Joan Smith: Pete Doherty is not a child

Share
Related Topics

I suppose it's one way of seeing whether short prison sentences work: the singer Pete Doherty was released on Wednesday after serving less than two months of a six-month sentence for possession of cocaine. It was his third spell in jail, and the judge who sentenced him remarked on his "appalling record", which includes at least 13 previous court appearances. Doherty has been arrested many times for drug and driving offences, and he could face another prison sentence after allegedly breaking into a record shop in Germany in March.

His latest conviction followed a shocking series of events which concluded with the death of a young film-maker, Robyn Whitehead, who had been making a documentary about Doherty. He was cleared of any involvement in her death from a heroin overdose, but Whitehead filmed herself and Doherty smoking crack cocaine a couple of days before she died. It wasn't the first unnatural death to have taken place in Doherty's circle; an actor called Mark Blanco fell from a balcony at a flat in East London in 2006 shortly after a confrontation with Doherty.

This is a pretty terrible history. "He takes no pleasure in his addiction," Doherty's lawyer said in May. "He is acutely aware of the agonising nature of addiction." But I'm still not sure this is how fans of his bands Babyshambles and The Libertines view the singer, while music sites sometimes behave as though his criminal record is little more than an inconvenience to his singing career.

Addiction is far from being a secret in the music world. Amy Winehouse's latest tour had to be cancelled when she appeared on stage in Belgrade so drunk she could hardly stand. But there's a tendency to treat stars such as Doherty, 31, and Winehouse, 27, as wayward children, instead of adults with extremely serious and possibly life-threatening addictions.

In 2005, Doherty was championed by Sir Elton John, who invited him on stage for what turned into a cringe-making joint performance at Live 8, and the singer repaid him with the accusation that the fiasco had been the fault of John's band. In May this year, just before he went to prison, he complained that he hadn't been invited to Whitehead's funeral, berating her father as a "deranged old silly".

These are not the actions of someone who is emotionally mature, but attitudes to Doherty are confused by the UK's irrational drug laws. The right is prone to moral panics and demands for bans, while legalisation campaigners sometimes behave as though recreational drug use is problem-free. Doherty and Winehouse are proof of the damage addictions can do to talented human beings and they both appear to be stuck in a destructive cycle. Doherty had barely emerged from his latest sentence when it was announced that he was going to appear at a gig in North London yesterday afternoon, timed to allow him to observe an evening curfew.

Sometimes performers agree to a punishing schedule for financial or career reasons. But they're often anxious individuals who crave the attention of fans and the adrenalin rush of performance. It's another species of addiction, and the myth of the tortured artist is at hand to glamorise what would otherwise look like wilfully self-destructive behaviour. Michael Jackson's untimely death is a reminder that drug dependency and the apparently limitless indulgence of fans can prove a toxic combination.

www.politicalblonde.com;



React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own