There is no doubt that artists help to create and shape our world.
Think of the protest songs of the 1960’s, such as Bob Dylan’s song “Blowin in the Wind” or Phil Och’s “What Are We Fighting For?” These are just two of dozens of examples (think John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” and “Imagine”). These artists created music that defined a generation’s opposition to the war in Vietnam.
In recent generations we haven’t seen large number of artists take on politics, society, and world events with their music the way they did in the 1960’s. Among the exceptions, in 1985, many artists got together and recorded “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time” and staged concerts called “Band Aid” to raise funds for a famine stricken Africa.
It is clear that musicians and other artists can come together and raise awareness for causes, and influence the way people think and feel about current events. That is why it is so discouraging to see so many artists rely on stereotypes and the myths of mental illness to sell their music. A very quick search on YouTube turned up these five videos (some are older than others):
Disturbed : Asylum
Talking Heads: Psycho Killer
Puddle of Mudd: Psycho
Bebe Rexha: I’m Gonna Show You Crazy
I have often wondered why stereotypes and myths of mental illness sell, but I think I know. People think it is edgy, different, with a touch of genius and madness. I wish that such tunes would fall way out of fashion and that it would be considered in bad taste to use images of psych wards, and images of people waiting in line for their medications, etc. in the creation of art. Hopefully, there will eventually be push back on these artists to come up with something original instead of relying on outdated stereotypes and myths to sell their music.
I have to admit, it isn’t all bad news. Some artists have tried to combat these same stereotypes by speaking about their personal experiences with mental illness. You can find an article about seven of them here.
Guitar photo available from Shutterstock