Ron “Pigpen” McKernan of the Grateful Dead didn’t survive but Barry McGuire did (jh17c)

Drugs and alcohol have always been a pitfall that many of the wealthy fall into. We see rock bands that become famous have lots of temptations thrown their way and many fall into these traps. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Barry McGuire fell into these traps. One joined the “27 Club” and the other left the drugs behind when he put his faith in Christ.

In light of the horrible tragedy in Little Rock on Sunday with the death of a young man of 24 years of age, I wanted to warn other young people of the dangers of alcohol and drugs.

Below is a post I did a few weeks ago and I will follow it with more links to recent posts I have done concerning drugs and alcohol.

You have to drink a lot to develop cirrhosis at the age of 27. And unfortunately, singer and keyboard player McKernan, one of the founders of the Grateful Dead, drank a lot. Before his death, Pigpen was the definitive embodiment of the original, slapdash, wasted blues incarnation of the Dead, before psychedelia and experimental proficiency became their defining element. He helped form the group, but was surpassed in musical ability by later recruits. Even before he died, he represented a throwback to "the way things used to be" for fans to argue over — not unlike his fellow 27 clubber Brian Jones was for the Rolling Stones. (AP Photo)

You have to drink a lot to develop cirrhosis at the age of 27. And unfortunately, singer and keyboard player McKernan, one of the founders of the Grateful Dead, drank a lot. Before his death, Pigpen was the definitive embodiment of the original, slapdash, wasted blues incarnation of the Dead, before psychedelia and experimental proficiency became their defining element. He helped form the group, but was surpassed in musical ability by later recruits. Even before he died, he represented a throwback to “the way things used to be” for fans to argue over — not unlike his fellow 27 clubber Brian Jones was for the Rolling Stones.

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Amy Winehouse and the ‘Forever 27 Club’

Saturday, the first news headline I saw was:  “Amy Winehouse found dead at 27”.  For some reason, it felt a little more crippling that it was supposed to.

“It was a long-time coming”, is what most say (someone won an iPod by predicting the date on the website whenwillamywinehousedie.com) and maybe it was a long-time coming, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that however you look at it, the music industry has lost a really good singer and one of the most influential artists of the late part of this decade;  Lost a voice that embodied what Motown legends were made of;  And essentially, if you believe in the oddidy of the so-called Forever 27 Club – we lost another talented musician to the club of dead rock stars — those that never lived to see 28.  An age we cautiously outgrow, thinking of their fated (and un-fated) deaths at least once during the age of our own 27th year of life.

Essentially speaking, “27” seems to be rock and roll’s most unlucky number.  Sure there are those who have passed at this age due to overdoeses and drug addictions and battles with depression,  it’s the age that as we all know now took Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and now the second female in the club, Amy Winehouse.

There are more members of the Forever 27 Club;  some died because of medical conditions, car accidents and just plain, weird occurrences, and tragedies.  Any way you look at it, it is weird that so many musicians can’t seem to make it to the age of 28.  Other members of the Forever 27 Club include:  Ron “Pigpen” McKernan of the Grateful Dead, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Chris Bell of Big Star, even Robert Johnson a famous blues musician died at 27, cited for unknown reasons.

The creepiness of the amount of rock stars that die at this age poses the question, what about the age of 27 has put so many rock stars into the ground?  Is it behavior we expect from them (abusing drugs and alcohol, making bad decisions, driving drunk, getting on small planes?).  Is 27 an exceptionally hard age to live through when you are that famous (mine was a good year, but I am not famous)?  Or is it a question of just wanting more and more and more.  Twenty-seven is an age, after all that is old enough to be an adult, but still not old enough to understand the world. Although I am not sure that has happened to me yet, and I am 31.

For Amy Winehouse, the tragedy of being part of the Forever 27 Club means not having to slide into a vauge mediocre music choices to keep up with the wretched”singers” who would outsell her lovely, husky sound with computer generated vocals and gyrated movements with snakes and backup dancers.

In her death, she has left us with a small collection of music to take from — all beautiful, all tragic and all for us to keep our arms tight around.  From her two Cd’s she inspired a sound that made music a little better, if only for a little while.  Her sound brought out the funk and beat of a broken heart in a time when hipster, gothic, hang-yourself love songs were topping the charts, paving the way for singers like Adele, Cee Lo Green and Bruno Mars to get a little funky with broken hearts.

You can hear her fate in the song that made her a household name, “Rehab,” a smart, self-aware song about her struggle with going to get help for drinking, drugs and depression.  A fight she would essentially lose.

Winehouse sounded wise and wounded beyond her years. And like Cobain, Hendrix and Joplin, Amy Winehouse’s music had a sense of strength and purpose that she — and they — failed to summon in their own lives.

I hope when I get to the pearly gates one day, I am greeted by the “Forever 27’s”, heaven’s best band ever.  Well, either them…or the Beatles.

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Members of the Grateful Dead are pictured in this 1969  photo. After thirty years of making music, the Grateful Dead, once the house band of the 1960s counterculture, is breaking up. The move came four months after the death of its founder and guiding spirit, Jerry Garcia. From left in the back row are, Tom Constanten, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzman, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and Phil Lesh. Jerry Garcia, left, and Mickey Hart, right, are in the front row. (AP Photo) // The ‘Forever 27’ Club: Rock stars dead at 27 (AP Photo)

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AP Photo

Members of the Grateful Dead are pictured in this 1969 photo. After thirty years of making music, the Grateful Dead, once the house band of the 1960s counterculture, is breaking up. The move came four months after the death of its founder and guiding spirit, Jerry Garcia. From left in the back row are, Tom Constanten, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzman, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, and Phil Lesh. Jerry Garcia, left, and Mickey Hart, right, are in the front row. (AP Photo)

The keyboardist, singer and harmonica player from The Grateful Dead died in 1973 from a stomach hemorrhage as a result of years of heavy drinking.

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Musician Barry McGuire’s Testimony: Eve of Destruction

When I was a little boy, my grandmother told me something I’ve never forgotten. I was probably about five, maybe six years old. She used to take care of me during the day when my mom worked. One day she said to me, ‘you know, Barry, one day when you grow up, you’re gonna know the truth, and the truth is gonna set you free.’ Now, I didn’t know that came out of the Bible. I didn’t even know there was a Bible. I was just a little kid. My grandmother told me that. And I knew she loved me, and boy, I knew I loved her. And when I grew up, sure enough, I wanted to be free. I mean who doesn’t want to be free? And certainly, a lie has never set anyone free. So if anything was gonna set me free, it had to be the truth.

Eve of Destruction was written by 19-year-old songwriter P. F. Sloan in 1965 and eventually became Barry McGuire’s one and only big Billboard chart hit song.

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And along came the 60s. And boy, I was the right age at the right time in the wrong place, you might say. And hey, I wanted to be free. Boy, I sang ‘Eve of Destruction’ lookin’ to be free. I went to Broadway. I did a show on Broadway called HAIR. I played the male lead in the original Broadway cast, lookin’ to be free. And the very lifestyle that we were promoting was killing us all. I looked around me I saw my friends, one, two, three at a time goin’ down: drug overdose, suicide, sexually transmitted diseases.

So I left Broadway, I came back out to California. And I was livin’ with a friend of mine, Denny Doherty, up on the Appian Way. And he used to joke and tease me, ’cause I was still lookin’ for truth, and every time a new teacher or sage or somebody, Meyer Baba, Sai Baba, Hadji Baba, any Baba would do, I mean I was down there in the front row, ya know, ‘Humna Baba, lay the truth on me, man!’ I was hummin’ and bobbin’ and goin’ for it. And Denny says, ‘Ah, you belong to the Guru of the Month Club.’ I mean, anybody, I didn’t care. If they had a word, I was down there tryin’ to learn the truth. And they said a lot of things that were true, but I just couldn’t somehow get it right inside of me.

And I was just about to give up, and one day I went over to a friend’s house, Eric Hord. He used to be the lead guitar player for The Mamas and Papas, and he always had a big bowl of marijuana under his coffee table. And man, I had this bowl out that morning; I had three papers glued together. I figured he’s only gonna lay one joint on me, so I’ll make the biggest one I can roll. And I look down on this particular day, there’s a little paper back book layin’ on the table next to the grass, and it’s called Good News for Modern Man. And I thought, ‘Hey, I’m a modern man. I could use some good news.’ I mean, everybody was dyin’ all around me. So I took the book home with me, didn’t know what it was. I got by myself, opened it up, and right on the first flyleaf page in the book it says, ‘The New Testament in Modern English.’ I got so angry. ‘Ah, look at this! Them Jesus Freaks, man! They’re diguisin’ the Bible!’ Threw it on the floor, I didn’t wanna read the Bible! Give me a break! And it laid there for days. I was hopin’ someone would come along and throw it away. I didn’t wanna throw it away, ’cause I knew what it was, the Bible, and just in case, you don’t wanna be responsible. Who knows? But it laid there for days, weeks, and months actually. I mean, when somethin’ hit the floor in my house; the next person to pick it up was an archaeologist. I mean, that was some future dig.

And I was there one day by myself. And there this little book somehow kept surfacing above the trash. And the wind was blowing through the window catching the pages. It was flickin’ its pages, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick. ‘Read me!’ it said to me. And truthfully, just out of bored, sarcastic curiosity, I picked up The Life and Times of Jesus Christ. And for the first time in my life, I stopped looking at Christians; I stopped looking at denominations, organizations, Catholics, Protestants, ya know, all this stuff that goes on in His name. And I took a look at Him, examined what He had to say. How He treated His personal friends. What He had to say to the people in the street, the alcoholics, the prostitutes, the homosexuals, the thieves, liars, and robbers. What he had to say about the military people, the political leaders, and the spiritual leaders (which is about the scariest thing he had to say to anybody). How He treated the little children when they came around. And everything that Jesus had to say, as I put it to the test against what I knew to be true through my own life experience, I couldn’t find anything wrong with His words. There’s no double meaning, no hidden agenda. It was all out front. And then He said thirteen words that changed my life, because I saw this was the answer to my personal eve of destruction. He said, ‘Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as your self.’

How simple can it get? And I realized that if all of us in the whole world lived according to those two simple instructions — I don’t care what your concept of God is, you could be a Buddhist, you could be B’hai, you could be, ya know, whatever it is, Christian, just your concept of God — love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as your self, and our world would change. How simple can it get? We wouldn’t need a police force anymore, and we wouldn’t need armies and navies and prisons and welfare systems. We wouldn’t need lawyers and politicians. Two simple pieces of instruction: Love God with all my heart, and love my neighbor as my self.

And I wanted to be like Jesus. I thought, ‘Man, this is my guy!’ But I didn’t wanna be a Christian, see. I wanted to be like Him, but I didn’t wanna be like all them. I thought if I said yes to Jesus I’d have to get a powder blue leisure suit — remember those? — White shoes, ya know, walk around smilin’ a lot. I couldn’t do that.

But then I wrestled with it for nearly a year. And one day I was up just off Mulholland Drive in Stone Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. And I’m bangin’ my head on the wall, my friends are all smokin’ dope, eating peyote, psilocybin, ya know, drinkin’ champagne and orange juice. And I’m over in the corner; I can’t have fun anymore. See, once you’ve been busted by the truth, you’ve been busted. You can’t fake it anymore. You can’t go around sayin’, ‘Well, who really knows?’ ‘Cause you really know. You don’t wanna know. But I knew. Jesus is the Lamb of God. His death paid my karmic debt. See, I had a debt I couldn’t pay. I had debt I could not pay. I mean, I’m a murderer, I’m a liar, I’m a thief, I’m everything you’re not supposed to be. I did it all. One time I was doing a newspaper interview, and the reporter said, ‘Well, what did you do?’ I said, ‘Well, ya know the Ten Commandments?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I broke ’em. All of ’em. A lot.’

That’s what I did. And that’s what we all did. And there has to be justice. How could God not allow justice to be? He couldn’t just arbitrarily say, ‘that’s okay, Barry. You’re forgiven.’ And Jesus said, ‘I will go. I will satisfy the demands of justice on his behalf.’ And now the Bible says if I should stumble, if I should sin, it says God is faithful and just. You know what that justice cost? It cost Jesus’ life. And He did that for me, He did that for you, He did that for every person that’s gonna ever hear these words. So that I could be forgiven and truly, truly be free. That happened in 1971. I fell on my face on the floor of that house in Stone Canyon. I said, ‘God, I don’t know why, how; if I wake up alive tomorrow I’ll follow You wherever You lead me.’ And within a week I was on a Greyhound bus out of Hollywood, and I’ve never looked back, except in awe and wonder at how He revealed Himself to me in my state of mind at that time.”

If you feel that your life feels incomplete or unsatisfying, please follow this link:
What is purpose of life?

Below are my most recent posts related to the subjects of drugs and alcohol:

Dave Hope and Kerry Livgren of Kansas: Their story of deliverance from drugs

The recent events in Little Rock concerning KARK TV’s top weatherman Brett Cummins and his experience of drinking alcohol and snorting coke has left a lot of people asking questions. Since the evening ended in the tragic death of one of Brett’s friends, Dexter Williams, many questions have centered on the use of illegal drugs. […]

Pictures of Dexter Williams

These are some pictures of Dexter Williams. Unfortunately his life was cut short  while drinking and snorting coke with KARK weatherman Brett Cummins. Dexter Williams (Photo from family) Dexter Paul Williams (facebook photo) Related posts: Pictures of Dexter Williams September 7, 2011 – 10:22 pm These are some pictures of Dexter Williams. Unfortunately his life was […]

You tube video “Cocaine is a hell of a drug” about Brett Cummins

Youtube video about Brett Cummins story posted. TV weatherman awakens in hot tub next to naked dead man with ‘dog collar’ around his neck after drug and alcohol-fueled party   By Thomas Durante Last updated at 7:24 PM on 7th September 2011 It may be part of his job to predict when a storm is […]

Brett Cummins turns to drugs instead of God

Brett Cummins has risen to be the top tv weatherman in the evening at KARK News 4. However, something is missing in his life. (I wish Brett would just take the time to read the story by Marvin A. McMickle | Senior Pastor, Antioch Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio at the end of this post). I […]

The sad case of Brett Cummins: Alcohol takes another victim jh14c

Brett Cummins and his friends were drinking heavily and taking drugs on Sunday night and all three of them went to sleep under the influence of alcohol and drugs and only 2 of them woke  up.  This reminds me of a few verses from the Old Testament. (There is hope. Check out the video interviews of Kerry Livgren […]

Picture of Dexter Williams with link to full police report

This is a link to the full police report. (There is hope. Check out the video interviews of Kerry Livgren and Dave Hope of the rock band Kansas.  Also check out an excellent paper by Marvin McMickle on the meaning of the song “I can’t get no satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and where to find the satisfaction.) Dexter […]

KARK Brett Cummins was “snorting…illegal narcotics…” according to friend jh13c

Details concerning what happened are coming out now. It seems that KARK can no longer ignore the fact that Cummins was snorting coke. (There is hope, check out testimony of one who has been delivered from drugs and alcohol and his name is Marvin.)Here is a Democrat-Gazette article on the incident: Man, 24, found dead in […]

Statement from KARK does not mention drug use of Brett Cummins

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