When young it's hard not to be blinded by the allure of being a professional entertainer or artist. Finding out that someone made their living by playing music, especially popular music, automatically gave them an elevated status in a young person's eyes. At that age, professional musician meant the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Even the slightly less glamorous form of Bob Dylan in the late sixties and early seventies implied wealth and stardom.
The idea that there were men and women who performed daily for little money and who were lucky to make enough to support themselves, let alone a family, just didn't occur to me. Pop musicians lived in different strata than the rest of us after all; at least that's what we were told. They didn't really work. They wore all sorts of fancy clothes, drove expensive cars, and were worshiped by adoring fans.
Even having somebody in the family who was involved in an only moderately successful band did nothing to change that perception (My common-in-law uncle played electric violin for Lighthouse in their first incarnation). The one time I had any exposure to the world of rock music as a kid was my mother dragging me along with her as she searched for my aunt backstage at an open air, free show that Lighthouse was doing in Toronto, Ontario's Nathan Phillip's square in front of the City Hall buildings.
Instead of seeing it for what it was, unglamorous and exhausting work, all I noticed was the huge crowds of people overflowing the square up onto the ramp leading up to the 2nd floor entrance of the City Hall. There was an air of expectation and excitement I have since come to identify with concerts; it also fed the myth of the pop star lifestyle I had bought into.
Illusions don't hold up well in the face of prolonged exposure to reality. I realized that as soon I started working in the arts, if not before. My own life in theatre was never particularly glamorous, and neither were the lives of the musicians I met over the course of those ten years. I discovered names I had been familiar with for years lived in the rooms of the hotels they played in and barely eked out an existence.
Knowing all this, it still comes as something of a shock when you hear stories of the difficulties of those who didn't fare much better or even worse. A perfect example of this is the story of blues great Son Seals as recounted in the newly released DVD on the Vizztone label A Journey Through The Blues: The Son Seals Story.