These Conversations Kill: RIP Scott Weiland

Published on December 4th, 2015 in: Eulogy, Music |

By Jeffery X Martin

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“I thought he was already dead.”

The internet response to the passing of singer Scott Weiland has been somewhat disheartening to observe. Instead of focusing on the fact that a human being has died, one who had a tremendous impact on an entire generation of music fans, the choice has been made to focus on the fact that Weiland did drugs. Scott Weiland’s dead? It must have been an overdose. 

The toxicology report hasn’t come back yet. We don’t know what killed Scott Weiland, and we can’t say, at this point, if drugs were even a factor. Are they a safe assumption? Sure. If we’re going to make a suspect list, heroin is right at the top. It’s Keyser Soze in this case.

But that can’t be all of it, can it? Can the entire meaning of Scott Weiland’s life be a warning to others, the final slide of a shitty middle-school D.A.R.E. PowerPoint presentation, the example of what not to do?

***

“I’m surprised he made it this long.”

The history of Stone Temple Pilots is filled with ups and downs. They broke up, they got back together, they blamed each other for all the problems, and in the midst of it all, Weiland’s addictions and violent outbursts keeping them in the news. Any publicity is good publicity, they say, and even as his private hell was made public, we wanted Scott Weiland to win. We rooted for him to beat the living shit out of his demons because, by the gods, that man could sing. There wasn’t a style Weiland couldn’t handle. Whether he was channeling Billy Idol, crooning like it was the Thirties all over again or beating the buttrockers at their own game, Weiland had a gift.

Weiland didn’t wind up a member of The 27 Club. He made it longer than poor Layne Staley. He was making music long after Kurt made the choice to leave. He didn’t take up surfing while his band turned into Phish, like Eddie Vedder. Scott Weiland toughed it out for as long as he could and the music he left behind is exquisite.

***

 “Not really shocked that he’s gone but still sad.”

Were we all really sitting around waiting for Scott Weiland to die? As cynical as I am, even I can’t bring myself to believe that. We might have been patiently waiting for his last solo tour to end, so that he could rejoin STP and make a new album, continuing that prodigal son pattern ad infinitum.

That’s what I wanted, anyway. But maybe I’m weird in the respect that I don’t really want anyone to fail.

I don’t look at old Ray Charles footage and think about how much heroin he did or how many women he knocked around. When I listen to Exile on Main Street, I don’t wonder how many spikes Keith Richards rode during the recording. I’ve said this before. There’s got to be a place where we separate the art from the artist, a place of purity where we don’t judge anything but the music they placed before us.

Look. I was a high-functioning alcoholic for decades. I did some of my best work drunker than shit, three in the morning, bile rising in my throat. I wonder how many people think about that when they read my older stuff. That fuckin’ drunk. What he produced, and my enjoyment of it, is lessened by how he behaved.

Oh, and hey… what are they going to say about you after you die, you perfect person?

***

Scott Weiland doesn’t deserve to be a poster boy for drug abuse any more than Robin Williams needs to be the focus of memes about depression. You want to talk about Scott Weiland now that he’s gone? Then do so with compassion. Let’s talk about the music. Talk about where you were the first time you heard “Plush.” [True story: I stopped an argument with my wife at the time. I shushed her and walked away, so I could turn up the radio and try to figure out that chord progression, so I could hear that voice.] 

Come to praise Scott Weiland, not to bury him. Not yet. He was more than an addict, just as he was more than a singer. He was a human with flaws, just like the rest of us. And we all have some beauty inside us, don’t we?

Let’s focus on that.

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