Death to All and Sweet Relief

On April 10, 2013 by Joy Shannon

chucksymbolic3The choice to pursue one’s musical talents is often a risky dream. With the immense changes in the music industry over the past few decades limiting how musicians make money, and one of the most lucrative ways to make ends meet being touring, means one has to be in good health to maintain this pursuit. Many musicians who devote their lives to their music- recording, touring, and often living hand-to-mouth- cannot afford health insurance or health care costs if they do have an illness.

Our society is enriched by the music being constantly created and performed around us, and its unfathomable to imagine if some innovative musicians would have to choose between a steady job, which may provide health care coverage, and pursuing their music. The Sweet Relief Musicians Fund attempts to bridge this gap by providing financial assistance to musicians who are struggling with health care costs.

On April 13th, the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip hosts the “Death to All” concert, which fundraises for the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund in memory of the musical legacy of Chuck Schuldiner. The late Schuldiner was the mastermind behind the innovative metal band Death. This special tour features the original Death lineup of guitarist Paul Masvidal, bassist Steve Di Giorgio, and drummer Sean Reinert, with special guest vocalist and guitarist Max Phelps of Cynic and Exist. Schuldiner is known for being a pioneer within the progressive metal and death metal genres, with breakthrough albums including “Human” (1991), “Individual Thought Patterns” (1993), “Symbolic” (1995), and “The Sound of Perseverance” (1998).

Called a visionary in the metal world, guitarist and vocalist Schuldiner is credited with helping to create the technical rules of death metal while constantly shattering them with his experimentations with jazz fusion and progressive rock. Lyrically Schuldiner defied what John Dyer Baizley of Baroness called the “base comedy and adolescent sloganeering” typical of the metal genre. Instead Schuldiner wrote boldly personal and philosophical lyrics, grounded in a “universal and human message of tolerance.” (John Dyer Baizley, Dec 2011, NPR)

In 1999, when Schuldiner was 32, he was diagnosed with brain cancer and his family was hit with huge medical bills they could not afford. He did not have medical insurance and his family struggled through his illness to make ends meet. Initially, he could have died because he could not afford a $70,000 life-saving surgery to remove a brain tumor. The metal community held fundraisers, auctions and benefits concerts to help pay his medical costs. Sadly, Schuldiner ultimately died in 2001 from the cancer returning and complications caused by the cancer treatments. He left behind an intense musical legacy and influence which is deeply felt within the metal genre to this day.

In addition to his musical legacy, Schuldiner is an example of why the Sweet Relief charity is such an important fund for musicians. Sweet Relief provides financial assistance career musicians who are struggling with illness, disability, or age-related challenges.

Artists like Schuldiner remind us that we need to better support the arts as a society. While no one should have the additional stress of struggling to pay for health care during a serious illness, it is additionally distressing when great American artists like Chuck Schuldiner, who have given so much to us as a society, have struggled with this issue. So, while I hope US health care is hugely reformed within the next few years, in the meantime you can support musicians who might be struggling with health care costs now. Either attend the “Death To All” show at the House of Blues on Sunset April 13th or donate to Sweet Relief on their website:

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