It was 2014 when I awakened to the realization that Scott Weiland had been making great music for more than three decades (my entire adult life!), that he was still alive and, arguably, still relevant. I had fallen off his trail for a number of years, so I dedicated some time to catching up on his solo projects, interviews, and various other creative and professional undertakings. In the face of highly-publicized bouts with substance abuse, law enforcement and marital problems, my conclusion was that there had been no break in his productivity - not even a hiccup. The result of my research yielded a 40"x50" oil painting that I dreamt he, and an audience of his fans, would one day enjoy. That painting - A Life in Rock & Roll (Portrait of Scott Weiland) remains on view at MIST Harlem, where it was when Weiland lost his life last month at age 48.
Art should bring you closer to understanding something that you didn't before. That is the mantra that drives my creative work. It is the thinking that compelled me to paint Fidel Castro in shades of crimson and pink, and why Florence Ballard appears in vivid color as the subject of a 6' oil painting, while the Supremes fade to monotones. When I want to inspire a different perspective on a person's life, I paint. If my time and resources permit, these paintings will be inescapably larger than life. If my aim is fulfilled, my viewers will ask, "Why?" and, just by looking, have their answers revealed. This is what I set out to accomplish with Weiland's portrait - a work of art that I hoped would embody all that he was and had been, and all he had sacrificed in the name of keeping us entertained. I had no idea he was living in his last days.
Since joining the pantheon of those gone too soon, Weiland's personal failings, as outlined by his ex-wife Mary Forsberg in Rolling Stone, have nearly overshadowed his notable artistic achievements - which include leading two major rock bands (Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver); more than twelve albums, including four solo albums; two Grammy wins as well as multiple Billboard and VMA awards; writing and performing for movie soundtracks and side groups including Wondergirls, Magnificent Bastards, and Art of Anarchy; and, a New York Times bestseller, Not Dead and Not For Sale. When the grunge era faded, Weiland lunged ahead; he morphed with the times, explored artistically, and continued to push even his own creative limits. Indeed, this "junkie" gave more, created more and produced more than each and every one of his judges and peers. The powerhouse bands he fronted were even too small to contain him.
The writing of Weiland's history, however, has begun with a sordid and deeply subjective tale of blame, failed marriage, and broken family that should never have been allowed to enter the public sphere. As much as we all think it should not have been, the news of Weiland's death was, undeniably, shocking. That shock was immediately followed by Forsberg's letter - a shelling of personal attacks on a defenseless dead man, which ultimately outlined how we were to grieve and remember him. Well, it is not my business to remember Weiland as a bad husband and father (those things are beyond my understanding). In fact, I choose not to even remember him as a drug addict. I will remember him, however, as a brilliant vocalist, die-hard performer, and a writer who touched millions with his sharp lyricism; a fashionista, without a care for what anyone thought about the color of his hair; a romantic, who loved deep and hard; a visionary, who studied and channeled each and every one of his ideals; a shape-shifter, whose body and craft became a paintbrush and canvas; a rock and roll icon - perhaps, the last of his kind; and most all, a child of God with hopes and dreams in his heart, who put his soul on the line every time he picked up a pen or stepped onto a stage. Forsberg's widely published letter demanded that we not deify him. I cannot imagine why we shouldn't.
I will never get to share my painting with Weiland in this life but, at least half of the dream will be realized on Tuesday, January 12, 2016 when East Coast fans, art enthusiasts, and rock and rollers are invited to MIST Harlem for a Scott Weiland tribute party. The event will include Weiland, STP and Velvet Revolver music and videos on multiple screens and projection walls throughout the venue, an art exhibition which includes his 40"x50" portrait, a live art component that invites guests to participate by contributing their favorite Weiland lyrics to a multi-media artwork being created on-the-spot, live tribute performances and a (lighter's welcome) sing-along in the venue's state-of-the-art theater, special invited guests, drink specials throughout the night, and souvenir giveaways. A rarity for this uptown neighborhood, the rock and roll event is free to attend and open to the public. Out-of-state and international fans have already begun pouring in their lyrics for inclusion in the live project, via Scott Weiland fan pages and a Facebook event listing.
As many of the end-of-year roundups of those we lost in 2015 have even failed to mention Weiland, this event is all about what he did right, the hearts he electrified with his performance, and the melodic trail he left for all to savor in his absence. There has been no closure for those of us who simply want to relish in the man and his music, sans the talk of demons and imperfections.
Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke articulated it beautifully in a tribute where he spoke of Scott's resilience. "You can't sum up somebody like this," he said. "Because, fact is, they weren't done."
Although, Weiland admittedly caused a lot of pain to those who knew and loved him, he never killed a person, molested a child, stole from anyone, or beat a woman. In fact, having sat through countless interviews, I never even heard him say an unkind word about those who criticized him most. This was not a wicked person to be punished and diminished posthumously for evil deeds. And, not even his harshest critics have denied his thirty-year musical contributions. Only the future will determine how rock and roll will choose to remember Scott Weiland, but on January 12th, I hope we can come together to begin healing and shaping a legacy that his children can be proud of - one that will place him squarely in the company of the greatest of the greats of rock and roll.