyles it supposedly, inevitably breeds are cultural poison, he almost couldn’t have done a more persuasive job. Sure, y’all, drugs might be bad fer ya — nudge, nudge, wink, wink — but … PARTYYYYYY!
I know a batch of his fellow artists who might disagree strenuously with Rock’s outburst — if they were still able to communicate with us, that is: I’m thinking: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Entwistle, Whitney Houston, Kevin DuBrow, Scott Weiland; music-industry luminaries all, each of whom died early and needlessly from consequences of drug abuse. And that’s only a sampling; the sad list could run to pages. (Could Prince be lobbed into that forlorn company?)
I wonder if Kid Rock experienced a pang leaving the stage following that night’s noxious eructation. Is he feeling a tad guilty today? If so – good! He ought to; it’s a hopeful start. Maybe to be followed by a fully obligatory, abject public apology to his peers, to America, to her children? To the adulatory fan who decides to throw the dice on a needleful of heroin because his hero, Kid Rock, implied it just might spell fame and fortune?
Image: Courtesy of Ralph Arvesen; Flickr; https://www.flickr.com/photos/rarvesen/15610220582/;(CC bY 2.0)