John Martyn- The Man, The Legend, The Monster

The intro of many John Martyn tunes are melodic, chirpy, masterful, folky and honest. I cannot recreate a literary version of that for this intro as I haven’t had enough lifetime sadness, my heart hasn’t been filled with deep, dark regret, anger and most importantly, I haven’t drunk and smoked to depths that the human body physically can not repair.

It seems that these are the recurring themes of every person behind most of my favourite songs and records personal life, which is a harem of enchanting, haunting and surreal to hear as a young musician looking at their inspirational hero’s for inspirational hero-like idea’s, phrases and events. This is disconcerting as the people that drive you and inspire you do all the things that the people around you and in control of you, say are wrong. Most confusing of all, these musicians seem most proud of it and had their most personal, happiest moments whilst in this state of mind ad physical activity that is too dark in in the depths of emotion, too feverish for any responsible up bringer to encourage.

John himself is the perfect example of this, he was often described as  violent , selfish and horrible to be around. People literally couldn’t stand being around him. Yet he is proud to be that kid of person. Not one thriving off sadness but certainly not driving out pain upon impact. John uses the word ‘carthartic’ a lot to describe his music and why he wrote it. He feels it right to experience mental pain and breakdown, and using drink and drugs certainly helped John get to the bottom of his sadness.An direct quote from the documentary was “If he wasn’t drunk or high he was trying to get drunk or high, constantly” This was coming from his first wife Beverly Martyn, another folk singer who was the subject of many an enchanting love song written by John up untill 1980. Then on he had to push Island records to release the dark disturbingly sad and deep records following his break up.

Yet he is proud to be that kid of person, and he has had many bad things happen to him, to name a few: The horrible breakup of his first marriage, the death of his second wife, being horribly drunk and stoned every night, his leg being amputated, death of a child, not aloud to see his many children. These paved the way for some of the greatest, musically most honest, and  emotional songs ever written, that i would dream to have the capacity, skill and way with language to write…but I don’t want to ever go through any of those things John has. These songs make John an anti hero because they help others, including himself, to release pain and travel to a mental state of content, happiness, or to simply get lost in the music and feel a spiritual standstill within your whole body, which in my opinion, is why I listen to music.

But I feel music you make isn’t your music if it is not honest. You cannot put on a musical toupee and become someone else for your music. But then how can you judge what is honest? Which brings me back to these exploreable but in no way fully answerable questions:

Do you have to experience physical or mental pain to feel happy and content?

Do you have to experience sadness or pain and suffering to write honest mystical songs?

What is by define, an honest song?



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