What is Music Therapy?

Music is therapeutic. Music drives and develops our ability to express our emotions in creative and healthy ways and is also a tool to help assist with emotion regulation.

Emotion regulation is the ability to appropriately respond to events and stress with behaviors that are socially acceptable. Emotion regulation is an essential and healthy function to be utilized for a healthy mind. Poor emotion regulation is often associated with mental health disorders such as depression.

Is Music Your Passion?

If you possess a passion for music, figure out where in music your passion lies, whether it be writing music or lyrics, singing, playing an instrument, etc. Here is a list of tips to get your music therapy sessions started:

  • Listen to your favorite song and play an instrument or sing along with it 
  • Read and learn from books and magazines about musicians and music
  • Practice, practice, practice, alone or with others
  • Lessons aren't required but can be helpful
  • Join or start a band

Remember, there are tons of videos on YOUTUBE to watch to learn more. The library probably has some useful resources. You can also search the internet for tips and tutorials.

Below are the stories behind famous musicians, all diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Excerpts and illustrations on this page produced by Norwegian writer and artist, Kim Solvang Andersen.

Marshall Bruce Mathers, aka Eminem

Condition: Bipolar Disorder, Substance Abuse

There are no two ways about it: Eminem (born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, Oct. 17, 1972, aka Em) is steeped in controversy. This controversy is in no small part due to his lyrics being drenched in violent and/or obscene imagery.

I would, however, suggest that people in general seem to have forgotten the ancient art of storytelling as therapy: the violent lyrical fantasies of Eminem, channeling his dark id in the shape of his alter ego "Slim Shady," in an effort to cope with and quell his own personal demons, struggles and upheavals.

Song lyrics tend to be viewed in a rather different light than other forms of literature, such as the more accepted and high-brow endeavors of poetry and novels, short stories and prose. By and large, however, they are nothing but trees sprung from the same seed: the art of storytelling, a tradition as old as humankind itself.

Eminem spent his childhood between Missouri and Michigan, eventually settling in Detroit in his teens. In high school, at the tender age of fourteen, he began rapping along with a high school friend, adopting the stage names "Manix" and "M&M." "M&M" quickly became "Eminem," as one would assume. Under this stage name, he entered battle rapping – a fictionalized account of which can be seen in the movie "8 Mile," which won Eminem an Oscar for its anthem "Lose Yourself" – he found it difficult to be accepted by the majority African-American audience, but his skills did shine through in the end, seeing him invited to join several rap groups, the first being "New Jacks," which disbanded fairly quickly. He then joined "Soul Intent," with whom he released a single, featuring Proof. Eminem and Proof broke off and formed D12, a six member crew more akin to a hip-hop collective like the Wutang Clan, than a regular touring group.

While trying to establish a career as a rapper, Eminem had a daughter named Hailey, with his girlfriend Kim, forcing him to focus on providing for his family more than on his fledgling career as an artist. He managed to assemble the album "Infinite," which received mixed attention in the underground in 1996.

It was during and after this release that the Slim Shady alter ego was born, – a desperately needed channeling of his dark id after a bad split with Kim, which saw him moving back in with his mother, increasing his consumption of drugs and alcohol, and finally culminating in a botched suicide attempt. No wonder, then, that his following EP "the Slim Shady EP" was a rather dark affair; all these struggles exploding on paper and through music that saw the birth of many of his trademarks: twitchy nasal rhyming, violent imagery, chaos and upheaval.

After Em came second place at the 1997 Rap Olympics MC battle in Los Angeles, Dr Dre received a copy of the Slim Shady EP from then head of Interscope records, Jimmy Lovine. Dr Dre proved eager to work with Eminem, cutting the record "The Slim Shady LP" quickly in the fall of 1998, and releasing it in 1999 during which time Eminem reunited and married Kim. The record turned Eminem into a superstar over night.

The Marshall Mathers LP was released in the summer of 2000, leaving no doubt at all about Eminem being one of the greatest stars in pop music, as it sold two million copies in the first two weeks.

Controversies abound, however, with Em dissing other artists, popstars, various and sundry, adding bucketloads of infamy to his already infamous star.

Eminem retreated from the spotlight to cut the record "The Eminem Show," The record saw Em receiving criticism for not expanding his horizons much, if at all. Then came "Encore" in 2004, a more mature record which had most of the controversy happening behind the scenes: a bus crash, followed by cancelled dates and a stint in rehab. Rumours abound about his eventual retirement, which the 2005 release of "Curtain Call: The Hits" did nothing to dampen. 2006 saw Em remarrying and divorcing Kim within a matter of four months, as well as the shooting and resultant death of Proof in a club in Detroit.

Then came a long period of inactivity and relative seclusion, wherein Em retreated to his Detroit home, appearing for short stints here and there, but not releasing any new material.

In 2009, the world saw the release of Relapse, an album whose title alone alluded to Em's struggles with prescription drugs. Despite not being a chart topper, the album went platinum and was followed by Relapse: Refill, an expanded version of the album appearing in June of 2010. 

The Marshall Mathers LP2, a nostalgic themed set of new material appeared in 2013, proving that both Eminem and his alter ego Slim Shady had more to give to the world.

Through lyrics that are steeped in satire and absurdity, violent fantasies and tender moments, relatively quiet introspection and anger directed at the world in general, Eminem stands still, in my humble opinion, as one of the most talented lyricists of his generation; lyrics that spring from a well of personal demons, tamed, chained, and bound through the vast medium of storytelling.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana

Condition: Bipolar Disorder, Substance Abuse
 

"Why the hell do journalists insist on coming up with second-rate Freudian evaluations of my lyrics, when 90 percent of the time they`ve transcribed them incorrectly?" Cobain said in regards to journalists attempting to decipher meaning from his lyrics. Odd that they would do that, he seemed to believe, since his lyrics took backseat to his music. Kurt Cobain and the press were not good friends.

 

Cobain, born February 2, 1967, was labeled "The Spokesman for a Generation" and Nirvana the "Flagship Band of Generation X." Cobain himself loathed this. No wonder, as the ones who claim to be the spokesperson for a generation never are. His humility and kindness shines through in most everything he did. Described as a happy, excitable child; both sensible and compassionate, Cobain's talent for visual art showed itself early in his life. Sitting in his bedroom drawing his favourite characters from television and movies. This talent was nurtured by his grandmother, Iris Cobain, an accomplished artist herself.

 

At the age of nine, his parents divorced. Young Cobain was devastated by this. It had a profound effect on his life and, as a natural result, his art.

 

"I remember feeling ashamed, for some reason. I was ashamed of my parents. I couldn`t face some of my friends at school anymore, because I desperately wanted to have the classic, you know, typical family. Mother, father. I wanted that security, so I resented my parents for quite a few years because of that," he later told journalists.

 

For his fourteenth birthday, he got a choice for a birthday present from his uncle: a used guitar, or a bicycle. Luckily, he chose the guitar. Oddly enough, despite being right-handed, he played the guitar left-handed. As many alienated and disenfranchised teens, Cobain found escape and relief through the punk-scene of the time, through punk-shows in and around Seattle. The raw anger must have resonated with him, being from a broken home and dropping out from high school a mere two weeks prior to graduation.

 

"Find employment or leave," his mother told him due to him dropping out of high school. He found his clothes and possessions packed in crates a week later. Feeling banished from his home, he lived with friends, occasionally sneaking into his mother`s basement. Sometime afterwards, he claimed to have been living under a bridge crossing the Wishka River, later refuted by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic as Cobain altering history. "He hung out there, but you couldn't live on those muddy banks, with the tides coming up and down. That was his own revisionism." It inspired the song "Something in the way" however, which in my humble opinion, is one of Nirvana's finest songs.

 

Nirvana was formed in 1987. In 1989, they released their first album "Bleach" on Sub Pop. "Nevermind" followed in 1991, a more polished affair, more reminiscent of a pop record than a punk record in regards to mastering and mixing. "We sounded like a pop band. The angriest pop band in the world," Cobain stated. Nevermind broke through, turning Nirvana into superstars overnight. Cobain struggled with the media attention and fame, suffering chronic bronchitis and an undiagnosed stomach condition, as well as depression, for many years. The stomach condition might have been due to an abuse of various substances, or stress, or both. Cobain claimed to use heroin as a means of relieving himself of the pain in his stomach. This might not be strictly true, as Cobain was "really into getting fucked up: drugs, acid, any kind of drug," according to Krist Novoselic.

 

Whatever the case may be, it seems fairly clear that Cobain struggled with a metric ton of personal demons, as well as physical pain, released through his art as well as being hidden beneath a crushing wave of substance abuse. His music encapsulates dread, angst, self-doubt and anger. A common core amongst generation X, a generation raised on television and breakfast cereal.

 

On February 24, 1992 he married Courtney Love. They had a daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, on August 18, 1992. Their relationship was rocky at best, with both abusing drugs.

 

On April 8, 1994, Cobain’s body was found in his Lake Washington Boulevard home. He was dead from a shotgun wound to the head. His blood contained vast amounts of heroin, as well as diazepam. This was a few days after him checking out of drug rehabilitation. It seemed his demons had overtaken him at last; another tortured artist finally succumbing to the pressure of his demons.

 

He was posthumously inducted into the rock`n`roll hall of fame in 2014. His legacy remains, as he is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in alternative rock. An inspiration to many, and to me – first experiencing Nirvana through a mixtape my older brother made for me back in the mid-nineties, Nirvana served as a drain through which I could flush my own feelings of alienation and angst, a liberating force through my own odd struggles and pubescent angst. Cobain was a hero for many, and still is, being a posterchild for the saying "live fast, die young."

Roger

Condition: Schizophrenia

Roger "Syd" Barrett is arguably one of the most important figures in psychedelic rock. His star shone brighter than most, and burned out far too soon. Speculations are that his psyche went awry after far too much fame and way too many drugs too early in his life.

 

Born Roger Keith Barrett on January 6, 1946 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, Syd Barret was the founder, songwriter and vocalist of space-rock pioneers Pink Floyd. He is responsible for their first album, the absolute masterpiece that is the Piper at the Gates of Dawn. (1967) Some die-hard fans claim that this is the only Pink Floyd album worth listening to, or acknowledging for that matter. (AN: I do not agree with this assessment. I much prefer The Wall, grandiose and decadent as it may well be. Piper is, however, a milestone in psychedelic rock and its impact on the world of music can never be underestimated.)

 

Syd left and/or was fired from Pink Floyd early in 1968, after his erratic behavior became too much to cope with. Pink Floyd never regained the incredible, erratic and insane energy nor the childlike humor and wonder from their first record, though Syd appears on a few tracks on the Saucerful of Secrets – Pink Floyd's second album. It is clear that his muse was leading him in a different direction than the rest of Floyd. Or the other way around.

 

Retreating for a while, Syd re-emerged in 1970 with the Madcap Laughs and Barret, two albums supported in no small way by his former band mates, and produced by his replacement in Pink Floyd, David Gilmour. More folksy and less powerful than the work he did with Pink Floyd, though just as eccentric and humorous, these recordings are an interesting glimpse into his creative madness. At times, I can almost feel Syd slipping away whilst I am listening to them. On a personal note: my copies of these records were stolen during a party I hosted when I was nineteen years old. I am still, at thirty-two years old, looking for the thief, despite having replaced the records a long time ago. They meant, and still mean, a lot to me.

 

After these two records, Syd 's psychological problems grew in severity, and he withdrew into seclusion, never releasing any more material. A sad state of affairs: the world lost a lot with this unfortunate turn of events. Opel was released in the late 80`s, being a decent collection of previously unreleased material.

 

After 1973, Syd retreated to his mother`s home in Cambridge, where he spent his time gardening. From time to time, photographs surfaced, revealing him to be a fairly normal, albeit grumpy-looking man. Famously, he showed up at Pink Floyds sessions for "Wish You Were Here", with all his body-hair shaved off (a scene in Pink Floyds the Wall mirrors this: Bob Geldoff as Pink removing his body hair in front of a mirror). The band declined his offer to participate on the album, despite a few of the songs on the album playing homage to Syd himself.

 

Syd died peacefully at his home in 2006, at the age of 60, after complications from cancer and diabetes, leaving an undeniable mark on the world of music; a candle that burned too bright, too short.

Sinéad O’Connor

Condition: Bipolar Disorder

In 1999, Sinčad O`Connor was ordained as the first-ever priestess of the Latin Tridentine Church. This church being a dissident Catholic group, led by a Roman Catholic Bishop from Ireland, Michael Cox. In 1992, she became notorious for tearing up a photograph of Pope John Paul II, naming the Catholic Church as "the real enemy". According to Sinčad, it is the clerical hierarchy and the child abuse within the institution of the Catholic Church that is the issue, as she maintains that she is a Catholic, and devoutly spiritual.

Born December 8, 1966 in Dublin, Ireland, Sinčad O' Connor was subject to an abusive mother, as well as her parents divorcing early on in her childhood. Being caught shoplifting, she was sent to a reform school.

Sinčad O`Connor is incredibly fierce and powerful, as well as extraordinarily vulnerable in her vocal style. She was discovered by a local drummer in Dublin, from the popular Irish Band In Tua Nua, with whom she co-wrote their hit song "Take My Hand."

Sinčad ran away to Dublin prior to finishing school, making a living singing and playing guitar in the streets and pubs of Dublin, as well as working for a singing telegram service.

In 1987, whilst performing with the Dublin band Ton Ton Macoute, Sinčad was 'discovered' by the London record label Ensign records, a small label that experienced success with The Boomtown Rats, Flash and the Pan, Eddy Grant, the Waterboys, and others. Ensign released her Debut album "The Lion and the Cobra" in 1987, to very good critical reviews, praising her powerful and expressive voice, as well as the complexity of her songs. Though, it must be mentioned, they noted the very uncommercial quality of her songs. Despite the uncommercial nature of her record, however, the album sold over 500,000 copies, thus making it go platinum.

In 1990, Sinčad`s second album was released. "I Do Not Want What I Haven`t Got," an international success in great part due to the popularity of her single "Nothing Compares 2 U" (first written by Prince and first recorded by a band called the Family).

In 1991, Sinčad was named Artist of the Year by Rolling Stone Magazine.

Fame does not come without drawbacks, however, and the stress imposed by said fame, as well as a tumultuous personal life and upbringing and controversial statements (for instance announcing support for the arguably terrorist organization IRA, only to withdraw the statement one year later).

Her next records, Am I Not Your Girl? (1992) and Universal Mother, (1994) failed to draw attention, both commercially and critically, leaving her recording career faltering in the late 1990s. An extended custody battle began in 1995 between Sinčad and her ex-lover John Waters, an Irish Journalist, over their infant daughter Roisin, in which Waters claimed Sinčad to be an unfit mother.

While recovering from a failed suicide attempt due in no small part to the custody battle, Sinčad agreed to let Roisin live with Water in Dublin. This did not last long, however, as she snatched the girl from Water`s home, flying her back to London.

"Faith & Courage," her first album in six years, was released in 2000. In 2001, Sinčad married British journalist Nick Sommerlad in a secret ceremony. The marriage was a result of a whirlwind romance, and it would seem that Sinčad was struggling with impulse control, as the pair split up soon after. Sinčad then released an album of traditional Irish music, Sean-Nós Nua in 2002.

In 2003, however, Sinčad announced her retirement from music, stating that "I am a very shy person, believe it or not. So I ask with love, that I be left in peace and privacy by people who love my records too." She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty, was to be her last recording. Clearly a spiritual piece.

Sinčad`s retirement only lasted two years, as she released the Reggae-influenced Throw Down Your Arms in 2005, following that with "Theology" in 2007. She married friend and frequent collaborator Steve Cooney in 2010. The marriage broke the following spring. She then married Barry Herridge in 2011 in Las Vegas, only to announce the marriage was over 18 days later. In late 2015, she experienced a mental health crisis, writing two notes on her Facebook page that she was suicidal. Social media being a place for Sinčad to talk and tell about her struggles and hardships. Her family requested that the Facebook page be taken down, and Sinčad was hospitalized after the first post.

Disappearing for a day while biking in Chicago in May of 2016, Sinčad was found by authorities later and proceeded to write a scathing attack on her family and upbringing, blaming them for her mental health crisis, as well as mentioning that she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder some years prior.

Sinčad O`Connor is, in this authors humble opinion, one of the finest vocalists about. Her voice shines and flickers with passion and vulnerability; a comforting light in the darkness beckoning you to come to it for comfort. Her voice and passion, it appears to me, encapsulates her personal struggles and demons in a way that none other have matched – a conduit through which her trauma may be filtered and understood, by more than just herself.

​Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys

Condition: Schizoaffective Disorder, Substance Abuse

Widely considered as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, American composer of popular music during the Rock`n`Roll era, Brian Douglas Wilson, born June 20, 1942 in Hawthorn, California, spent several years generally isolated due to mental illness and drug addiction.

Brian Wilson's mark on popular music is profound. He founded the Beach Boys in 1961, combining the urgency and – dare I say – rebellion of Chuck Berry style Rock`n`Roll, along with the brilliant harmonies of the Four Freshmen, creating lush, perfectly produced soundscapes which captured the free-floating feel of the tumultuous 1960s, encapsulating the weird vibes and sense of freedom emanating from pure, youthful rebellion.

After experimenting in the late 60s with new songwriting structures and production techniques, Brian Wilson retreated from the leadership position of the Beach Boys, leaving most of the control to his younger brother Carl Wilson.

In 1988, after a long period of seclusion, drug abuse and mental illness, Brian Wilson released his first solo-album "Brian Wilson", a self-titled affair that did not reach commercial success, despite a very promising lead single "Love and Mercy." He tried again with a second solo album "Sweet Insanity" (a fitting title, if ever there was one!) This record, however, was rejected outright and shelved permanently by the record company Sire. As an odd fact, the Beach Boys also released a comeback album around the same time, topping the charts with "Kokomo."

Brian Wilson's muse spoke to him yet again in the 1990s, forming a creative resurgence and a callback to his brilliance. It began with a collaboration with mid-60s collaborator Van Dyke Parks on the album "Orange Crate Art" (1995), featuring the songwriting of Parks and the vocals of Brian Wilson. Along with this album, Brian Wilson was the subject of a documentary entitled "I just wasn`t made for these times," for which he recorded a full soundtrack. Then came 1998's "Imagination;" a throwback to his grand and lush Beach Boys productions of the 60s. Yet again, it failed commercially.

During the 2000s, Brian Wilson started touring, a departure of sorts of his usual fortè, where he usually stayed at home or in the studio as the Beach Boys went on tour. During these tours, he was more often than not accompanied by large backing bands. The 2000s saw the release of a handful of live albums, as well as a studio-album entitled "Over My Head." "Over My Head" was somewhat overshadowed, however, by his next project, the preparation of legendary Beach Boys album "SmiLE" for a live debut, as well as new studio-recordings of its songs. The new album SmiLE was debuted at the Royal Festival Hall in London on February 20, 2004 and recorded in the studio in April of the same year. Both of these recordings were hailed in reviews, prompting Brian Wilson to launch a full world tour in support of the record. In October 2005, the seasonal album "What I Really Want for Christmas" was released.

"That Lucky Old Sun," a thematic work based on the great American Songbook, commissioned by the London`s Southbank Centre to help kick of the venue`s 2007 season, premiered at the Royal Festival Hall that same year, released later in 2007 as a studio album.

In 2009, Brian Wilson returned to the studio to put his own creative voice on a number of George Gerschwin covers. At the same time, and by request from the George Gerschwin's estate, Brian Wilson also completed two piano compositions that were left unfinished by Gerschwin at the time of his death. "Brian Wilson Re-imagines Gerschwin" was released in August 2010 as Wilsons first album released on the Disney-affiliated Pearl label. "In the Key of Disney" was released the following year, the second of his Pearl recordings, featuring 11 classic Disney songs.

Brian Wilson officially reunited with the Beach Boys in 2012, touring and recording during the first half of 2012,  releasing "That`s Why God Made the Radio" in June of that year. This was the first album of new material from the Beach Boys, with Brian Wilson, in more than 15 years, earning positive reviews and debuting at number three on the billboard charts.

Brian Wilson began recording as a solo-act again in 2014, using songs originally written for a planned Beach Boys' album. The album consisted of guest musicians instead and was released on Capitol records in 2015, entitled "No Pier Pressure." 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark Beach Boys' album "Pet Sounds," a classic in its own right and – of course – the first Beach Boys album I ever heard. Brian Wilson embarked on a world tour to commemorate the legendary album, simultaneously releasing a new album and the DVD from the No Pier Pressure tour.

Following this, a compilation spanning 30 years of his career was launched, entitled "Playback: the Brian Wilson Anthology."

From drug abuse, mental illness and isolation to a resurgence in popularity with new creative directions, Brian Wilson remains standing: an important composer, marked as much by his times as Brian Wilson himself laid his mark on those same times.

The above excerpts and illustrations were completed by Kim Solvang Andersen, an exceptionally insightful writer and artist from beautiful Sandnes, Norway who contributes to Brite Haven's blog. Andersen is married and has two puppies. He describes himself as both a word juggler and cultural barxist. He speaks two languages fluently, his native Norwegian tongue and English. He specializes in abstract artwork. 

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