Music on Mondays (8-4-14)—Music about suicide

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

For today’s Music on Mondays, I want to touch on a subject that often is considered taboo to talk about: suicide.

Two months before my sixth birthday, my father committed suicide. He did it on his 31st birthday in January 1961.

Suicide affected my life again in 1983 when my then-best friend’s father in Houston committed suicide. I was a pallbearer at the funeral.

Then, on April 15, 1993, I left College Station, Texas, for points north (also known as Canada) to commit suicide. I was 38 at the time, and too patriotic to kill myself in the United States of America. I don’t even know what I mean by that, but that was my thinking at the time.

Long story short, I wound up in San Diego after driving to Fargo, North Dakota, over to Seattle, Washington, up to Vancouver, and then making my way south to San Diego.

As early as 2000, studies started appearing indicating that there was evidence of suicide inheritability, a suicide gene if you will. With the continued overpopulation of the Earth (now approaching eight billion people) and the proliferation of the 24/7 news cycle on the Internet, news about suicides and attempted suicides is much more common than in the distant past.

Approximately one million people die by suicide each year and it is estimated that there are ten to twenty times as many suicide attempts. Along with the suspected suicide gene, many social factors can result in suicide. In the case of my dad, he had discovered that my mom had been cheating on him. In my case, I decided that I didn’t want to live as a closeted gay man, and the Texas society I lived in, as well as my own Mormon (mom) and Catholic (dad) family, wouldn’t permit me to live as an openly gay man. So suicide it was to be….

There are risk factors and warning signs of suicide. Sadly, I’m still at risk and I still do exhibit some warning signs. In fact, in 2000 I was suicidal because I was fired from my job, the best job I ever had. My boss, my friend, had just gotten married to a woman who had expressly told me that she didn’t like me and if she ever married Jeff, she would make sure I was fired. She succeeded. Sadly, six months after they were married, she filed for divorce and took him for $37 million. In Texas we called women like her a gold digger, and she lived and breathed every stereotype.

On May 12, 2012, National Train Day, I disappeared, intent on committing suicide by stepping in front of an Amtrak train cruising around a curve at 90 mph. I knew which curve it was going to be. There would be no chance for the train to stop in time, and I would be assured of being splattered from here to eternity. But I went train riding first, and I had so much fun riding the trains that day that I made it home okay.

For a great discussion about suicide, risk factors, and warning signs, see Recognize the warning signs of suicide. For a list of suicide help lines, see the Wikipedia entry: List of suicide crisis lines.

Here are some of my favorite songs about suicide, its causes, and its lasting effects. The first song, “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan, was my favorite song in 1972 when I was a junior in high school, a time when I was suicidal because I just wasn’t having those feelings for the opposite gender that all my friends were having. It was a frustrating time for me.

Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally) – 1972
The singer tells of his plans to commit suicide after being left at the altar.

Elton John – I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself – 1972
A tongue-in-cheek parody of a moody teenager’s thoughts about suicide.

Queen – Don’t Try Suicide – 1980
Interesting in that this is one of the very few
Queen songs that they never performed in concert.

Ozzy Osbourne – Suicide Solution – 1980
On January 12, 1986, Osbourne was served with a lawsuit
by the parents of John McCollum,
a depressed teenager who committed suicide
allegedly after listening to this song.

Metallica – Fade to Black – 1984
This song address suicidal feelings.
Metallica reported in 1991 that they got hundreds of letters from kids telling how they related to the song and that it made them feel better.

INXS – Suicide Blonde – 1990
Written by Michael Hutchence,
who committed suicide on November 22, 1997.
His lover, Paula Yates, died of an overdose on
September 17, 2000, after attempting suicide in 1998.

Pantera – Suicide Note – 1996
Almost one third of suicides are accompanied by a suicide note.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Again, for a great discussion about suicide, risk factors, and warning signs, see Recognize the warning signs of suicide. For a list of suicide help lines, see the Wikipedia entry: List of suicide crisis lines.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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59 thoughts on “Music on Mondays (8-4-14)—Music about suicide

  1. colltales

    That was very courageous of you, Russell. You have no idea how much you’re helping those affecting by that sort of thoughts offering your own take on it, and each day that you endure, may be an inspiration to everyone. Thanks for that.
    I’ve published this post about a year ago http://colltales.com/2013/06/19/the-hypothesis/
    and it provoked some the most intense, visceral feedback I’ve ever received from my readers.

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  2. ksbeth

    thank you for sharing your powerful story, russell. i’m sorry for all that you’ve endured and for all that you continue to endure. your words may help others and help you as well to see that you are a powerful and kind person, who is meant to be here, and to go on living for a long time. hugs ) beth

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Music used to be my therapy, but with the state of music today, I have turned to blogging. If I ever miss two days of blogging, you’ll now that something has happened. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

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  3. Gallivanta

    When I read the title of your post, I was going to give it a miss. I know too many who have been affected by suicide. I thought your post would bring up emotions I didn’t want to know about right now. However, I am glad I did eventually open your post and read it. ( can’t listen to the music though). Suicide is a subject that needs more open discussion and stories like yours.

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  4. Sand Spring Chesapeakes

    Thank you for this post. I’m sorry you struggle with it and am glad you changed your mind. You make a difference to me, love your posts and learning so much from you. My favorite songs are death songs and Metallica is my favorite band. I’m glad their song made a difference. Bless you and keep smiling Russell.

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  5. philosophermouseofthehedge

    What a list – who knew?
    LIfe’s a battle in any case – genetic predispostions create more intense hazards (not to mention society’s apparent determination to grind people down. The best revenge is to find a place and way to survive despite. (We had a boss’s wife like that..same results….is it genetics or environment do you wonder)
    Hang int here. Great discovery about trains…the perhaps are some sort of mechanical assistant for humans we have yet to understand….they are magic

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Yep. One that Julian, my 16-year-old employee, pointed out that I did not know about is “Tomorrow is Today” by Billy Joel, a song containing snippets of his suicide note when he tried to commit suicide by drinking furniture polish. I had no idea that Joel had tried to commit suicide. In fact, I thought I had a complete collection of Joel’s music but find now that I am missing his very first album, “Cold Spring Harbor,” issued in 1971. By the end of the day it will be in my music collection.

      ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

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  6. Bonnie

    An important post; revealing (you are courageous) and informative. Thanks, will pass this along. So glad you are here and not *there*
    (live 2.5 miles from Cold Spring Harbor)

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  7. coastalcrone

    Suicide has touched more of our lives that we are often willing to admit. You are courageous indeed to share this. I am thankful you over came your harmful thoughts and can be an example for others and can live your life honestly. Texas is a little more tolerant these days but it is still red. Bravo to you for the life you have made!

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  8. paulaacton

    I am not sure if the story has been as big over there as it obviously has been here but added to the tragic legacy of Michael Hutchence death is now the terrible overdose of Paula’s daughter in circumstances which mirror those of her mothers passing it is something we shall never know if it was intended, the real tragedy is that sometimes those left behind never recover no matter how well the fool every one into believing they have.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I thought you were talking about Tiger, and I had not heard of that. However, a quick Google search tells me that you’re talking of Peaches, and news of her death did not make any waves here in the United States, not even in the music industry from what I can remember. I was unaware of it.

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      1. paulaacton

        The news here has suggested just like her mother she hid her drugs in childrens sweet packaging and she leaves two small children behind her own youngest I think around the same age as Tiger, the last picture she shared on her twitter was one of her and her mother taken just before her mothers death, it a tragic that her siblings now have to relieve their mothers death through the loss of their sister

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  9. mydailyminefield

    Talking about suicide shouldn’t be taboo. No subject should ever be taboo. Maybe if we humans would just “get over ourselves” and learn to “talk” and “listen” we’d find a way to solve problems that didn’t include trying to bomb each other off the face of the planet. You talk about suicide any time you want. There are so many of us out here who relate to what you say. More than you would like to know. Great post!

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  10. laurie27wsmith

    A brave post Russel but I guess you already know that. I admire you for many things and one of them is living your life the way you want to and not bowing down to what society thinks. Another thing is you have great taste in music, your photography and not forgetting the guts to stand up and say what you have here. Suicide is such a taboo subject and people who attempt it are stigmatised, called cowards, thoughtless etc. Those who have never been there don’t seem to understand the physical and mental pain that comes form depression. My sister took an overdose in 1988. Unknown to my son in 1982 he saved me from shooting myself, by getting home form school early. In 2001 I found myself standing on a 5 gallon drum in the garage with a noose around my neck and no recollection of how I came to be there. There’s a little voice that hides in your mind and comes out when life is not going too well. It seduces you with thoughts of a painless existence. I tell it to eff off now.
    Thanks again for camping in my blog Russel.
    Cheers
    Laurie.
    PS, Yes, sex the other taboo.

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  11. Mary

    Bravo for you Russel to talk about suicide, the quiet subject that is uncomfortable for many, how it’s affected your life and how you have struggle with the demon. Yeah TX is red, but you are who you are, no matter the family, I wish you much love and peace as you move through this state we call “life.”

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  12. marvaseaton

    You are very courageous to share your story. In life most of us have struggles in one form or another. I hope and pray no matter what happen you will never lose that zest for life.

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  13. The Presents of Presence

    I find you courageous and I am honored you shared your feelings in this post as suicide is so taboo and yet it happens. I will keep you in my prayers that you don’t have those feelings again since you are such a special person in so many of our lives (and especially Jim and Zoey’s). You have endured much in your life that you have shared with us ~ you are an inspiration Russell. Never forget that! ♥ Big hugs to you.

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  14. mythreemoggies

    What a powerful post and one that deserves everyones full attention as you never know around you who feels like this. We are so glad you are with us sharing your life as your posts are beautiful and meaningful xxx

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  15. stregajewellry

    Russel, this is an incredible post. You are brave to share thee feelings and I am glad that you have survived your pain and alone-ness to reach out to others. Suicide is something that most people do not like to think about or talk about and that, to me is part of the problem. My first contact with suicide was at such an early age,…..my uncle was a WWII survivor of a boat that was sunk far in the ocean. He survived while all around him, men were drowned or eaten by sharks. His whole life was spent in and out of VA hospitals. Suicide is such a lonely and desolate word. Who could have been more alone than my uncle? Who in this world was there who could understand his nightmares or his feelings? He did live to be an old man but struggled with suicidal tendencies his whole life. Later on in my young life, a neighbor tried to hang himself. My attitudes were formed at this time by overhearing whispers. Suicide seemed a weakness, a shame that a family must carry forever. many years later, I understood a tiny bit during a prolonged illness. Upon waking some mornings, I could not reach within myself and find the REAL me, the person I was before all the pain and disability. There where days when I thought that I would be better off if I took a gun and splattered my brains all over the wall. It’s a very lonely issue and it is one that people face every day and never know how many others are out there feeling the same things. Hats off to you, Russel for your courage in posting this. I’m glad you found strength within and support to encourage you. Amen.

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