We recently had a Dutch student stay with us, and a conversation about famous Dutch people provoked two inevitables:
1. My son contributing every single footballer from the Netherlands that he could think of,
and 2. the namedrop of Vincent Van Gogh.
“Van Gogh!” exclaimed my daughter, “wasn’t that him that bit off his own ear?”
What followed were some incredible attempts by my children to fit their ears into their mouths, a feat surely impossible unless they were elephants.
Later that evening I finished a biography I was reading of The Mamas and the Papas. If ever there was a group that was destined not to stay together it was these guys. Remember that great 90’s film The Commitments, about an Irish group that imploded just as they were about to hit the big time?
It was like that. You had Michelle who was married to John; John who was friends with Denny; Denny who was friends with Cass; Cass who was both in love with Denny and friends with Michelle.
Then, just as they were about to sign a recording contract with a record company, Michelle and Denny had an affair. John was angry with Denny. Denny felt guilty about cheating on his friend and upsetting Cass. Cass was angry with Denny and Michelle. Michelle was angry because John blamed her and not Denny. And on and on ad nauseum.
Now it was time to make music. Somehow they managed to last two years.
John, much in the way of songwriters both before and after, used the turmoil in his life to create art. Just like Abba, where the recently divorced Björn came up with the lyrics of The Winner Takes It All and gave it thoughtfully to his ex-wife to sing,
John wrote I Saw Her Again about this betrayal and the group took their medicine and recorded it. Probably with many sideways glances.
From this I began to think of the recently deceased Dolores O’Riordan. Although the cause of death in that London hotel has yet to be disclosed, and it would be wrong to speculate, there are tales of depression and breakdowns, bipolar and a suicide attempt, all in the wake of her terrible experience as a young girl when she was sexually abused between the age of eight and twelve by a man known to her family.
A man who, though she never publically named, approached her at her father’s funeral, as she had long dreaded, tearfully apologising for what he had done.
I thought once again about how artists turn pain into art; about creative tension, struggle and catharsis. How some need to somehow get it out in their work.
And, with Dolores’ personal disclosures, witnessed the heartbreak of this Cranberries song, Fee Fi Fo, shared below complete with lyrics.