God Help Our Rock Stars


RJ Eskow of the Huffington Post thinks he knows more about statistics than I do and is very concerned for our pop stars.

Having wasted 4 years of my life studying statistics at Northwestern, I thus challenge Mr. Eskow to a statistical showdown with the winner getting to talk Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty off the ledge.

Debating the Science of Dead Pop Stars

My original article can be found here

I Want My Rock Stars Dead*

Here is some discussion of my original article most of whom seem to have the proper sense of humor.


My response to RJ Eskow:

1. I love my work being dissected point by point – thank you. (RJ wrote me and is very nice. I want to assure all that I am sincere in this and wasn’t whining 🙂 ).

2. A lot of my readers found my piece funny, Mr. Eskow either didn’t get it or doesn’t want to admit that.

3. The original study is a complete waste of time. Someone spent time and money to state the obvious.

4. “Contrary to the romantic notions of some, the subjective experience of abusing drugs and/or alcohol is often an unpleasant one. How many of us would voluntarily switch places with Amy Winehouse as she carves her chest with broken glass?” Well, sadly I would, but that’s not the point. Do you really think that Amy Winehouse would have been positively influenced if the study’s suggestion that “Collaborations between health and music industries should focus on improving both pop star health and their image as role models to wider populations” became a reality. My guess is that as a teen Amy Winehouse giggled during DARE ads as she got high.

5. Eskow quotes me on Kurt Cobain inaccurately in fact I acknowledged that his heroin use was probably at least as important as his depression and ownership of a shotgun.

6. My main problem isn’t the methodology, but the need for the study in the first place.  Still though, I’m not convinced.

“ ‘Their study sample is too small and 75 percent of it hasn’t managed to die yet.’ That’s wrong, and here’s a simple response: Even if all of a sample group hasn’t died yet, some percentage of it has. If that percentage is greater than it is for the general population, in a statistically meaningful way, then something significant is taking place.”

Bollocks, if a sample size is too small, the sample size is too small. If a sample size is too small, than by definition it is unable to say anything “in a statistically meaningful way”.

To make it simple. If there are two three armed men in the world, and one of them dies in an airplane crash. That says absolutely nothing about whether three armed men are more likely to die in a plane crash than the general population. The sample size is too small. They study maybe 1000 Pop Stars the general population — a lot bigger than that to the point of making conclusions absurd and I don’t even care what their r squared number was.

Additionally, the time frame is too short, and doesn’t acknowledge that today’s rock star has a lot more information than the rock stars of previous eras.

Finally, the study used some math to try to avoid this problem, but I still say you can’t study the effect of pop success on life span when 75% of the sample is still alive! Sure, you can compare it to the general population, but again the number of rock stars is too small and in constant flux. The last big overdose of a rock star was at least five years ago.

7. No one would even study this if they weren’t merely more interested in rock stars than they are in say architects.

8. “I’m not sure why Laidman and Rock and Rap dislike the study. Maybe I’m missing something, but a world where musicians are treated for their stress and addiction problems rather than exploited and then discarded, sounds like a better world to me.”

a.) The study is obvious to the point of inanity
b.) The time period of the study is so short – there may not even be a problem anymore
c.) Its conclusion implies preaching abstinence instead of the possibility of responsible drug use, which is inane and leads to mocked DARE ads.
d.) The world is flooded with rehab centers. Lindsey Lohan’s didn’t appear to help much but it sure cost a lot.
e.) Paul McCartney’s life was going really well before he quit smoking marijuana and married Heather McCartney – more humor, but think about it.

f) If you really want to see my thoughts on Rock and teen drug use check this out


9. From reader Kristen Butterfield “Hahah that *is* great.. Dave Marsh *should* love it!  I persnally love it because I am the very person that you reference who is involved in those kinds of studies .. I’m an epidemiologist with a masters in public heath and I am currently a PhD student.. and I *completely* agree with your criticism of their study – you are right on man, right on.  Useless, stupid research.. they should be studying cancer or heart disease or something that kills ALL of us, not just rock stars.  I wonder what company gave them a grant to do that.”

10. Claiming that by mocking this study, I or Dave Marsh is insensitive to the needs of aging musicians is absurd and a low blow. Besides the study doesn’t claim to study musicians, it claims to study pop stars. If Mr. Eskow can find me a “pop star” in 2007 that can’t afford health care, I’ll tour the world doing my best to help this beleaguered segment of our society. Plenty of people need help these days. Pop stars are really low on my list.   

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