It is a bitter twist of fate when the body can no longer function to allow you to perform within your chosen field of endeavour. Arguably, this is harder when your talent brought you to fame, and the public expectations are immense. An audience attends a concert to be entertained. The want to escape the harsh realities of life. They do not wish to be privy to the performer’s personal suffering as that would detract from their enjoyment.
Therefore, the performer must fake it to make it. But some things are impossible to fake. showbusiness is known for its sleight of hand, shadows and illusions, but the undeniable truth is that if you can’t hear, you can’t hear; if you can’t sing you can’t sing and if you can’t play an instrument; and if you can’t dance, you can’t dance. For a performer, this would feel like disappearing into a black hole of insignificance.
Huey Lewis, front man singer and harmonica player in the band ‘Huey Lewis & the News’, began to lose his hearing when he was on tour.
He was subsequently diagnosed with Meniere’s disease in 2018, and eventually had to give up performing altogether. The disease rendered him unable to hear music and sing – his stock and trade. Despite being a “cup half full guy”, he was plunged into despair and contemplated suicide. How was he supposed to go on living when he couldn’t do what he loved?
Eric Clapton suffered from peripheral neuropathy in 2017. It left him wheelchair bond, in a lot of pain and unable to play the guitar. In 2021, he was one of the few celebrities who came out to share his adverse reaction to the Covd-19 injection which seemed to cause a flare up of all his previous symptoms. [https://www.brighteon.com/4b76e0ae-1620-42f7-83f8-8f004d2272a7]
In December 2022 Celine Dion shared on social media that she had to delay all her Courage World Tour 2023 dates due to the fact that she had been diagnosed with Stiff Person’s Syndrome. This is a rare neurological disorder which affects 1:1million. The question remains – will this exceptionally talented singer ever be able to perform again? Her last public performance was in March 2020. How can one hit the high notes or practise choreography when her muscle spasms are so unpredictable? When all you know is to do one thing in life, the fact that you can no longer do it, can take all the joy out of living. It was reported in April 2023 that Dion was diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing cancer treatment. If this is the case then it bears out Longfellow’s poetic insight that “disasters come not singly..”
Eric Clapton’s statement in 2017 “I am lucky to be alive at all” is perhaps the best attitude to embrace in the face of such cruel eventualities. Tragic though it may seem, the only way forward is to channel your interests into something different. If you tell yourself that your life is futile because you can no longer do a specific thing, then you may be missing the other opportunities which are available.
We do our heroes no favours by putting them on pedestals only God deserves. They are not superhuman. They get sick, and age and die like the rest of us. We like to think they live charmed lives because of their wealth, fame and status but that may be in only one area of their lives. Are we not all blessed in at least one area of our lives? So we are not so different from them after all.
All three performers still have a lot to give to the world. A career is not the sub-total of anyone’s identity. We have multiple other roles to play but which we often discount due to the career-obsessed western values which permeate our culture and mindsets.
“Certainly work is not always required of a man; there is such a thing as a sacred idlenesss…”[George MacDonald]