Slammed on Stage

Ard Matthews has strongly denied that any drink or drugs contributed to his butchering of the national anthem on Saturday in Port Elizabeth. A day before Amy Winehouse's family revealed that there were no illegal drugs in her system when she died. And Idols' Freddie Van'Dango has admitted to having a drink or two before being involved in a bar fight in Johannesburg on Friday night.

OK, Ard, if you say so. But it must have been really bad if people are accusing you of being not quite compos mentis as you took to the stage. It might be time to put in a few practice sessions, but preferably somewhere sound-proof.

And on the topic of Amy Winehouse: you don't need illegal drugs to get as high as a kite or to overdose. Between alcohol and prescription drugs many people have taken fatal overdoses – some unintentionally.

The public eye

I didn't quite see Freddie as the barroom brawl type, but clearly I have it wrong. At least he wasn't on stage after he had had a few drinks.

Performing must be enormously stressful. You're in the public eye, and people are critical of your every move. A good performance is such an exhilarating experience, and it must be difficult to get off the high afterwards.

I am not sure if there is a disproportionate use of drugs and alcohol among singers, or whether they just mirror what's going on in the general population. The fact is that performers are in the public eye, whereas the rest of us are not. Joe Soap could happily drink himself into oblivion passed out in front of his TV on a Tuesday night. He's not on stage, he's not in front of the cameras, and few people will be any the wiser.

But if you're on stage, you just can't hide it if you've hit the bottle.

The chaos within

The abuse of drink and drugs, whether legal or illegal, catches up with everyone from Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson to Joe Soap.

And while philosopher Friedrich Nietzche said "you must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star", I think I agree more with Gilbert K. Chesterton, who noted that "artistic temperament is the disease that afflicts amateurs."

Yes, people are driven by different things to excel, but every performer is only as strong as his/her fan base. If a performer is slammed on stage, fans will not feel that they got their money's worth: and another career goes down the tubes.

A performing career requires as much discipline and dedication as any other profession. Stress is simply part of it. A performer, who cannot handle this without booze or drugs, should bow out gracefully before they're chased off the stage, because that's just horrible to watch.

*Susan Erasmus is the deputy editor of Health24.