The Cost Of Fame And Fortune

I woke up last Thursday to the news that many heard, that Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden, had died.  Living in the Detroit area, this was even bigger news, because he had just played a show the night before. He died in a hotel just a few blocks away from where he had performed.  It was sad news, made even sadder when it came out later that he had killed himself.  It makes me wonder the true cost of fame and fortune.

Back In The Day

After college, a few buddies decided to form a band.  This was back in the mid-1990’s so the alternative music scene was still in full swing (though waning, as a look back reveals).  They were pretty good, and managed to get quite a few gigs playing at local bars and other establishments.  I wasn’t musically gifted so I wasn’t in the band.  But, I hung around with them, helping them load and unload, and keeping track of the money side of things.

As guys that age in a band will do, they often talked what it would be like if they hit it big.  They dreamed of the big recording studios, the huge tours, the buses, the fans, and all the rest.  Talking about it was a lot of fun.

Here’s my secret:  Privately, I prayed that they would never achieve that level of success.

You read that right, I did not want my buddies to become rock stars.

Why Did I Hope Against Fame And Fortune?

So you wonder why I would not support my friends on their ‘dream’ of making it big, right?  

Honestly, the answer was simple.  I was afraid of how they would change.  Because, as much as everyone denies it, once you get famous, you change.  It’s unavoidable.  And, it’s often into a completely different person.

But it’s even worse.

Fame and fortune can bring lots of attention.  But it can also unleash demons.  Lots of them.  Bad ones.

Big success can bring lots of money.  But it can also bring lots of problems, many of which are things that most of us just aren’t prepared to handle.

The rock star lifestyle can be filled with parties, women, and fun, but it can also contain loneliness, addictions, and a loss of control.

Looking at how many musicians have died from things like drug addiction, suicide, alcoholism, or just about anything else, and it’s clear that there’s a cost.  Sometimes that cost is the musicians life.  That isn’t worth it.  It’s not worth the money to potentially get broken in a way where you can never get back together.  That’s the risk that I saw with my friends, and I didn’t want to see even the slightest possibility of this happening.

The Success They Found

My friends dreamed of success back then.  In the end, they never hit it big.  They played for a couple of years and then, as it happens most of the time, it was over.  They had a lot of fun.  There were a few arguments.  They entertained a lot of people.  It was a memorable chapter.

Still, they didn’t hit the level of success that they’d dreamed about.  But they’ve still been successful in my eyes.

I’ve seen those friends get married.  I’ve seen them find happiness with their families. They have successful and fulfilling careers.  They’ve matured as men and have become leaders, mentors, and inspirations to those around them.  Including me.

I have to hope that they look in the mirror and realize that, yes, they did find success.  Because they have.

Readers, have you ever dreamed of becoming a rock star?  Do you think that some rock stars would turn it down if they could do it all over again?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

9 thoughts on “The Cost Of Fame And Fortune”

  1. Honestly I’d never want to be famous. If I could get the money without the fame I’d be all for it, but there is something about being able to go about your day without someone watching and reporting on your every move 24 7 that I wouldn’t trade for money.

  2. I think that the type of fame makes a difference. A literal rock star is one type of fame – then there is movie star fame; professional athlete fame; political fame; writing fame; the fame of being involved in a rescue . . . Of all those different types of fame, I think that the rock star is the one in most danger of encountering the demons you speak of. I don’t think famous writers face the same issues – though Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath might disagree.

  3. I have no interest in being famous. In fact, being in the spotlight is the top thing that keeps me out of politics.

    It’s sad when entertainers, athletes, business moguls, etc. get the priorities messed up and come crashing down. On the other hand, I’m always encouraged by the small percent that seem to have their priorities straight and live happy health lives.

  4. Nice post!

    Well, I’ve never wanted to be a famous rock star. But I have daydreamed about becoming a famous writer.

    You’re right, though: fame is not all it’s cracked up to be. Neither is wealth; I was married for twenty years to a moderately wealthy man (among the top 3% of U.S. earners). Money doesn’t buy happiness.

  5. I wouldn’t mind having more money, but I’d probably turn it down if it came with fame. I don’t want anyone else to have their nose in my business. Not a big fan of the spotlight, either.

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