This week’s CEO creative writing contest winner is Shane Smith.
The Late Bradley Nowell
(Rock Band Sublime guitarist)
Bradley Nowell was the lead singer of the Band Sublime. He co-created Sublime with Bud Gough and Eric Wilson in 1988. They are from Long Beach, California and are renowned for their unique Ska/Reggae/Punk sound. I want to share how his music, and his life have inspired my own being by helping me believe in myself as a musician and also being one of the main reasons I started and quit using Heroin. Bradley died in 1996 of a Heroin overdose and since then has inspired millions around the world.
The new and unique sound of Sublime was not at first accepted in the mainstream music scene, being a punk rock garage band was not the usual sound coming out of California at the time. With rap music rapidly on the incline, with artists such as Eazy-E, NWA, and Snoop Dogg and all of them coming from Long Beach, the music that Sublime was forming was odd and some like to say, ahead of their time. Bradley first started playing guitar at the age of eleven and traveled to Jamaica with his father soon after his parents had split. There, he learned the definitive sound of a reggae guitarist and was heavily moved by the music of Bob Marley and others known in that genre. He traveled back to the states, and met his band mates on his street and soon started practicing the easy three chords of Punk music. Then Bradley infused his newly gained knowledge of the “chicka-chicka” sound of Reggae. Over time, they formed their own sound and were writing their own lyrics and songs. Bradley was known to be an attention getter and soon found himself reveling in the responsiveness of being a lead singer in a band. They played mostly at local parties and a few hole in the wall bars. This is where he was introduced to the multitude of drugs that would eventually lead to his demise.
The group signed a small deal with a local company called Ska Records and released their first album in 1988. The album did not sell well and soon the band was searching for a new sound that could draw a large crowd. Bradley and the band were determined to make it and went to work on a second album that was again produced by Ska Records with what the band thought would be a platinum seller. This album for a second time, didn’t quite reach the coveted platinum status, but did manage enough for the album to hit gold. With the minor success of the second album, money started to flow regularly, and the availability of Heroin was rampant. Bradley started using the drug as a means to create better music and guitar riffs. Although some will argue this philosophy worked, critics and fans alike noticed his on stage appearance as someone who was “heavily induced”. This affected the band, the promotion of tours and potential mega deals from labels such as MCA, and Interscope.
The band, in 1996 was set to release their third album, a self –titled LP “Sublime” when the sudden death of Bradley struck home. He was 27 years old and was on tour in California, when band members recall, that he got up early in the morning at the hotel and went for a stroll with his beloved dog Louie. He must have spent some time on the beach that morning, possibly using while there or soon after he arrived back at the hotel. The band’s bassist, Eric Wilson, found him dead in his hotel bed. When he died at age 27, he was observed, along with other artists who died at the same age, such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and just two years previous, Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana. The band released the album post-mortem and sales went through the roof, reaching their ultimate goal of Platinum. Although, Bradley was not there to revel in the band’s success, many lessons from his life transferred over to my own when I started to play Bass and Guitar in 2004.
Bradley Nowell is a genius in many ways to me; he transfused three different types of music and created his own unique sound. Along with his musical ingenuity, his lyrics were one of a kind as well. He sang about the streets, drinking and partying, and of his struggle with life and Heroin. This gave me belief that I could find my own sound and fulfill my dream of being of full-time musician. When I was first learning to sing and find my own voice, I would play Sublime’s album over and over trying to mimic his sound and would find solace in his laid back, “kick-it” type of lyrics. I read his biography and soon learned of his Heroin addiction and his belief that the drug would better his sound and his creative process of lyric writing. I was impressionable to say the least, and when I was introduced to the drug the first time jamming with my friend, I couldn’t see the harm. I would later find the drug was useless in honing my skills as a musician and in all other aspects of my life. I then decided, after many years of addiction and struggle to look at his death on a more serious note. I saw that he was dead when his dream of being famous finally found its footing; he was also recently married and was a brand new father. Sublime disbanded and his friends who had been there all those years, soon found themselves alone without their companion and out of a job. Many lives were affected by his selfish addiction and I would never want to do that to my loved ones. Although his end was tumultuous, his music and lyrics now live on and are more popular than ever. Sublime has recently regrouped and found a new lead singer named Rome, and again with the basis of Bradley at their core, have found the long-term success any band craves for.
Overall, I look to Bradley as a musical influence, and a life mentor. Learning from his mistakes and seeing what music really can be without the use of drugs. I look to him as a hero, and as one of the greatest musicians of our time. Many others who find the lyrics of Sublime to be significant are just now realizing the everlasting effect they possess. I would hope that anyone, be it someone who follows rap or country, or even classical music, would sit down with a Sublime CD, and lose themselves in their rooms for an hour or two, and find the talent and drive in his voice. I hope they would be as moved as I was and realize life is precious. Many people have talent, and a valuable lesson to learn from Bradley Nowell, is to not let outside forces such as drugs, divorce, or criminal issues hinder the fact that life is a onetime deal. Every day you should go out, make the best of your situation, and fulfill your dreams no matter how hard or long the road seems. May Bradley Nowell rest in peace and continue to influence young musicians all over the world.