The Show Must Go On...
Recently I found myself suffering from the flu, not a bad cold but a proper fever, aching muscle flu. It was a Saturday morning and I had a rehearsal and concert in London and a rehearsal and concert the following morning. On this occasion, I made the decision to stay in bed and find someone to cover me for both dates so I could recover. This to most people would sound like the normal or obvious thing to do but, to many musicians, they might think it was professional suicide.
Unless you’re on your deathbed or in hospital, in the music industry:
The show must go on!
I don’t know if I made the right choice for my career but I definitely made the right choice for myself. I could barely get out of bed, let alone sit on a bass stool and then function to play through Mozart 39. Having said this, I would have shown up for work on all the cold & flu medication I could take if there wasn’t a bass player free to cover me.
The fixer who hired me was very good about it but there is an unwritten rule where I felt guilty the entire weekend (when I wasn’t passed out in bed!) and still to this day wonder if it made any difference to my employability. I don’t often get ill and like most performers will go on stage, ‘drugged’ up to the hilt just to make it through the concert and collapse as soon as I’m off stage – the “I’ll rest when I’m dead!” mentality is strong amongst performers.
I have a friend who didn’t realize she had appendicitis, during the rehearsal break before the concert she went to the bathroom and was coughing up blood. She looked ill coming out and a close friend stopped and asked if she was OK. She told her friend what had just happened and thankfully the friend made sure she went straight to the hospital and very quickly got her appendix removed. However, she was planning to go on stage and go to the hospital after the concert or the next day. If she had done that, she may not have lived to tell the tale! Is it really worth it; are our lives worth one more show?
All you have to do is look at big Hollywood celebrities who have gone to extreme lengths and had a huge cocktail of drugs so the show can go on: Heath Ledger, Marylin Monroe, Judy Garland just to name a few.
It’s not a healthy approach to life and most people in other industries would generally not be expected to go to work when ill so I put this out there: Why is this culture acceptable in the music/performance industries; Why do we feel the pressure to ‘kill’ ourselves for just one more gig; Where does the sacrifice stop so the show can go on; Must the show go on?