Long, long ago, when I started this blog (well, over nine years ago) I began by sharing my experience of mental health issues. In my case these were depression and panic attacks, and I hoped that by ‘coming out’ I could help others to come to terms with their own experiences. Happily, feedback has been almost entirely positive, but as you will no doubt have noticed mental health as a topic has rather taken a back seat here of late. But that doesn’t mean that I have lost interest – far from it. I am still a member of some of the organisations whose advice helped me back then and whose work I have in some cases featured here. One that I don’t think I have mentioned before is The Mighty, an American organisation who, in their own words, provide “a safe, supportive community for people facing health challenges and the people who care for them.” If you want to know more about them, they explain who they are here.
Their emails regularly give me pieces to read around the three topics I have signed up for – depression, mental health and migraine – and this week one of those suggestions was a piece called 38 Celebrities With Chronic And Mental Illnesses Nominated For Grammy Awards, which I read with interest. The article dates back to late 2019, and it references the Grammy Awards of January 2020, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant now. Many of those 38 were artists whose music I don’t really like, or in many cases haven’t even heard of. But several of those were (c)rap artists, so were unlikely to be anywhere near my radar anyway. I thought it might make an interesting post for me to share some of those stories with you, and play a piece of music by each of them to show the interaction between music and mental health. Our mental and physical health is vital for all of us, especially in the wake of the pandemic we have endured since just after those Grammys took place.
The first one I’m playing today is Roseanne Cash. As far as I can tell the only song of hers I’ve ever played here before is her duet with her father, Johnny Cash, which was in response to one of the WordPress daily prompts back in 2014. That song was September When It Comes, and it is beautiful and poignant – my piece is here if you’re interested. Looking at it makes me think I need to update on how things have gone since then! Anyway, back to Roseanne, whose story goes
Rosanne Cash struggled for years with chronic headaches without a diagnosis. Eventually, she was diagnosed with the brain condition Chiari I malformation after several misdiagnoses and required surgery.
“I’ve had headaches for as long as I can remember. Even though I figured I would have to undergo brain surgery, I was flooded with relief that someone finally knew what was wrong with me.“
As luck and coincidence would have it I mentioned in this week’s Tuesday Tunes that Roseanne had recorded a cover version of one of the songs I shared, so it seems only right to play that one for you today:
One of the artists I haven’t featured before is Lana Del Rey. She isn’t a top favourite of mine, but she makes atmospheric music which I always enjoy when I hear it. Her story goes:
The queen of “Summertime Sadness” Lana Del Rey shared in 2014 she was struggling with a chronic condition that doctors couldn’t diagnose, which also took a toll on her mental health. “I’d been sick on tour for about two years with this medical anomaly that doctors couldn’t figure out. That’s a big part of my life: I just feel really sick a lot of the time and can’t figure out why. … It was just heavy.”
That makes the point that physical health issues can be just as debilitating as mental health problems, and can impact on our mental health, too. As one of her songs that I’ve always liked is the one referenced in The Mighty’s article it seems an obvious choice for me to play today:
Lady Gaga featured in Tuesday Tunes 97, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to play another of her songs: as I said then, I’m a big fan of hers. This is what The Mighty say of her:
Lady Gaga lives with fibromyalgia and mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after surviving sexual assault.
“I get so irritated with people who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real. For me, and I think for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result. People need to be more compassionate. Chronic pain is no joke. And it’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel.”
Her Grammy nomination that year was for the movie A Star Is Born. There could really only be one song of hers I could play today, isn’t there? This is incredibly good:
A brief footnote on this one: of those that I’m featuring today, this is the only one which did actually win a Grammy.
So as not to make this an all female selection my final choice for today is Lewis Capaldi, a Scottish singer-songwriter who was just 23 when he was nominated. This is what The Mighty say about him:
A breakout star this year thanks to his hit song “Someone You Loved,” Lewis Capaldi uses his platform to raise awareness for others living with mental health conditions. His newest song, “Before You Go,” is a response to his aunt’s death by suicide and the complicated feelings of being a suicide loss survivor. “The song’s about suicide and it’s about not necessarily the act of it itself obviously, but people after it happens, the aftermath of it and people blaming themselves or starting to think, what could I have done to help that person?” Capaldi explained in an interview.
This is Before You Go. Knowing the background to it, and how intensely personal this is to him, makes it even more heartbreaking to hear:
And just because I can, and because I absolutely love this song, here’s his breakout hit, which is beautiful:
That is, perhaps, a more conventional pop music subject, i.e. the departure of someone from our lives in the ‘lost love’ sense, not the end of life meaning. But it is also heartbreaking in what it says:
Now the day bleeds
And you’re not here
To get me through it all
I let my guard down
And then you pulled the rug
I was getting kinda used to being someone you loved
It is hard not to feel that with him, isn’t it?
If anyone is feeling a little down after reading this and listening to these songs I can only apologise – that isn’t my intention at all! What I’m doing here, using the article in The Mighty as my prompt, is to show how musicians are real people, with real emotions and feelings, who share the same illnesses that we have, and how they can draw attention to this with their music and their public personae. We have all been suffering the pandemic for more than two years, and it seems that every day there is another piece in the paper about its ongoing effects, and negative predictions for the future from those who know what they are talking about. We need to be aware of this, as it is a mental health issue now as much as a physical one. We need to take care of ourselves and those we love, perhaps now more than ever.