DIAGNOSIS: “What a drag it is getting old.” — Mick Jagger
ILLNESS: The perennial dilemma of pop musicians: A group with nothing but a dream, some talent and a heart’s worth of integrity. They finally “make it,” meaning fistfuls of “F-you” money along with too much praise for thinking outside of the box. After years of burning out in the spotlight, the band’s hits sound more like karaoke. Directly or indirectly, this phenomenon has affected the deaths of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, among others.
SYMPTOMS: Stars don’t have to die to break fans’ hearts. What’s more heart-breaking is when they “adapt” to the whims of the industry; just check out Mick Jagger and David Bowie’s duet of “Dancing in the Streets” in the ’80s. Others said to have lost it are U2, The Rolling Stones and any hippy of the ’60s turned yuppie in the ’80s.
PRESCRIPTION: While most artists create their best material in youth, enough maintain valiant efforts, including the recently finished Smile from Brian Wilson and other efforts from David Byrne, Bob Dylan, The Breeders, Violent Femmes and Sonic Youth.
PROGNOSIS: Nowadays, successful groups are so eager to reinvent themselves that fans cannot reasonably project what will become of them. Sometimes its for the better, as seen by Radiohead and The Flaming Lips. Otherwise, the fact that Britney Spears already has her greatest hits out is reason enough for pop fans to convert to jazz.