58 Responses

  1. Terry Bigham
    Terry Bigham at |

    The great Czech composer Frederich Smetana also suffered deafness from unknown causes as did Beethoven. Smetana is best known for "The Moldau" (Vltana) from his "My Country" suite and the "Dance of the Comedians" from his opera "The Bartered Bride" (used in so many of those Roadrunner-Coyote chase sequences).

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  2. victor
    victor at |

    what about Frida Kahlo?

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  3. Brandon
    Brandon at |

    Kurt Cobain? Really? Not tortured. "Oh noes! I'm a teenager that feels misunderstood and i'm depressed! And, to top it all off, my parents divorced!"

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    1. Katt
      Katt at |

      Actually, Kurt Cobain lived under a bridge for long periods of time. He then would go to friend's houses when he knew they had drugs onhand and would proceed to get high and completely intoxicated. Once he would wake up the next day, he would either go on, to another house with drugs and alcohol or he would go back beneath the bridge.

      He would do this until he met his future band mates. And he slowly rose to becoming the well-known muscian of Nirvana.

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    2. Monica
      Monica at |

      While all into the depression, he married Courtney Love. You didn't mention that. That chick is the icing on the cake. A person mentally imbalanced shouldn't marry someone with the same problem. Add that to his problems.

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      1. Heather Matthews
        Heather Matthews at |

        agreed, Monica. I didn't want to drag Courtney into the whole thing because he did love her at one point and I still care about Kurt Cobain. But I do agree with what you've written.

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    3. james
      james at |

      Kurt still taste fame during his lifetime…he's overrated,he doesn't made any masterpiece,in few years he will forgotten…

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      1. Heather Matthews
        Heather Matthews at |

        In my opinion, he made nothing BUT masterpieces…

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        1. Liz Matthews
          Liz Matthews at |

          I agree. Some people just want to be judgemental. But there is great depth and beauty in his work and I still love it.

      2. Barry Brien
        Barry Brien at |

        That’s nonsense. Regardless of how you personally judge his work, Nirvana are as popular today (if not more so) as when Cobain died in 1994, over 16 years before you made your comment. Just when exactly do you think that he will be forgotten?

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        1. Liz Matthews
          Liz Matthews at |

          People that need to make negative comments about something that others see beauty in are just pessimistic, insecure assholes. Kurt was a wonderful person and had a lot to say, and will never be forgotten!

        2. Heather
          Heather at |

          so true. thanks. Liz! 🙂

      3. bill
        bill at |

        find me someone else who had an album that knocked the great late michael jackson off the number one spot and didnt have one bad song top to bottom.

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    4. jfauser
      jfauser at |

      Kurt Cobain suffered intense physical pain most of his life from an undiagnosed stomach condition. As a child he was diagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar disorder as an adult. Add the drugs and alchohol which makes it worse and the media screwing with people’s lives…now that all sounds hip and dandy doesn’t it?

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  4. Heather Matthews
    Heather Matthews at |

    Some psychological distress is hidden, but still very real. One could argue that Orwell had no specific reason to be miserable, and yet he was.

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  5. audrey
    audrey at |

    Sad stories for these artists. But they wouldn't be that well-known if they didn't have those troubles.

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    1. Trudy
      Trudy at |

      Or it could be the talent-filled work they created despite or because of those troubles….

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  6. amanda
    amanda at |

    What about Michael Jackson?

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    1. Jaze
      Jaze at |

      The title of the article is "Top 10 Tortured Artists" not "Top 10 Artists Who Tortured".

      Reply
  7. Heather Matthews
    Heather Matthews at |

    He would fit in here- in a sense. However, due to the child molestation charges and all the rest of it, I felt that he may have had a darker side, and been a tad more villainous than most on the list.

    Only the children, and Michael himself, know what happened at Neverland Ranch.We can only speculate about whether or not he was the victim of a brutal childhood, or a predator himself – or both.

    Michael was a genius dancer and singer – he was brilliant, and clearly tortured as well. But he may have crossed the line and become what he despised.

    Thanks so much for commenting on my list.

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  8. !
    ! at |

    What, no Edgar Allen Poe?

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  9. !
    ! at |

    Or Goya?

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  10. Heather Matthews
    Heather Matthews at |

    Hi Victor,

    Frida Kahlo is also another great choice, sorry there was not room for everyone.

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  11. Heather Matthews
    Heather Matthews at |

    Hi !,

    Goya’s art is amazingly beautiful. I have to confess some ignorance about his life story, though. I’ll have to educate myself.

    Poe is a great suggestion, I’ve written about him before. Thanks for commenting on the listl

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  12. Aaron
    Aaron at |

    I think Maya Angelou could potentially also go on this list.

    She's made some famous literature, and was definitely tortured.

    Although she's still alive. So maybe that makes her ineligible?

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  13. Heather Matthews
    Heather Matthews at |

    well, people can be alive but still tortured…can't they? 🙂 I'll have to learn more about Angelou, thanks for the suggestion.

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  14. Bert
    Bert at |

    FYI – absinthe on its own is technically a liqueur or even a straight up liquor I believe, not a cocktail. And generally the hallucinogenic effects that are attributed to it have to do largely with the method in which it was consumed in the 19th century. Many opiates and other narcotics were readily available at that time, including laudanum which was an opium derivative.

    Traditionally absinthe was prepared by slowly melting a sugar cube resting on a slotted spoon above the glass with a few drops of cold water. Often this sugar cube had been soaked in laudanum beforehand, so as the sugar dripped into the absinthe, the opiate got mixed in too. It was the laudanum and not the absinthe itself which contributed to the hallucinations (though the absinthe was indeed a potent alcohol on its own).

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    1. Heather Matthews
      Heather Matthews at |

      Thanks Bert,

      Interesting info on absinthe. I know Marilyn Manson still drinks the stuff, I wonder what his method of preparation is? 😉 Have a great day…

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  15. jonathan mccormack
    jonathan mccormack at |

    After Van Gogh, the poet John Berryman was surly the most tortured artist who ever lived.

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    1. Heather Matthews
      Heather Matthews at |

      I'll have to look into Berryman's life story, I'm not familiar with it. Thanks so much for commenting on my list.

      Reply
  16. Sara
    Sara at |

    I completely disagree with Kurt Cobain. He might have been bipolar and his parents did get divorced but the same can be said for millions of other people who aren't tortured. There are also a whole lot of other famous people who do heroin that don't act the way he did. I think that he killed himself because he was a huge sellout. Think about it, I would have killled myself too if I had actually been enough of an idiot to pose on the cover or Rolling Stone with a shirt that said "Corporate Magazines Still Suck," or something along those lines anyways. I guess my point is that all of his issues were self inflicted and he was a complete and total hipocrit who stood for exactly what he never wanted to stand for and he doesn't deserve to be on this list. He chose to be tortured.

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    1. Heather Matthews
      Heather Matthews at |

      I think it's unwise to assume you know the inner workings of another person, and how much pain they suffered, and why…

      Bipolar disorder is a serious mental condition that often makes its sufferers feel tortured…famous or not. It is not in any way "self-inflicted".

      I'll have to respectfully disagree with you on this one.

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      1. Liz Matthews
        Liz Matthews at |

        Yes, indeed Heather. I must add my two cents on this with less grace than you have. Which I think is wonderful, the way you approach people who are so judgemental.
        Sara, you need to go experience some things and learn about life. If you had one ounce of empathy, you’d understand how your comments are completely cruel, rude, and unempathetic. I hope no one ever blames you if you suffer.

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  17. Anon
    Anon at |

    I'm not sure where they would place on a list of tortured artists, but I would have to add;

    1. Michael Landon (Eugene Orowitz)- overcame a chaotic and troubled childhood to become one of the greatest creative forces in the history of television. He was undoubtedly a genius and his legacy proves it.

    2. F Scott Fitzgerald – A tortured soul, a raging alcoholic who poured all of himself into his writing and in doing so created some of the greatest works in the history of American literature.

    3. Darby Crash – 70's LA punk rock legend, frontman for the Germs. He took his own life by a deliberate heroin OD in 1980 at the age of 22. A dark and brilliant lyricist, he left behind a body of work that would influence generations of punk/hardcore and alternative musicians. I was not surprised to find out that Kurt Cobain idolized Darby Crash, only that he knew so much about him.

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    1. Heather Matthews
      Heather Matthews at |

      Hi Anon,

      Thanks for your suggestions, all of them are good. It would have been interesting writing about F. Scott Fitzgerald. I am familiar with Michael Landon. Unfortunately, I always hated Little House On The Prairie, and it would never have occured to me to add him here – sorry.

      I know a little bit about Darby Crash. Good idea – Sid Vicious probably would have been a decent choice for this list. But maybe I was focusing on people I perceived as geniuses.

      I pretty much picked people whose work blows me away, because they are already on my mind. Then I researched and found more people. I am really into everyone on this list's work, except maybe Hemingway and Williams. I like them, but don't love them. And my fascination with Plath waned as I grew up. The rest of the people still fascinate me.

      Thanks for the thought-provoking comment 🙂

      Reply
  18. Anon
    Anon at |

    Thank you for your reply, Ms Matthews. I know it's hard to compile a list such as this when there are such a large number of troubled/gifted artists throughout the ages to choose from.

    Speaking of which, I forgot to mention Brian Wilson as a possible candidate for this list. He is often spoken of as a musical genius (due largely to the "Pet Sounds" album) and obviously suffered greatly growing up as a result of paternal abuse.

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  19. Heather Matthews
    Heather Matthews at |

    Brian Wilson would be perfect for this list. Alas, I loathe The Beach Boys, being more of a Nirvana type, but his gifts seemed to have moved so many people…

    thx

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  20. Leesie
    Leesie at |

    I agree… You left out Edgar Allen Poe.

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  21. Lola
    Lola at |

    Absinthe is banned in France until now. You can buy some in Spain, or Luxembourg.

    But in fact, the drug-like effects ( hallucinations… ) have been removed. Of course.

    It tastes like anis.

    You can saw the video of " the perfect drug " of Nine Inch Nails. It shows how people did for prepare absinthe. It's a pretty song that I love too.

    Artists like Marilyn Manson clame to drink about 2 liters of absinthe per day, but it is not as dangerous than before. 2 liters of real absinthe will kill you.

    Pardon my fren…hu, my english! I am still learning.

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    1. Heather Matthews
      Heather Matthews at |

      Your english is much better than my French. You were very clear…

      Thanks for the interesting information about absinthe…it seems like the very essence of decadence…just another instrument of self-destruction for many tortured artists.

      I love reading these comments, and I appreciate your taking the time to read my list. Thank you.

      Reply
  22. Hakeem
    Hakeem at |

    Jean Michel Basquete should be mentioned here also, the famous ‘black picasso’ who dies of drug overdose at 27.

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    1. Heather Matthews
      Heather Matthews at |

      great suggestion Hakeem – thanks!

      Reply
  23. Daniel
    Daniel at |

    Here are some ones that I would have included:

    Nick Drake-An isolated loner who lived a miserable life due to the rejection he felt from the outside world.

    Layne Staley-A singer with a golden voice who destroyed himself with heroin.

    Ian Curtis-Suffered through turmoil in his personal life due to a bad marriage. He also was burdened by depression and epilepsy. He committed suicide at 23.

    Daniel Johnston-A great musician heavily burdened by schizophrenia.

    Franz Kafka-A writer who used his depression and self-hatred to write beautiful stories.

    H.P. Lovecraft-His grim outlook on life manifested itself in the horrifying creatures he created.

    Lenny Bruce-A martyr for free speech.

    Sam Kinison-Another life plagued with failed relationships and substance abuse.

    Bill Hicks-Constantly frustrated with the hypocrisy he saw in people. He was never able to develop a true connection with the world during his lifetime.

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    1. Heather Matthews
      Heather Matthews at |

      wow – very good choices. thanks for commenting.

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      1. zack
        zack at |

        Yes! I was personally bummed that Lenny Bruce didnt make the cut. Definitely one of America’s most tortured and genius acts ever…

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  24. Lachlan
    Lachlan at |

    Surely absinthe is a spirit, not a cocktail – though invariably drunk with ice water strained through a sugar cube. It was banned wrongfully, being said to be made from the wrong type of alcohol not meant for human consumption and caused blindness and death etc. In fact, it was government propaganda because too many Parisiens were getting drunk and spending all their time at cafes at a time when France was heavily involved in World War 1. The drink was too drinkable in fact, though with high alcohol content and strong bitter flavour (hence the water and sugar cube).

    Sensibly, absinthe has been restored to the family of spirits and the ban has been lifted. I have a bottle of 75% absinthe at home and as long as you “drink responsibly”, it is perfectly safe. Mind you, a friend at my New Year party was drinking it straight !

    As regards Toulouse-Lautrec, I think his full name was something like Henri Marie Raymond Toulouse-Lautrec de Monfa.

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  25. Lachlan
    Lachlan at |

    How about Jimi Hendrix ? He was arguably more talented than Kurt Cobain and I believe more famous. He was very depressed by the God-like status bestowed upon him by fans who still went into raptures even when he played a messy or sub-standard set. It showed they didn’t understand his music at all and dodn’t even know when his playing was rubbish. However, unlike Cobain, Jimi didn’t commit suicide, he died of vomit inhalation after a drinks/drugs session a week after his apperance at the Isle of Wight Festival – itself a strangely messy set.

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    1. Heather Matthews
      Heather Matthews at |

      very good suggestion. I’m a Nirvana fanatic, but I would agree that Hendrix is Kurt’s equal in terms in talent. thanks so much for the comment.

      Reply
  26. Lachlan
    Lachlan at |

    The French goverment ban in 1914, due to its stated bad reputation, was surely due to France going to war and the sight of Parisien men lolling about drunk at cafe tables, when they should be out getting there killed by the foe, was unacceptable.

    I have a bottle of Absinthe at home – 75% proof, less strong than in previous times, but still nice with iced water and sugar through the spoon. A friend of mine was drinking it straight at my New Year party !

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  27. Miranda
    Miranda at |

    You may want to look into Alice Neel. She had four children, one died at around a year, another was taken to live with the father’s family. She attempted suicide several times, and spent time in a mental hospital. She also battled colon cancer. Try, AliceNeel.com

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  28. laken
    laken at |

    Sadly, there are few who will ever understand Cobain. Which may be why those who do feel so connected. I was pleasantly surprised to find him on this list. Thank you, Heather.

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    1. Heather
      Heather at |

      Thanks, Laken. I definitely think he belongs here. He touched my heart in a very profound way and still does. That’s what a great artist is supposed to be! I only wish he could have been happy, as he gave (and gives) so much happiness to others..

      Cheers,

      Heather

      Reply
  29. TOM
    TOM at |

    what about Rothko, Munch , Marilyn Monroe ( who suffered much more than Sylvia Plath ) , Giacomo Leopardi, Bacon ?

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    1. Shell Harris
      Shell Harris at |

      I just watched a very interesting HBO special about Marilyn Monroe. It was using her own words and letters she had written as content for the program. She was very tortured and misunderstood.

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      1. TOM
        TOM at |

        watch ‘Marilyn : the last session’

        Reply
  30. eatdogs
    eatdogs at |

    Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division. Just look up any of his lyrics, especially from their second album “Closer”.

    He died from suicide. Tragic loss for music in what was becoming one of the best bands in the 80’s post-punk/new wave scene. It’s because of Joy Division we have bands like Interpol, The Editors, The Walkmen, The National, The Horrors, Bloc Party, and The Rapture among others (I think those are the best of that whole post-punk revival).

    And of course during Joy Division’s time you had artist like The Cure, Depeche Mode, Gang of Four, U2, The Chameleons, The Sound, The Pop Group, KUKL, Swell Maps, Bauhaus, and many many more awesome groups.

    dig it…

    Reply
  31. Crys Tina
    Crys Tina at |
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  32. Strawberrie Pepper
    Strawberrie Pepper at |

    I am astonished!! Syd Barrett should’ve been on this list!

    Reply

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