Childhood Divorce Fuels Fire of New Rock
SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
October 4, 2002
new generation of rock 'n' roll songwriters have become the chroniclers
old problem: the effects of divorce and parental
abandonment upon children. Pop star Pink describes her childhood
as anything but a cel-ebration on "Missundaztood," her
new album. "You fight about money, 'bout me and my brother/And
this I come home to, this is my shelter/It ain't easy growin'
up in World War III/Never knowin' what love could be, you'll
see/I don't want love to destroy me like it has done to my family," she
sings in "Family Portrait." Pink's lyrics touch a
raw nerve in a generation that grew up with ringside seats
and abandonment. While their parents were singing songs of
protest about foreign wars and civil rights, a new breed of
relates more closely to the combat zone of their homes.
songwriters who experienced divorce at an early age include
Creed's Scott Stapp (father left at age 5), Korn's Jonathan
Davis (parents divorced at age 3), Linkin Park's Chester
Bennington (mother left at age 11), Slipknot's Corey Taylor,
and Eminem. "The
anger hurts my ears, been running strong for seven years/Rather
than fix the problem they never solve it; it makes no sense at
all/I see them every day; we get along so why can't they?" asks
Blink 182's Tom DeLonge on "Stay Together for the Kids," found
on their latest album. The normally whimsical Mr. DeLonge
wrote the song about the devastation he experienced as an
when his parents got divorced.
Mark Hoppus experienced the same when he was in the third grade. "We get e-mails about 'Stay Together,' kid
after kid after kid saying, 'I know exactly what you're talking
about! That song is about my life!'" Mr. DeLonge told Blender
magazine. "You look at statistics that 50 percent of parents
get divorced, and you're going to get a pretty large group of
kids who don't agree with what their parents have done. "Is
this a damaged generation?" he asks. "Yeah, I'd say
so." Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood
Initiative, says these lyrics make a strong case for keeping
marriages intact. "They are clearly articulating that [divorce]
affects these kids, that it hurts them deeply, and there are
consequences to what's been happening."
Books like Judith Wallerstein's "The Unexpected Legacy of
Divorce" contend there are long-lasting effects upon the
children of broken marriages, and the eruption of songs chronicling
the pain of divorce provide anecdotal evidence to support that
thesis. Aaron Lewis of Staind soared to the top of the rock world
as the King of Pain with his band's 2001 album, "Break the
Cycle." His melancholy ballads drip with alienation and
disillusionment: "To my mother, to my father/It's your son
or it's your daughter/Are my screams loud enough for you to hear
me?/Should I turn it up for you?" he asks on the song "For
You." Mr. Lewis' parents divorced when he was 13, after
years of fighting, separating and reuniting. "There wasn't
much of a safe home atmosphere," Mr. Lewis told Rolling
Stone. "There wasn't the feeling of a tight-knit family.
My grandfather died, and his whole side of the family may as
well have died with him, because we were basically disowned.
To have half of my family disappear left me with a lot of abandonment
and abandonment have long been popular themes in rock and country
music. Johnny Cash recorded Shel Silverstein's "A
Boy Named Sue" in 1969 ("My daddy left home when I
was 3"), John Lennon recorded "Mother" in 1970
("Father, you left me, but I never left you"), and
the Temptations turned "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" into
a huge hit in 1972 ("Wherever he laid his hat was his home").
Nickelback's singer-songwriter Chad Kroeger was 2 when
his father abandoned the family. In the hit song "Too Bad," he
sings: "You left without saying goodbye/Although I'm sure
you tried/You call and ask from time to time/To make sure we're
still alive/But you weren't there right when I'm needing you
most." Mr. Kroeger says fans break down in tears
as they tell him that they went through the same situation.
of Papa Roach knows that feeling.
wrote the song "Broken Home" about his father's
exit at age 7: "I can't seem to fight these feelings/I'm
caught in the middle of this/My wounds are not healing/I'm stuck
in between my parents/I wish I had someone to talk to/Someone
to confide in." When his father left, Mr. Shaddix says he
took the weight of the divorce upon his shoulders, suspecting
it was his fault.
Like many of these angst-ridden songs, the issue of
fatherhood abandonment is confronted with furious honesty: "I
know my father loves me/But does my father even care/If
I'm sad or
I'm angry/You were never ever there/When I needed you/I
hope you regret what you did."
genre of family counseling under the bright lights
of the stage found national prominence when Art Alexakis
Everclear penned the 1997 megahit "Father of Mine," about
the day his father walked out on the family. "Father
of mine - tell me, how do you sleep?/With all the
children you abandoned
and the wife I saw you beat?/I will never be safe.
will never be sane/I will always be weird inside, I will always
be lame." Mr. Alexakis was 10 when his father left. A few
years after "Father of Mine," he wrote the song "Wonderful," zeroing
in on the breakup: "I hope my mom and I hope my dad/Will
figure out why they get so mad/I hear them scream. /I hear them
fight/They say bad words that make me want to cry."
There's a hole in the soul of every kid in the shape of their
fathers, and for about 40 years in social policy we've been trying
to fill that hole with lots of other things: money, quality time,
mentors," says Mr. Warren of the National Fatherhood Initiative. "These
things are important and they all certainly have
their role, but what is clear here is not only
that these artists are saying
this but we're finding this also when you communicate
with kids that aren't famous.
long for family and they mourn the fact that they didn't have
a family." The band Good Charlotte from Annapolis has
been capturing the attention of the MTV crowd with their punchy
pop-punk songs. On their debut album, songwriting twins Benji
and Joel Madden describe the stark way in which their father
walked out on the family on Christmas Eve. But they also praise
their mother. "I'll always thank you/More than you could
know/Than I could ever show," they sing in "Thank you,
There's nothing I won't do to say these words to you/That you're
beautiful forever/You were my mom you were my dad/And even when
the times got hard you were there to let/Us know that we'd get
through." - Copyright 8 2002 News World Communications,
Inc. All rights reserved.