By: Jennifer Belfast

Do you know an individual whose skin crawls at the mere mention of music forms such as heavy metal, rock, and punk? Does it irk you when someone stares in disbelief at your prized Guns N' Roses concert t-shirt? Invalid stereotypes exist about music and us who enjoy music because people are looking only at the surface. Although one may perceive tattered jeans and liberty spikes as unfashionable attire, it is unjust of others to generalize us based on our appearance.

A common stereotype is that those involved in the music scene are degenerates. Primarily, we are accused of harming ourselves by abusing drugs and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, as well as harming others by leading them to do the same. In actuality, most musicians of today, as well as their fans, function to promote the opposite. Bands such as AEROSMITH, MOTLEY CRUE, and the SEX PISTOLS have had plenty of bad experiences resulting from their former dependencies so they try to convince others to stay away from drugs and alcohol by participating in various campaigns, for example, the Rock Against Drugs commercials which air frequently on MTV. Perhaps some will scoff at their open and lengthy renouncing of drugs and alcohol, but as a fellow music fanatic, I can honestly say that, when my rock and roll hero tells me to avoid these harmful substances I will take the advice to heart just as surely as I purchase the concert tickets and the silver hoop earrings. True, the bands mentioned made their claims to fame and fortune while their addictions were out of control. However, the band members realized their mistakes and that their success could not endure if they continued to behave in the same manner. Joe Perry once said, "I was sick and tired of waking up feeling sick and tired." Ozzy Osbourne said, "I began to realize that I was much more effective alive than dead." (Decline of the Western Civilization Part II) They would not have said these words if they did not believe them or want us to take heed.

Musicians are accused of composing lyrics that provoke their listeners to commit crimes and become suicidal. However, some people fail to realize that music is an expressive form of art that describes emotions; there is a difference between feeling like you ran into a brick wall and actually doing it. Those who contemplate suicide because of a subliminal message in a JUDAS PRIEST song have more serious emotional problems than any music could cause. Parents who are searching for answers immediately blame the music because they do not understand it; this is why a terrible thing like censorship is happening. Perhaps the solution to censorship can be found within the family: why not involve your relatives with your musical taste and help them to understand the lyrics and art work in order to avoid friction? Supply them with sound reasoning, and instead of judging too quickly, they may think you are brilliant for thinking of such a wonderful interpretation. Certainly, everyone does not agree with what 2 LIVE CREW has to say about women, but being aware of their lyrics provides us with an opportunity to learn by discovering different types of people,and making decisions. After all, music is written by real people about real situations, and they have a right to free speech just as we have a right to ignore what they say.

Those in opposition to our music have also concluded that we fans lack intelligence which is an opinion we can easily prove false. On the Scholastic Aptitude Test, Jani Lane, the lead singer of WARRANT, scored within the top ten percent of the nation, and Blas Elias, the drummer for SLAUGHTER, was enrolled in medical school before his band became successful, (Metal Edge Magazine) which proves that they had knowledge as well as the common sense to provide themselves with back-up careers. If band members did not possess some intelligence, how would they have reached their level of success? Having a career in music requires having a strong business sense: band members must learn how to properly promote themselves and make sure management does not swindle them out of money.

These prominent artists have realized that music is a universal language and so bring certain causes to our attention in hopes that we will contribute to finding solutions to problems. A few years ago, numerous musicians joined forces to form the groups Live Aid and Band Aid. They recorded successful songs, and the sales proceeds of the recording helped relieve famine stricken countries. Once again, musicians collaborated to benefit the Special Olympics by recording an album of Christmas songs, entitled "A Very Special Christmas." Recently, American rockers, BON JOVI and SKID ROW; Englishman, OZZY OSBOURNE; and the German group, THE SCORPIONS; as well as many others, joined Russian musicians, GORKY PARK, to promote world peace. The televised event allowed us to see that people from other nations are similar to us in regards to personality and entertainment. The groups involved made history by becoming the first rock musicians to perform in Russia. (MTV NEWS) Musicians are now joining Greenpeace in the fight against pollution and are encouraging others to take an active part in saving the rain forests, using rags instead of paper towels, and persuading factories to be more careful. They communicate these messages through television commercials, songs, and interviews. The T.J. Martell Foundation Rock N' Charity Weekend involves celebrities who participate in sporting events to raise nearly a quarter of a million dollars annually to promote leukemia, cancer and AIDS research. (Metal Edge Magazine)

The time to prove that we are concerned about the well being of ourselves and of others is now. Before stereotyping gets out of control, we must let people know that it is unnecessary to dwell on our physical appearances and musical tastes because there are more important issues in need of discussion, such as homelessness and welfare cheating.

Music contributes to our individuality and gives us something to identify with: it allows us to show creativity, express emotions, and communicate with others. Most importantly, listening to it makes us happy and is an outlet for our frustrations when we go out with friends on a Saturday night, or just sit alone and think. Some music may be corrupt, but it is not corrupting; the well-known musicians are becoming involved by encouraging us to act in positive ways, instead of supporting negative actions, or not taking a stand at all. If someone stereotypes you based on your musical preferences, you can provide them with proof that the judgement is unjust.

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