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Grievous Idol

The real tragedy of John Entwistle's overdose.


by S.E. Shepherd
July 26, 2002

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Grievous Idol_S.E. Shepherd-The real tragedy of John Entwistle's overdose. LAS VEGAS (AP) - A heart attack caused by cocaine use was responsible for the death of John Entwistle, the bassist for the rock band The Who, a coroner said.

“The heart attack we believe was brought on by the significant amount of cocaine”


In my original article on John Entwistle’s death, I mentioned how Rock stars used to die of drug overdoses, and how now they’re dying of “old age” diseases. How foolish my words seem now.

While death from a drug overdose does not diminish Entwistle’s talent or legacy, it does make his death that much more a waste of that talent. When a twenty-something Rock star dies of a drug overdose, we are saddened. A great talent extinguishes itself much too soon. However, we understand the impulse and misgivings of youth. When you’re that young, you feel invincible, and one can almost forgive a savage youth going out of control, not believing his or her own limitations.

A 57-year-old with a heart condition already is another story. Entwistle lived through the heyday of sex, drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. He witnessed the devastating toll cocaine has on friends, colleagues, and even felt the horrible loss of a close friend and bandmate. Keith Moon’s overdose should have left Entwistle a clear message. Simply put, he should have known better.

Cocaine is a hard habit to break. I do not know when John Entwistle picked up the cocaine habit or how long he had it or how many times he tried to quit. Perhaps he was addicted even before Moon’s death in 1978. One has to look no further than the misguided life of actor Robert Downey Jr. to see how difficult it is to stop a drug addiction. This, however, does not excuse Downey or Entwistle of their poor decisions. Both Entwistle and Downey had glaring examples of where drug abuse would and will lead them. Entwistle had Keith Moon; now Downey has Entwistle, as well as countless other celebrities.

John Entwistle was a survivor and a legend, a true Rock ‘n’ Roll hero. His music is his legacy; his star will always shine bright. But now, there will be a tarnish to that shine. Had Entwistle died early in his career, fans would have wondered “what if?” Dying of an overdose at age 57, fans now wonder “why?” Why did a talented man who should have known better end his life this way?

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