The Rubberbandits and mental health

The College View: Music is a very powerful thing. Everyone has a taste, a favourite genre, an artist they love more than any other, writes Ian Mangan

The Rubberbandits. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

The Rubberbandits. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times


It’s a form of entertainment that invades every inch of all our lives beyond our own choice some of the time. But it’s still just entertainment, right?

Perhaps not and it’s time we really start to appreciate the true power of artists and performers out there. Last month Limerick duo the Rubberbandits released their latest single entitled Sonny and its message was loud and clear. In their ongoing battle to raise awareness for men’s mental health, the song hits hard with its rather blunt chorus “Sonny oh Sonny don’t go hanging yourself”.

Now the Rubberbandits are by no means the defining Irish artists of this generation, nobody is saying that, but the point here is that they’re making a statement in a way that is unavoidable. And the truth is it’s needed more than ever and the bandits are being commended for their campaign.

However, music wasn’t always seen as this safe haven for those in need.

The Rubber Bandits - Sonny

In fact, it was quite the opposite. History has a terrible track record blaming musicians for the deprivation of the newest generation. Elvis Presley was routinely blasted for encouraging for his overtly sexual music that was perverting the minds of American youth. The Beatles followed suit being held as Satanic and pagan brain-washers among the Christian community.

Unfortunately, this trend did not stop anytime soon. There was always a new wave of music that threatened the norms of society and unfortunately fell victim to the blame game.

In 1984, 19-year-old John Daniel McCollum tragically took his own life while lying on his bed listening to Ozzy Osbourne. Naturally, it was easy to see where his father was coming from. McCollum’s father emotionally claimed “[He’s] a perfectly normal kid there, who really doesn’t show any signs of any depression at all, and happy and all of a sudden, six hours, he’s dead. No one [could] explain it, the only thing we know is he was listening to this music.”

It is easy for us to want to pinpoint one specific explanation but the truth is a lot of vulnerable people take so much solace in the escape that music provides. Ozzy expressed his sadness about the incident on several occasions but never took responsibility and rightly so.

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