Sublime is a band that has lived on for a long time. Perhaps more than ever, people are realizing how great Brad Nowell was as a songwriter, and his work is still a significant mainstay of radio and music streams.
It’s too bad that Nowell is no longer around to see how much the seeds of his success have grown. Now a new documentary on the band, called Sublime, helmed by an Oscar-winning director, is reminding the world of Nowell’s talent, and the cautionary tale of his addiction and death.
A Familiar Crash and Burn
The Hollywood Reporter writes that this documentary has “a tragically familiar crash-and-burn-story arc,” and it is indeed something we’ve seen so many times in rock and roll. Nowell was 28 when he overdosed on heroin and died in 1996. To date, Sublime has sold 17 million albums, and the world was robbed of decades of more music from Nowell.
As this review explains, “Nowell comes across in the film as a mostly sweet but troubled soul, a college dropout and beach hum whose battle with hard drugs unleashed his darker loose-cannon side.”
Nowell was the subject of a previous documentary as well, The Long Way Back. While Nowell wasn’t able to overcome his addictions, his childhood friend Tood “Z-MAN” Zalkins, was able to get sober after being addicted to painkillers for seventeen years.
The Rock Drug Myth
A lot of musicians believe the myth of sex, drugs and rock and roll before they decide to clean up and head into drug rehab. As one source told Rolling Stone, Nowell “wanted to be a rock star. He said it was very rock & roll…Brad wanted to see what it was like.”
Nowell certain did his best at getting into an addiction rehab before he signed his first record deal. In 1994, “he decided on his own that he wanted to go to rehab,” the source continued to Rolling Stone. “He knew he had to get clean before the [record deal] could happen.”
As his story on earth ends, he was able to accomplish everything he wanted when he was here. He just wasn’t able to stick around long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor. The drugs robbed him, and the world, of a great talent, and he wouldn’t be the first or the last.
Thankfully a lot of rock musicians today know the patterns that so many musicians have fallen into or addiction, drug rehab, and death, and are seeking help more than ever. One hopes that documentaries like this will help increase awareness for musicians and everyday people that addiction can rob the world of incredible talent and people. (Nowell’s death also robbed his child of a father.)
While the world will never get more music from Nowell, the body of work he left behind continues to live on, and hopefully, his life and death will lead the way to more people getting help in addiction rehab and get sober.