Death, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll

Dr John Broomhall

The Study of "Rock and Roll Death"

On Thursday 28th March, John Broomhall gave a very entertaining and thought- provoking talk, with accompanying music and images, about rock and roll stars and how they died.
John did his medical training (and met his wife-to-be) at The London Hospital - before it became Royal - and became a Paediatric Consultant in Torbay and Exeter in July 1985. (The same month as Live Aid).
During his talk, there was lively participation from the audience as many of them relived the music of their youth, including the odd singalong.
Surprisingly there are both books and academic studies on the incidence of “Rock and Roll Death” and although drugs have often played a large part, it is not the whole story.

Drugs, Alcohol, ... or Dodgy Equipment?

Many rock stars die young but there seems to be a peak age of demise after which the survivors go on to become ancient rockers and are now about the same age as a good proportion of the audience at this talk.
A study of rock stars from Elvis to Eminem, covering 35 years, showed the main cause of death to be drugs and alcohol, accident, suicide and violence.
But who would have thought electrocution by your own guitar would figure in the statistics.
Some had more conventional deaths from heart conditions, cancer and AIDS.
For some in the audience, it was thought provoking that more than one rock star has died as the result of malpractice by their personal doctors - mainly through extraordinary over prescribing.
John outlined the drug regimes of both Elvis and Michael Jackson as examples of this.

Influencing the Younger Generation

John concluded by raising the issue of the medium and the message.
How are young people influenced by the lyrics of their idols and what is society’s response?
He illustrated this with some lyrics to songs, including one used in a sofa advertisement on TV, that were glorifying the use of drugs.
Robert Treharne-Jones thanked John for a highly entertaining and stimulating talk.
This provoked a lively debate from the floor about the rights and responsibilities of modern musicians and their distributors.

Review by Julia Ellis