Musicians In Meltdown

This post is about 4,400 words long and takes about 35 minutes to read. It's worth it, seriously.

Notes From a Grave

It was a warm day in August, but in the shade, under the watchful branches of Père Lachaise Cemetery, it was quite pleasant. Paris can be an intense bustle of activity to a visitor, but in this east end of town, there was a quiet peace that seemed out of place. Maybe it was a collective reverential energy to one of the most famous gatherings of the dead in the world, floating over this neighborhood resting place like a cone of silence. 

I was 24, to the best of my recollection, and I was on a tourist pilgrimage that was half youthful curiosity, and half cultural touchstone. So many glorious carved headstones to touch. There was Delacroix across the way, Moliére is right there, over here Wilde, and – whoa – Chopin. I quietly toured lanes flanked by more famous people than you can find in an encyclopedia of world culture. It was simultaneously serene, and overwhelming. That day was an amazement that at turns had me feeling like a mouse in a maze that was made of cheese. I couldn't go wrong in my search for a treat, no matter where I turned.

But…I was there to visit, Jim.

James Douglas Morrison, to be more precise. You may know him as the one time front man for The Doors. I knew him as the clown poet, the morbid investigator, the seer and singer of the pain. Disruptor, chaotic friend, glutton, tragic hero. He fit into so many identities in his short twenty-seven years, and not one of them saved him from himself. I stared at the simple grave stone of Jim, admiring the nearby graffiti, red candle wax dripping onto the leaves, afternoon sun illuminating the metal plaque, and I felt – much less than I was hoping to feel.

Jim didn't talk to me. Jim didn't offer wise words. Jim didn't say anything, and I didn't say anything in return. We both just stared at each other, and I think we were both fine with that. It was just the music now. Not the man, not the myth. He was never going to be a role model, just a guy that was kind of screwed up, knew how to put on a great show, and write a memorable lyric.

I was cool with that. It was just the music now, and I'm a huge music fan, and we could leave it at that. For a few years at least.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I was recovering from my own cliché twenty-seven year old existential crisis, and I was in a band. It seems somewhat movie script like in retrospect, but it's the truth. I had graduated from music fan, to making music (although I have to admit I was never very good, but fortunately the rest of the guys in the band were great), but I was still regularly thinking back to Jim. I understood him more now. I knew now what it was like to drink too much. I knew what it was like to be depressed, or alternately edgy and angry. I knew what it was like to have the California desert talk back to me. I knew what it was like to do a thousand cool things, and still awake every morning feeling – much less than I was hoping to feel.

That's when I decided to make some changes, instead of retiring to the bath tub with a bottle of bourbon and a notepad, but no will to live.

Notes From a Fan

I am a bona fide audiophile (minus the vinyl-it's a storage nightmare). While I type this I'm listening to The National on my swanky Bose headphones that my wife gave me for my birthday – one of my most cherished gifts. Seriously, I love these headphones. I have four different playlists just for varying moods of the day when I'm writing. I'm fairly certain there was a period growing up where I thought I might be Brian Eno's long lost son. Criminy, I even had a radio show in college that was an eclectic mash up just for late night study sessions. I really value music of all different types. It's the closest thing I have to a hobby, and an obsession.

And, that's the background for this post. I've returned to Jim's grave once again, in a way. Except, this time I have something to say, instead of hoping to be spoken to. When musicians and performers that are talented, amazingly creative, and artistically inspirational decide to permanently check out, either through passive means like drugs and alcohol, or through more direct methods like a rope or a shotgun, it's a bit distressing to say the least. I really don't like it. I can't say I get sad, but it definitely drives me to ask, "What the heck were you thinking Chris Cornell (or Amy, or Prince, or Kurt, or Scott, or Jim)?" I want to be empathetic with these people, but reasonably objective at the same time. I want to understand these troubled people, without getting caught up in the grim misunderstandings and a search for a "cause" for their troubles. I want to put them to rest, and return to the music, because that's what lasts long after the body is gone, and the pain with it.

So, I revved up my favorite tool for understanding, Coherence Verification, to explain what was going on in the consciousness of 20 well known musicians that died by their own hands. I also included Robin Williams in the list given his massive popularity, and the seeming suddenness of his suicide. I suspected there'd be more than a few of you that would be interested in his situation as well.

Before you take a look at the verification results below, I want to make a few points that will help clarify the results, and make the numbers and descriptions a little more understandable. Also, if you are new to Coherence Verification and conscious energy verifications, it's best if you take a look back at the detailed descriptions I've provided of the process in two past posts, Coherence Verification: The key to unlocking energetic mysteries, and Donald Trump & Friends Part 1

  • I've done two sets of verifications for each person. First is the consciousness quality level of the artist on the day of their death, and the second is the consciousness level for the lifetime of each person. Recall that consciousness quality can be calibrated for large spans of time, as well as short ones, like the twenty-four hour period preceding death. These two sets give us a glimpse into each person's final mindset within the context of the primary struggles throughout their lives.
  • I've also given you very short descriptions of the consciousness level for each artist's lifetime. These descriptions are not intended to be a reduction of the person's entire life. The descriptions are there to help us understand what the primary difficulties were in their lives that ultimately precipitated a decline in self-care, and to their eventual death.
  • No one is as simple as the descriptions I'm providing here. Energetic and consciousness quality levels provided here are done to give us a glimpse into what led to the self-destructive behaviors. Energetic Quality Level (EQL) & Level of Consciousness (LOC) verifications are generally gauging someone's consciousness level, but that doesn't mean each person can't display useful behaviors and intelligence in their decisions in some instances, while being completely destructive in the way they treat themselves. Humans often have different sets of decision making guidelines in how they approach work and public activities, versus what internal challenges and fears they harbor. We are primarily looking at each person's internal landscape in order to determine what led to self-destruction.
  • Every one of the twenty-one people below killed themselves, some actively, some passively. I know we tend to make a differentiation in society between those that died engaging in dangerous activities like drug addiction, versus those that unloaded a gun into their head. However, the reality is that drinking yourself into oblivion or taking massive quantities of prescribed drugs is only a difference of method and timing in self-destruction, when compared to putting a noose around the neck and stepping off a chair. This isn't being insensitive, it's recognizing an underlying truth.
  • Lastly, the fact that two people may have an extremely similar consciousness quality does not mean they are 'the same'. There are subtleties of personality and lifestyle that always result in significant differences on the surface. What similar consciousness levels do inform us of, is the underlying fears, mental preoccupations, motives, and drivers of choice. Overt differences in behaviors or lifestyles do not define consciousness levels. We are reaching below the apparent, and into the most significant details for psychological understanding.

Verification results

Jon Bonham (Led Zeppelin)

  • Day of death EQL: 142
  • Day of death LOC: 56
  • Lifetime EQL: 183
  • Lifetime LOC: 71

Lifetime EQL Description: Irrational thought is the norm. Self-referential choices are the most common type, in that, his choices were almost exclusively based on his often impaired awareness, instead of seeking the counsel of others. A general unawareness of the valuing of fears leads to erratic behaviors at this level.

Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)

  • Day of death EQL: 156
  • Day of death LOC: 52
  • Lifetime EQL: 177
  • Lifetime LOC: 67

Lifetime EQL Description: Phobias and paralyzing fears are common. Unintentionally reckless behavior is regularized showing significant, unconscious self-devaluation and disregard for life, and other people. Kurt would have likely been abusive to others, especially those in his employ.

Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave, solo)

  • Day of death EQL: 166
  • Day of death LOC: 56
  • Lifetime EQL: 266
  • Lifetime LOC: 126

Lifetime EQL Description: This level is typified by a lack of concern for others, and complete arrogance, along with a deep sense of need for perceived security which can never be found in professional success.

Ian Curtis (Joy Division)

  • Day of death EQL: 141
  • Day of death LOC: 42
  • Lifetime EQL: 167
  • Lifetime LOC: 68

Lifetime EQL Description: A strong belief in one's superiority over others leads to perceived isolation at this level. Apathy about one's life is normal, and there is no acceptance of responsibility. At this level and below there is a strong likelihood of someone killing themselves either actively, or passively.

Jimi Hendrix (The Experience, solo)

  • Day of death EQL: 176
  • Day of death LOC: 66
  • Lifetime EQL: 266
  • Lifetime LOC: 87

Lifetime EQL Description: A lack of concern for others, and complete arrogance, mixed with a tendency to terrorize himself, and being preoccupied with loss. Jimi's internal terrorizing led to abusive behavior towards others when he was intoxicated, which was quite often. During periods of lucidity he would have felt bad about behaving abusively, judged himself harshly, escaped the judgment through intoxication, and thus, start the cycle all over again. 

Billy Holiday

  • Day of death EQL: 142
  • Day of death LOC: 67
  • Lifetime EQL: 248
  • Lifetime LOC: 87

Lifetime EQL Description: Grief and loss perceptions can be dominant here with parameters for the grief addiction defined by regular participation in truthless fallacies about the self and life.

Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon)

  • Day of death EQL: 142
  • Day of death LOC: 56
  • Lifetime EQL: 152
  • Lifetime LOC: 67

Lifetime EQL Description: Abject hopelessness inspired by a perception that one is worthless, and a refusal to take responsibility for anything. Turning completely inward results in absolute emotional isolation from everyone, regardless of how much others may reach out in an attempt to help and connect. 

Michael Hutchence (INXS)

  • Day of death EQL: 141
  • Day of death LOC: 56
  • Lifetime EQL: 187
  • Lifetime LOC: 71

Lifetime EQL Description: Covert use of others for gain or profit is a lifestyle. Hidden agendas are common in order to gain what is expected to be lost or taken, like positive regard, recognition, and wealth. Grief and loss are primary motivators at this level. Most thought is self-focused and irrational.

Michael Jackson

  • Day of death EQL: 141
  • Day of death LOC: 47
  • Lifetime EQL: 142
  • Lifetime LOC: 86

Lifetime EQL Description: The total refusal to accept responsibility for one's self, or anything. The complete defining of the self as absolutely worthless is constant in all thought. Death through passive suicide like "accidental" overdoses, alcohol poisoning, refusal to eat, and total lack of care for the body. The choice to isolate one's self from others in order to avoid responsibility is also common here, as seen in Jackson's consistent hiding from the public, and desire to spend time with children. Total mental and emotional pessimism about everything is dominant. Grief addiction is also justified at this level.

Janis Joplin (Big Brother and the Holding Company, solo)

  • Day of death EQL: 162
  • Day of death LOC: 57
  • Lifetime EQL: 182
  • Lifetime LOC: 82

Lifetime EQL Description: Again we see entirely irrational thought, and mostly self-referential choices. General unawareness of the valuing of fears, and a refusal to face this fact is a key feature that drives the need for intoxication.

Keith Moon (The Who)

  • Day of death EQL: 143
  • Day of death LOC: 46
  • Lifetime EQL: 141
  • Lifetime LOC: 62

Lifetime EQL Description: Similar to Jackson above. The total refusal to accept responsibility for one's self, or anything. The complete defining of one's self as absolutely worthless. Death through passive suicide like "accidental" overdoses, alcohol poisoning, refusal to eat, and total lack of care for the body. The choice to isolate one's self from others. Total mental and emotional pessimism about everything. All of this is also mixed with diffuse apathy regarding human life.

Jim Morrison (The Doors)

  • Day of death EQL: 156
  • Day of death LOC: 56
  • Lifetime EQL: 256
  • Lifetime LOC: 82

Lifetime EQL Description: Purposefully choosing substance use for escapism allows for hiding from an overwhelming expectation of loss and sadness. There is little confrontation with fears as escapism is the primary coping mechanism. Our friend Jim just liked leaving conscious awareness before life got too real.

Bradley Nowell (Sublime)

  • Day of death EQL: 144
  • Day of death LOC: 53
  • Lifetime EQL: 142
  • Lifetime LOC: 88

Lifetime EQL Description: Virtually identical to Michael jackson above.


  • Day of death EQL: 186
  • Day of death LOC: 76
  • Lifetime EQL: 226
  • Lifetime LOC: 106

Lifetime EQL Description: Here there's a preoccupation with achieving "power" through the accumulation of money and fame, and consolidating that perceived power because there is the perception of valuelessness without it. All choices are made from fear at this level, but there is the ability to hide that fact.

Bon Scott (AC/DC)

  • Day of death EQL: 146
  • Day of death LOC: 58
  • Lifetime EQL: 183
  • Lifetime LOC: 89

Lifetime EQL Description: Nearly identical to Bonham and Joplin above, but with more of an assertive tendency to try to escape one's grief and fear of loss through outlandish and extreme activities.

Layne Staley (Alice in Chains)

  • Day of death EQL: 131
  • Day of death LOC: 47
  • Lifetime EQL: 163
  • Lifetime LOC: 66

Lifetime EQL Description: At this level a basic disconnection occurs between the human body/brain, and that person’s conscious energy (consciousness), triggering complete self-destruction. The world is also perceived as one constant excuse for discouragement. There is only "giving up" at this level.

Butch Trucks (Allman Bros.)

  • Day of death EQL: 156
  • Day of death LOC: 62
  • Lifetime EQL: 241
  • Lifetime LOC: 72

Lifetime EQL Description: Lack of self-commitment is the norm, and projection of thoughts onto others is a serious challenge for friends and family. Fear of asking for what one wants results in constantly expected loss. Believing that everything must be done by yourself becomes normal, but this is simply a form of egoism.

Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, solo)

  • Day of death EQL: 143
  • Day of death LOC: 67
  • Lifetime EQL: 206
  • Lifetime LOC: 86

Lifetime EQL Description: Desire, avarice, greed, and craving are common motivators, but at a level of full pathology. This is driven by ubiquitous expectations of loss and deprivation, which eventually result in the very loss that was anticipated.

Robin Williams (actor)

  • Day of death EQL: 143
  • Day of death LOC: 71
  • Lifetime EQL: 197
  • Lifetime LOC: 106

Lifetime EQL Description: Constant fearfulness drives chronic shame for one's life and past. This shame is well concealed at this level, but there is a grinding sense that there will never be sufficient recognition and accomplishment to allay the self-attacks. In essence, someone in Robin's situation judges themselves to death. 

Amy Winehouse

  • Day of death EQL: 142
  • Day of death LOC: 46
  • Lifetime EQL: 176
  • Lifetime LOC: 71

Lifetime EQL Description: At this level, the creation of paralyzing fears drive the need to intoxicate in order to avoid them, nearly every day. Unintentionally reckless behavior becomes the norm as there is no value for self or others, whatsoever. There is only selfishness.

Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols)

  • Day of death EQL: 166
  • Day of death LOC: 67
  • Lifetime EQL: 177
  • Lifetime LOC: 76

Lifetime EQL Description: Nearly the same qualities as Amy Winehouse, but mixed with a sense of violent flair. The more Sid could be a terror to others, the more he felt engaged with life, never mind the fact that he was wasted for probably half of his life. 

Notes From a Consciousness Observer

Well, that's all kind of grim, but you probably noticed some similarities and trends in the results. Let me highlight the key observations.

  1. These are not common verification results, at all. I assess hundreds and hundreds of people every year, and I have never before seen these kinds of extremely low consciousness levels in a given group that wasn't in immediate peril every day, as we see in war zones. While it's true that we are examining a sad subject matter and group, these results are still significant.

    Even seriously troubled folks in the general population will manage EQLs in the 300-560 range. The highest lifetime EQL in this group is 266 (Hendrix and Cornell), with most being well below that level. For reference, EQLs below 280 represent dramatic stressors on the human body, making it almost impossible to ever feel well. These people were not well, felt miserable most of their lives, and had driven themselves and their bodies and minds to collapse. It's a wonder any of them made it to thirty years old.

  2. Of the members of this set that killed themselves by age 30 (Cobain, Curtis, Hendrix, Hoon, Joplin, Morrison, Nowell, Winehouse, and Vicious), the EQL average was 188. Only two of those (Morrison and Hendrix) even managed to have a lifetime EQL over 200, and none of them managed to maintain an LOC over 90. This informs us that, throughout most of these people's short lifetimes, they were gripped with dramatic fears and phobias, were unable to function rationally, were unwilling to take any responsibility whatsoever for themselves or their thoughts and actions, tended towards isolation, considered themselves worthless, were constantly self-destructive, and were entirely pessimistic about all of life.

    Please be clear that none of these descriptions is a judgment. Again, I consider every one of these twenty-one artists to be ridiculously talented and brilliantly audacious. Yet, their minds were utterly preoccupied with startlingly limited perspectives, and the habit of magnifying fears rather than seeking to resolve them.

  3. Of the members of this set that killed themselves after age 30 (Bonham, Cornell, Holiday, Hutchence, Jackson, Moon, Prince, Scott, Staley, Trucks, Weiland, Williams) we generally see somewhat higher levels of consciousness and function than those that died prior to 30, but not much higher. The lifetime average EQL of this group is 199. Also, as a general rule, those that lived past 40 (Cornell, Holiday, Jackson, Prince, Trucks, and Williams) managed slightly higher levels than the rest, with the exception of Michael Jackson.

    In essence, all twenty-one members of our verification group were on consistent paths of total self-destruction throughout their lives, but some managed elements of arrogance, the drive for money and power, and need based desire that kept them going a little longer than others. In examining the histories of those that lived past their mid thirties, there were periods of sobriety and psychological assistance, and this seems to have buoyed them up for short periods of recovery. However, without taking full responsibility for their thoughts, and with no consistent effort to resolve and eliminate fears, there would always be a return to the primary thought habits of self-devaluation, selfishness, and self-destruction.

  4. Of those that quite purposefully and unambiguously killed themselves (Cobain, Curtis, Hutchence, Moon, Staley, Trucks, and Williams), none of them drastically differentiated themselves in EQL (range was 131-156 on the day of death) from those that passively killed themselves (range was 141-176 on day of death). This is illustrative because most tend to think that purposeful suicide is somehow fundamentally different from the passive suicide of severe addictions, and lack of self-care that leads to accidental overdosing. The energetic reality is that complete self-destruction is primarily just a matter of preference in method.

    Cobain preferred instant gratification and flair by shotgunning himself, while Winehouse chose to fade away in a bulimic, alcoholic haze. To each his or her own I suppose. Our takeaway is that the underlying consciousness qualities are quite similar, regardless of the preferred method or pace of death.

Notes From the Dead, to You

  1. Suicide can virtually be predicted through Coherence Verification. The critical understanding is the EQL of 166 is the predicate energetic quality for complete self-destruction. Only Hendrix and Prince are above 166 on the days of their deaths (not by much) and they both died "accidentally". In other words, just about any person descending below 166 for any length of time, is about to kill themselves, one way or another. The few exceptions to this rule are situations where the complete self-destruction trigger is delayed by seeking to destroy others first.

    For example, the famous serial killer Ted Bundy would routinely enter into a 155-160 EQL prior to murdering others. There is only destruction below about a 260 EQL, and the move below 166 typically turns to final destruction of human life.

  2. Whether someone kills themselves by accident of lifestyle (Hendrix, Winehouse, Cornell, and Vicious for example), or actively through assertive means, the motivation is the same: complete self-annihilation and ego destruction. There is no sense of self-value, and there is no perceived need to take responsibility for one's thoughts and actions, therefore, the only activity that makes sense to someone at these grossly limited levels, is to destroy what has no value. The means of death are simply window dressing on the essential event.

    Just to be clear, I get that killing yourself doesn't make sense to most of us. I am simply saying that, at these extremely damaging consciousness levels we see above, there only seems to be one remaining state of agency and action. There is only one remaining sense of control, and that is to take life, especially if it is your own. Suicide is the ultimate form of perceived self-control to a mind that has abandoned all other self-control options.

  3. There is no question that below a 165 EQL a fundamental break occurs in the connection of consciousness to the physical brain and body. I won't go so far as to say that someone at or below a 165 EQL is "soulless," but it wouldn't be particularly hyperbolic to say so. There is already severe discomfort and pain at this low EQL, and the brain is undoubtedly nearly unable to function properly.

    This final step into energetic and psychological oblivion seems to result in a reflexive need to destroy what remains: the physical body. To be as empathetic as possible: we can now understand the complete self-destruction of these and other persons because we are now clear that they have ignorantly severed their physical existence from their energetic essence.

  4. Here's the real confounding fact for most of us. No amount of intellectual capability, talent, skill, artistic merit, money, fame, or admiration from others, allows you to escape yourself. As the old saying goes, "No matter where you go, there you are." There isn't one person on our list that wasn't amazingly capable, talented, and skilled. They were nearly all compelling performers, with gifts that many of us have envied. Not one of these people was without friends, family, and fans who loved them. Not one of them lacked the potential for many more years of success.

    The one key factor they all chose that led them to the misperception that death was the only real option for them, was they refused to accept full responsibility for their thoughts and actions. With this refusal, they perceived no agency, no options, no future. Where there is no apparent future without pain and suffering, there's really no point in living, or so it seems when you do not look outside of yourself.

Rock On!

OK music fans, take a breath. This is fairly serious stuff, but I don't want to leave you on a negative note (musical pun intended). My goal from the outset of this post was to better understand people we admire, but who do not understand or appreciate themselves. Have we accomplished that?

Well, we've learned that self-destructive behaviors are clearly identifiable, and in many ways, the result of errant thoughts and fearfulness. We've discovered that seemingly beneficial circumstances, like fame and fortune, cannot positively overwhelm the constant flood of self-diminishing thoughts even the most talented and intelligent people among us concoct in their minds. Finally, we've learned that Coherence Verification, used in the assessment of consciousness levels, can truly illuminate the dark corners of the minds of the incredibly capable, and entirely self-tortured. This is all useful information, but I admit, it doesn't really make me, or probably you, feel much better.

But…then I remembered my silent exchange in the cemetery with Jim.

Jim Morrison, and his band mates, left me – left us – with the music. The music isn't about Jim, it's from the shared creative capacity of Jim and his creative crew. Keith Moon and John Bonham weren't drummers, they were examples of what percussion could be. Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, and Amy Winehouse weren't role models, they were trailblazers that showed us what it meant to belt out their beautiful guts on a stage at a level of emotional commitment that still brings tears to eyes today. Prince, Chris Cornell, and Robin Williams may have had serious issues, but they rose above them for years to be the best examples of talent taken to the extreme. Frankly, all these people (and the scores more I could have included) were alternately sublime and train wrecks, but they left us with the best of themselves. They left us with the music.

This is the best note to finish on. Maybe it's just my relentless optimism, but I choose to learn from our creative friends, and enjoy what they left us. I choose to remember myself as a child lying on the living room floor with the reel-to-reel spinning and the speakers pointing at my head, lost in musical bliss. I choose to remember the lyrics that prompted me to think differently, with more empathy and clarity. I choose to remember being picked up off the floor of a concert slam pit by a giant guy with a mohawk because we were making some weird, primal creative expression together with the band on the stage. I choose to let the artists show me, not how to think or live, but how to share what is most amazing about human creativity and shared experience.

Those of us who choose to honor this sharing can appreciate the art, without emulating the artists. We can parse the difference between deep emotionality in creativity, and the choice to be overly fearful and self-involved. You and I can rock on, without walking off the consciousness cliff. We all have the talent and intellectual range to be able to make amazing experiences together, and progress individually. Let's use these capabilities and knowledge when we appreciate our creative icons, as well as in our relationships with each other.

This rock & roll adventure has been brought to you with the help of the inceptional concert patrons of Inception Publishing, on Patreon. Without them, I'd probably just blow up like a drummer for Spinal Tap. If you want to join the fan base, just pop on over to Patreon and toss in a couple bucks into the hat. We always appreciate the support!