Being a musician is a lifestyle not for the feint of heart, just like being a world class cardiovascular or neurosurgeon. No, not because musicians hold the lives of other people in their hands or because they deal with blood and guts, although sometimes. It is because being a musician is equally as time consuming, it is a world where something comes off second best. That something is almost always the family of that guy that sings those heart-string tugging melodies, that girl that seems to belt out exactly what you are feeling and that band that rocks your world.

 

Solomon Linda was the brainchild of what we now know as one of the most iconic songs in history. Originally “Mbube” Linda’s creation has undergone an endless stream of transformations, covers, additions and adaptations to become what is now known as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. He received no royalties in his lifetime, nor did his poverty stricken family upon his death, but royalties were not all that was taken away from this family. In an interview with Rian Malan one of Linda’s daughters spoke of how she did not remember her father because in the evenings he’d be out performing with his fellow Early Birds and in the mornings he would leave early for work. The Linda family got cheated out of the life that royalties could have provided them with as well as a life with a present father and husband. For what? So that American money-making tycoons can have caviare on their toast for breakfast and so that we as the general public can feast our ears upon an amazing song that no one knows is Linda’s.

 

Yes, Solomon Linda’s is an unfortunate situation and not all musicians are so hard done by, but can musicians ever really have their bread buttered on both sides? Can they reach the height of fame and maintain a healthy home situation? The likes of Eminem, DJ Tiesto, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Ashlee Simpson and so many more sing of tribulations that suggest that they cannot. I am by no means discrediting music as as a career, without musicians there would be no music and without music what is the point? I am just unsure of whether people are aware that it is not all drugs, sex and rock and roll all the time. A life like that, as fruitful as it may be and with all its pros, does not come without cons. Having to share a father, mother, husband or wife with a demanding career is distressing enough as it is, having to share that loved one with a crowd of unforgiving fans who your loved one seems to love more must be a truly traumatic experience.

 

Anyone who is familiar with Eminem is no stranger to his heartfelt pleas to wife, Kimberly, and daughter Hailie in his popular songs “When I’m Gone”, “Hailie’s Song” and “Mockingbird”. With lyrics like ‘what happens when you become the main source of her pain? “Daddy look what I made”, dad’s gotta go catch a plane’ and ‘go play Hailie, baby, your daddy’s busy
daddy’s writing a song, this song ain’t gonna write itself ‘
there is no doubt that being a father comes second in line, behind a musical career, for Marshall Mathers. You cannot question how much a person loves music when resenting it, for the fact that it takes them away from their loved ones, seems worth it. As supportive as a family can possibly be of a bread- winning musician, does the time that gets taken away from them seem worth it to them? Did six year old Hailie understand that her dad was out there providing for her or was the fact that dad was not there for her when she needed him the only thing she could understand? Sadly, I think the latter is more accurate.

 

Tiësto is a Dutch electro DJ and record producer whose fiancée, Stacey Blokzij, broke off their engagement after the DJ postponed and cancelled it numerous times because of a ‘busy work schedule’. Maybe she could have stuck around and waited for him, but coming second to a world of screaming fans cannot be easy and exactly what is the required amount of time that is appropriate to wait? Would it have been fair for her to make him put his soaring career on hold for their relationship? Probably not, but was it fair for her to be constantly pushed to the sidelines? No. There’s no handbook to guide families along, although many would agree there should be; ‘Marrying a Musician for Dummies’. This is testament that having it both ways is not accomplished easily, if at all.

 

Pink, who has made a life out of singing about how much her life sucked as a kid, ‘it ain’t easy growing up in world war three’ and ‘in our family portrait, we look pretty happy lets play pretend lets act like it comes naturally’, makes you wonder whether her family life has changed for the better. Could it have when her music reflects nothing but going against the grain and being pissed off, but seldom about actually being happy? The most likely scenario is that it has not.

 

Kelly Clarkson, a girl who came from a struggling home sings a variety of broken-hearted love songs that makes it hard to believe she is living the ‘American Dream’ that fame and fortune promised her after winning American Idol: The Search for a Superstar. Having your dirty laundry aired in public most certainly will not have a positive effect on what is already a troubling situation. How do you think Clarksons’ parents felt knowing that the whole of America, and lets face it the world, knew of their financial and marital problems? It probably did not help matters.

 

Does this mean that every aspiring musicians private life is doomed to fail if they ever want to make a success out of, what is hopefully, their passion? No, surely for every acclaimed musician whose life has taken a turn for the worse, there are ten whose have not. I suppose this serves as a warning, or maybe a challenge. Like most things, the balancing act that is success takes work, and the pressures of a musical career means it just takes more with fewer returns, especially if you are Solomon Linda. Something has to be sacrificed in the end and how big of a sacrifice you are willing to make determines whether you are cut out for the life of a touring rock star, or if you would be better suited to a nine to five office job, playing Guitar Hero with your kids on weekends.

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