Volume 91, Issue 49

Tuesday, November 25, 1997



Sex, drugs, death

Musicians tend to have a flare for the dramatic and lead singer of INXS, Michael Hutchence was no exception. Possibly one of the larger egomaniacal characters on the music scene, Hutchence committed suicide on Saturday. Those hastily inclined may be unsympathetic to a man who has taken his own life – but Hutchence suffered from depression.

Found naked, hanging by a belt in his hotel room in Sydney, Australia – Hutchence brought an end to a successful career with the Perth-based rock outfit which played together for 20 years.

The group's popularity tapered off in the early '90s, but was experiencing a resurgence in the last year. INXS was just about to kick off their 20th anniversary tour eerily entitled "Lose Your Head." (Not quite as eery as John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane").

He departs in the true rock 'n' roll manner (e.g., suicide, overdose, car crash or airplane crash). Hutchence lived the jet-set lifestyle indulging in booze, drugs and women: all various forms of escape.

It is rumoured he may have died by autoerotic asphyxiation, (the act of blocking one's air supply for heightened sexual gratification) and whether it is true or not is inconsequential. Hutchence's overindulgence in Epicurean lifestyle is well documented, but some sympathy must be given as he was chemically imbalanced and being treated with Prozac for depression.

On the surface, Hutchence did not have much to be depressed about. With INXS, formed in 1977, he broke into the mainstream in the early '80s with "Original Sin" and exploded with the 1987 album Kick which sold nine million copies. Hutchence was also set to marry girlfriend Paula Yates in January, with whom he had a child. But the surface is always about 15 per cent of the story

All the fame, money, sex, drugs and alcohol in the world does not make a happy man. Conversely, it is a troubled individual who tends to live in the escapist world of indulgence.

Of course, these things are merely illusions and do not allow for a total escape. Once the haze cleared, when reality set in and drugs, booze and sex no longer masked the ugliness of how Michael Hutchence perceived reality, perhaps the inadequacies he found in the world, or in himself became too much.

Perhaps what drives artist figures to take their lives connects with what inspires their art in the first place. The classic caricature of the tortured artist shows a person intensely sensitive to the shortcomings of the world; one who seeks refuge in indulgences and art. Societal injustice and intolerance inspires some of the best art – where the tortured artist takes in experience and attempts to create order from the chaos, evoking a cathartic effect where sense is made out of the nonsensical world.

But artists, who initially rail against the world and through success become a part of what gave them artistic energy, live within a paradoxical vacuum which never gives them peace and consequently leads them to tragedy.

The greatest tragedy within the event of Hutchence's death is he, like Kurt Cobain, leaves a fatherless child. The only thing left for 16-month-old Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily to remember her father by is a handful of music, newspaper clippings, television spots, the legend of his music and the words: Michael Hutchence, born 1960, died 1997.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997