April 2, 2009

Do musicians tend to be skinny?

Martin Regnen wonders why musicians tend to be skinny:

I got talked into playing a last-minute sub gig yesterday which much to my surprise turned out to be a battle of the bands. That turned out to be an opportunity to do some amateur anthropological fieldwork. A dozen bands were competing, and I haven't seen that many non-orchestra musicians in one room at the same time. There were over 40 of them there, which suddenly made me realize just how different musicians are from non-musicians. I'm not counting myself as part of the sample, of course. Aside from the high frequency of black clothing (there was no band without at least one black shirt) and lots of hair (apparently 5 cm is very short for a male musician), the most striking thing was how skinny the guys were. The sample of women numbered only seven so there's not really much data there - too bad that I couldn't really test the pretty songbird hypothesis. ...

I have no idea why this is, but it's interesting that so many skinny guys were there. Steve Sailer has proposed that rock musicians might be thin because it's easier on their knees in the long run, but only a few of the bands played rock and just about everyone was much too young to have to deal with wearing their knees down. So the explanation has to lie elsewhere. It can't be just that guys who are no good at sports are attracted to music to boost their social standing - if that were it, there should be plenty of fatasses as well. Maybe young guys who spend money on instruments and amps just don't have much left for food? Then again, symphonies aren't really full of fat guys, either.

Does music somehow attract men with faster metabolisms? Or does anyone else have any ideas?

Was it always like this? Or did it change at some point? Was there some first role model of skinniness? Sinatra? The young Elvis? The British Invasion? Perhaps English lads born in the 1940s were undernourished as youths, so they stayed scrawny as young men, and that set a stereotype that has endured.

Or, perhaps there is something deeper here than mere fashion?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

107 comments:

Anonymous said...

Uhhh.. I'm sure the cocaine and cigarettes have something to do with it.

Pancho said...

One word: drugs.

Anonymous said...

Music is an alternative for skinny guys in school to be popular.

Anonymous said...

Heavy metal band members tend to be far from skinny, especially in the partially mainstream death/black metal scenes (Fear Factory, Dimu Borgir, etc.). Such scenes are also a haven for the socially awkward, hence the attraction for fatty fatty fat fats.

Svigor said...

Drugs make you skinny.

Music for pay takes charisma and fat guys have less of it, plus fat takes energy to haul around. Music for pay also takes dedication and dedicated people lose weight if they want to.

I was just reading something yesterday about how in humans there are "switches" or something in the brain and muscles that "turn off" chimpish strength levels in return for greater dexterity. Maybe ectomorphs are "dex-loaded" or something?

Maybe ectomorphs just have more energy?

Obviously it's harder to get a trend like this going than it is to sustain it. Once it's going, musicians who don't fit the mold would tend to drop out after taking a look around.

Anonymous said...

Rock attracts suburban nerd outcasts. Even so, sexuality is an issue, so when bands form, they'll usually not accept a fat guy in the mix, because they look bad on stage, and are considered either repulsive or ridiculous to a general audience.
Many rock musicians indulge in drugs that keep them thin, whether it be speed, meth, cocaine, or heroin.
Being fat just isn't cool, and a fat sweaty guy hyperventilating on stage can be a real buzz kill when you're covering "Back Door Man."

Anonymous said...

Fwiw, in my experience people in the top percentile of *any* activity, when in their youth, tend to be skinny. Programmers, mathematicians, chefs, any area I can think of. And when it comes to music, it's so competetive we usually only get to see the top 1% or so.

Someone lugging around 40 pounds of extra fat is going to be a lot more tired than a skinny guy, as well struggling with crappy blood sugar and hormonal surges. That's very detrimental when trying to put in the thousands of hours of practice that is required to become succesful enough to be noticed in any area of expertise.

Further, the traits that causes someone to get fat are probably also detrimental to success. For instance, someone lazy is far more likely to become fat than a high energy, hardworking person.

In music there's the added factor that it's a lot about image, and being fat is very uncool.

When it comes to music I think it is much more interesting to look at the lack of muscle, than the lack of fat.

Anonymous said...

I would think drugs plays a huge role. Musicians stay up late, practicing and performing, and taking amphetamines is wide-spread among rockers through the ages. This also 'hops' them up for stage performances.

They burn a lot of calories in this drug-induced/addled stage, and therefore remain thin.

Non-doper (but permanent child) Bruce Springsteen stayed away from drugs, and in the '80's, built up an impressive physique.

Most skip-rope and smoke dopers from the '70's look like Tom Petty.

DK said...

Musicians tend to be skinny because they tend to be neurotic types. And neuroticism tends to be inversely related to body weight.

m said...

Steve- you really thought rock musicians were skinny bc it was easier on their knees? Wow- you sure have come a long way. What about drugs- don't they keep you skinny? Or what about only mincing fairies wanting to play an instrument?

MQ said...

Musicians are young and energetic, people like that are naturally thin unless they stuff their faces and don't get much activity. In other words, unless they use food as a drug, like a lot of Americans do. But musicians have no need to use food as a drug -- they have access to lots of other forms of pleasure, like sex, music, and illegal drugs. If you have a lot of those food is a distraction.

Shining Wit said...

I propose these reasons three / youth, hard drugs, and poverty.

jaakkeli said...

One thing you'd NEVER realize about music just by looking at rock musicians is that it takes an insane level of a particular sort of self-discipline. Becoming eg. a good guitar player means insane amounts of practice and a lot of rote learning before you get an intuition for stuff. Most people never get there because they don't have the tolerance for boredom and lack of immediate results.

A theory:

Fat people tend to be those with low tolerance for the annoying "messages" like hunger and boredom that your brain sends to you to signal the need for an activity. They're the ones most likely to seek immediate self-medication to the first feelings of hunger and the most likely to fail at learning music or any other field that takes hours and hours of intense focus on boring practice before you get to the exciting stuff, with no immediate or guaranteed rewards at all.

Skinny people tend to be those who have high tolerance for the same messages. As a downside, they're vulnerable to serious substance abuse, as they're not as likely to take the body's messages about the stuff not really being good for you (eg. alcohol: awful taste, the hangovers, the vomiting etc).

Anonymous said...

Consuming large amounts of drugs and/or hard liquor inhibits appetite. Also fat people=low self confidence.

jacobus said...

My theory:

Your average fat person takes comfort in food; your average musician takes comfort in music.

Anonymous said...

There's a folk anthropology notion that the first wave of British invasion bands and Mary Quant-era models and designer tended to be small and slender because they were mostly born around 1938-42 and grew up during food rationing. But if you actually look at what the British were eating during the food rationing period, it's actually a lot of lean protein and green vegetables-- it's mostly fats and processed sugars that were in short supply. In short, the English diet was a Jamie Oliver dream during the rationing period, and certainly healthy enough to build strong bodies. One suspects some other factor is at work here.

Anonymous said...

What about Fats Domino? :)

dearieme said...

Fats Waller.

Anonymous said...

The answer is - there are lots of fat rock musicians. It's just that the fatties are more likely to be playing in no-name bars in Caliente, Nevada then a fancy battle of the bands.

If you are trying to get ahead in anything you think about and try to improve your physical appearance. People like skinny people. In music your physical performance is important.

agnostic said...

We ectomorphs have insanely high basal metabolism.

If music selects for guys who are on a natural energy rush all day, then it will select for skinny guys.

Other music types that don't focus so much on how much raw energy the guys can belt out, will be neutral with respect to body shape, or favor the more rotund.

Garrett said...

I think if you did a Venn diagram for "Musicians" and "Heroin Addicts" there'd be a pretty healthy overlap. And you don't see a lot of paunchy heroin users.

vanderleun said...

Something deeper? On word: Methamphetamine.

Grumpy Old Man said...

One possible answer is found in an old joke:

"What's the difference between a musician and a 14-inch pizza?"

"A 14-inch pizza can feed a family of four."

Could be they're just poor.

Barry Wood said...

The answer is surely straightforward. Skinnier men are much more likely to be thought of as good-looking by women who will tell them they should be musicians. Thus they will gravitate to playing in bands.

Especially if they conform to the industry standard Keith Richards look - spiky hair and high cheekbones. (How many lookalikes can you come up with?)

If you also factor in the fact that managers have traditionally been homosexual men with a lot of opportunity to impose their, ahem, preferences, then it does explain a lot.

Looks are an hugely underestimated factor in rock.

Van Morrison may have the kind of face that only a mother could love but it is his musical talent and voice that has kept him at the top of rock's division two for so long.

However if Jim Morrison had looked like Van Morrison would we ever have heard of the Doors?

Lantern-jawed, brylcreemed Ian Stewart may have been a terrific R,n B pianist but that wasn't enough to keep him in the Rolling Stones. He was demoted to roadie purely because he didn't look the part.

Rock is essentially a visual medium aimed at 12 - 14 girls. If Elvis had not been so good looking would he have become such a legend?

But it can work against artists too. The charismatic Brian Jones was edged out of the Rolling Stones - the band he launched - because he was too much of a threat to Jagger and Richards.

The dark and brooding Pete Best suffered the same fate at the insistence of Paul McCartney and John Lennon when he was replaced with the unthreatening Ringo Starr.

Boy George probably summed up the situation well when he was auditioning a good looking young male model for the position of guitarist with Culture Club.

He was asked if the lad could play guitar and replied "Who cares when he looks like that?". As the Stones former manager Andrew Loog Oldham said, looks are the most important thing, everything else can be fixed in the studio.

B322 said...

My theory is: Loudness compensates for size deficits. The little guys can't push anyone around, but their big guitar sounds can. Plus, being on stage with your scrawny bandmates disguises the whole band's size, partly because you tower over the audience, and partly because, if you pick your band well, there will be no one bigger than you to provide a yardstick. Or rather, a two-and-half-yard-stick.

I'm explaining a phenomenon I haven't noticed though, so I'm being tongue-in-cheek.

Mark Seecof said...

I say male sexual competition accounts for the skinny musicians. Mesomorphs and even endomorphs are generally more attractive to women (I think attraction to heavier men was adaptive; more weight indicated richer diet (command of food resources) and/or better health). Ectomorphs have to compensate. Skinny guys with musical talent feel pressed to develop and express it. Music is a social thing for humans. Women are also attracted to men who attract social attention, including musicians and other entertainers. Women will accept a skinny guy who can hold an audience. (All the "Spinal Tap" jokes aside, there is some correlation between musical talent and intelligence as well. And instrumental musicians are generally dexterous, which is a desirable trait.)

Of course some heavy men have musical talent, and if it is strong they may express it, but they feel much less pressure to develop their talent to the public-performance level.

Shawn said...

I think there is something to the whole thing about musicians not being jocks and as a result they go into music.

"Fatasses" are not marketable because their somatype is unattractive. Therefore, we have skinnies as rock kings since they were less able to compete as jocks. It is the same reason why newscasters are rarely fat--people do not want to see them as it is an eyesore.

Alternative rock is relatively feminine, and heavy metal and country are rather masculine, so you will see more muscular males in country and heavy metal. You were right about (as you wrote in your other article) about country musicians being beefier, but so are heavy metal musicians.

Anonymous said...

It may have to do with the fact that adequate nutrition is above the typical musician's pay grade. As the old joke has it:
"What do you call a musician without a girlfriend?"
"Homeless."

-J

Dennis Mangan said...

BMI is negatively correlated with various measures of mental health such as depression and mania. Creative artists such as writers, poets, and musicians tend more to have unstable mental health, e.g. manic depressives are overrepresented among artists. Therefore musicians will tend to be skinny. As for the fact that all of the musicians in that place were skinny, that could be ascribed to the musician's youth as well as that skinny is fashionable among rock musicians.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about musicians too, but rather at how odd they seem to be. At the workout center where I go, the sound is off and so when pop musical groups play on TV you eventually analyze their kinetics. It was quite funny to see a local folk-rock group play.Young bearded and hairy types bobbed,weaved, gestured, pouted, etc. Playing a little instrument seems to compensate for something somewhere.
Makes you think that Greek thinker, (Plato ?) had it right: poets or musicians really can't be trusted, their message comes across too powerfully even when content is not there.

jody said...

interesting question. i wonder though, if it's not simply the drugs. they do tend to keep you thin.

James said...

Oh yeah, so "deep".

testing99 said...

Duh. It's drug use.

Jazz musicians were not for the most part skinny, there were even a few fat ones. Same with Blues guys. Fats Waller, Fats Domino. Louis Armstrong was not thin. Davis was not thin later in life. Coltrane was neither thin nor fat. Same with Lionel Hampton. Bunk Johnson was not thin. Duke Ellington was not thin. Dizzy Gillespie was not thin. Sidney Bechet was neither thin nor fat. Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus were neither fat nor thin. BB King is definitely not thin.

It's clearly the pattern of living and drug use. Jazz musicians tended to be successful, on the strength of their musical ability and power of their playing. Same with Blues musicians.

Rock musicians, however, had to deal with all sorts of image issues, not just the hedonistic lifestyle that was mandatory, but appealing to women (must be thin) and heavy, heavy drug use of drugs that keep you thin (cocaine, heroin) by suppressing the appetite rather than fat by encouraging it (Marijuana).

Blues and Jazz musicians like to eat, did not restrain themselves, and their drug of choice was marijuana which was more appropriate to their long, long gigs at "mellow" tempos.

Rock musicians did restrain themselves at the dinner table, and used drugs to amp them up for performances requiring wild energy.

You can see this most clearly with less than stellar specimens of physicality in early rock musicians: Chubby Checker, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison. Or the Beach Boys. Supplanted by guys like the Stones or the various "Hair Bands" in the 1980's. Transition from the old Jazz-Blues model to the new pop model.

Pretty Songbird? Most Jazz and Blues female singers are FAT, and the best Rock ones tend to be as well: Alison Moyet for example.

Steve Sailer said...

How does smoking a lot of dope make you skinny?

Anonymous said...

"How does smoking a lot of dope make you skinny?"

I believe there are a few studies that indicate that pot smokers are on average skinner even though they consume more calories.

agnostic said...

Drugs? You people really are stupid.

The key is to see how far the pattern extends -- then we can rule things out.

Most famous composers appear to be pretty thin, aside from the hog-jowled Schubert. Renowned interpreters also appear slender.

That rules out fashion, audience demand, good looks (unlike lead singers, composers aren't good-looking), and drugs.

The outcast idea doesn't make sense because lardasses are even greater pariahs, yet are *under*-represented among musicians.

The "resting level of energy" idea makes the most sense, considering all musicians.

Bill said...

Shawn said...

I think there is something to the whole thing about musicians not being jocks and as a result they go into music.


I think Shawn's right. I never learned to play music because I was playing sports after school every single season, and often went to athletic camps during the summer.

I kind of regret it, but sports build up skills, too.

Skinny guys don't like sports so much because even if they are athletically gifted they tend to get knocked around a lot, and that's really humiliating in high school. Music allows them to compete and perform without getting repeatedly slammed to the ground.

But speaking of fat musicians, have you ever checked out the horn players in bands? Lots of lardos there.

Pia J said...

I think the ectomorph/fast reflex theory is most accurate because I've noticed there' a endomorph/fast reflex combo that makes good musicians as well. This group is probably underrepresented in rock because image is more important than talent but look at a symphony or an opera, I'll bet you'll see both types well represented. There's a certain advantage in technique to being able to do fast runs accurately. However, among the students I've seen in choir and band I haven't observed a solid connection between ectomorphy and being a better musician. I myself compensated for naturally slower reflexes (although I can attain a pretty good typing speed when in a class) by actually practicing. And the top flutists at the two schools I attended during high school tended more towards endomorphy than ectomorphy. Brain fat (in dendrites & axions?) at least may be important here so step carefully you fat-o-phobes. You can't just be skinny. You gotta be smart too. So there!

Martin Regnen said...

Out of the twelve bands competing, only five played rock. The rest were acoustic acts and various weird stuff. So I think it's not just rock musicians who are skinny.

It would be very interesting to see whether middle-aged guys who used to play music in their youth are skinnier than their peers who were never musical. If they are then it's probably something other than drugs and poverty. But if their weight catches up with "regular folk", then temporary factors like drugs, poor nutrition, social pressure to look thin etc. would be the key.

David said...

Different drugs do different things to the body.

Speed speeds metabolism. They didn't call 'em "diet pills" for nothing.

Pot only gives you the munchies. Not a weight reducer.

Heroin and meth are excellent for shedding unwanted and wanted pounds.

Cocaine gets the heart rate up, too. More energy. More running around crazy like a s**thouse rat.

Liquor tends to slim. Ever heard the phrase "he drinks his dinner"? Alcoholics are notorious for not eating much; many die of the effects of malnutrition.

Have you SEEN hard rockers "rocking out" onstage? The sweat flies. What a workout! But, how do they do that, night after night (and into their 80s, e.g. the Stones)? The gas in their tank may surprise you.

Unknown said...

Brian Wilson is/was an exception? Maybe he was skinny when young?

Anonymous said...

So how come opera singers are fat?

Edward said...

Yeah, I was about to say what Anonymous just said. All the hefty guys with musical talent and powerful vocals do Opera for the serious audiences, leaving only pop for the whiny little druggies and groupies.

Paverotti had perfect pitch.

Darwom said...

Apropos of nothing - at a bluegrass festival (very SWPL, by the way) several years ago, one band had a mandolin player who had to be morbidly obese. The band was a "name" act that made its living recording and touring, but still, bluegrass records don't sell huge numbers.

After the show, he was mingling with the crowd and I was shocked at the girl he had with him. Hot by all but the most exclusive standards.

As far as the skinniness goes, I dunno. Probably a lot of pop marketing - there have been a lot of fat jazz and classical acts.

Anonymous said...

So how come opera singers are fat?

Because some of the most successful ones (e.g., Pavarotti) grow lazy and let themselves go to pot? But it's a myth that most opera singers are fat. Most have normal physiques. Some are even fairly skinny.

Pia J said...

Obviously there are no musicians among those determining whether or not musical ability can be determined by body type.

Anonymous said...

Sheldon's supposedly discredited theory of somatotypes (which a few others have invoked here) would predict that ectomorphs-- being mostly made of skin and nervous tissue, like walking antennae-- would concentrate among the aesthetes of any culture. I think it "fits," given that rockers and singer/songwriters are mostly artsy-fartsies. What I really wanna know, though, is how exactly Sheldon's theories were "discredited"?

Beastmaster said...

OT, but I'm shocked cuz Vicente Carrillo Leyva, son of the head of the Juarez Cartel, just got arrested, and he doesn't look like yur regular Mexican.

Anonymous said...

When the fat lady sings, it's over.

Anonymous said...

I recall a radio interviewer asking a rock musician this question some years ago. In particular asking why drummers were always especially skinny. The drummer said that, according to his pedometer, he "ran" the equivalent of ten miles during each performance.

DK said...

@Anonymous:

So how come opera singers are fat?

Because other things being equal, to have a great voice you've got to have a large chest. Simple physics. So it's no wonder that opera singers tend to be fat.

The drugs/image explanation so often offered here is obviously
bogus. Observe an average violin player. Roughly 10X less overwieght percentage compared to the non-musician population of about the same educational achievement.

Anonymous said...

What about Frank Black/Black Francis from the Pixies? He has always had an impressive girth which just made his freaking out onstage more impressive.

Black Sea said...

liposuction

SKT said...

Well the rock stars tend to date fashion models, many or perhaps most of whom also are into the cigarettes and cocaine use. The lifestyles are compatible.

Anonymous said...

I think people here are jumbling up two different things with regard to drugs. Musicians and successful musicians.

For a start people in some struggling unknown band just arent going to have the same unlimited access to drugs that did for Hendrix or Bob Marley. And if they did have that access, I suspect pretty soon they wouldnt be a musician, they would just be a junkie.

A guy who has made it can go off the rails in a way someone at a battle of the bands level cannot. There will be money to pay for drugs, parasitical hangers-on to give them for free, managers wanting you keep working and earning. You will be protected from some of the consequences of drug abuse and yes you may be thin.

Some unknown will not be protected, not able to afford that life. If they are thin its for other reasons.

I read of a study once that claimed that rock musicians were actually less prone to drug and alcohol addiction (maybe not less prone to take some drugs/drink) than the average. Because generally they are doing a job they love and are fulfilled in a way the average joe is not.

It looks like most of the most notorious drug abusers of rock got that way once they were pretty well established, if it were the other way around they might well not have made it all.

I wonder if the thin musician thing is just to do with keeping busy. If you are playing/practising on a daily basis you dont have time to be snacking away, unlike me sitting here messing about on the internet!

What about other time consuming, dexterous activities. Building model railroads, restoring old cars, knitting etc Are there more or less fat bodies to be seen there?

PatrickH said...

Maybe skinny bodies mean skinny fingers, which means easier more precise picking and fretting. Kind of hard to get big meaty sausages placed just so...and with speed a-finger, no less.

CK said...

Fat people tend to be much less physically attractive, and singers do create a sexual fantasy to the average. Simply put, fat singer are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to attracting audiences and making people listen.

There's a lot of crappy music out there sang by beautiful people, and some good music nobody listens to sand by fatter people.

It may be a natural instinct, but when I hear somebody sing of the opposite sex, my sexual desire awakens.

OlaAmigos said...

CK, I have to agree. Love many female singers, and somehow I generally find them attractive -
Liz Phair, Rondstadt (in the day), Sherl Crow, Jewel, etc.

Like Chrissy Hynde so there are exceptions...

I accept that there is a relationship though, not sure why..

Interesting question Steve. Keep in touch with Mama Kin.

Colin Laney said...

And you don't see a lot of paunchy heroin users.

The only two exceptions that spring to mind are Belinda Carlisle (Go-Go's) and Hermann Göring (NSDAP).

Black Sea said...

"And you don't see a lot of paunchy heroin users."

Jerry Garcia

Steve Earl certainly became paunchy, but he may have been off the spike by then.

Anonymous said...

Tobacco smokers in my opinion generally have richer performance voices , more interesting and resonant. Actors also, Richard Burton and the best from the 60's and 70's...when it was the majority who smoked.
One of the features of your new President who is both a smoker and somewhat svelte.
I enjoy the sound of his voice though not so much the content.

james said...

Most of the guitar pests at school/college tended to be skinny.

Maybe rock music is a pissing competition for a lot of skinny beta males. A way of marking some territory and displaying their feathers in an area they can compete.

Tight jeans are rock musicians uniform. If the uniform don't fit..well, why bother.

James in Sweden.

Unknown said...

As has been pointed out, genre has a lot to do with this. Women don't like any kind of heavy, be that men or rock. A good amount of fatties and chubbies play metal.

Check out pudgy Brent Hinds from Atlanta prog/metal band Mastodon stage right (link).

You play anything that heavy, especially with long instrumental sections, and the majority of women are going to have nothing to do with you. Of course there are outliers, but a Mastodon show is a major sausage fest.

Doesn't matter what these guys look like. They've got to adhere to the styles of their subculture, couldn't dress like Prince, but their physical attractiveness is near inconsequential. Bring on the whispy beard for your tall, bass playing frontman who headbangs and gets out of the way when the guitars are going to work.

Play some light synth backed pop that the fags at Rolling Stone will still call rock, like the Killers (link) and women (and gay men) are going to be a significant part of the audience and you are going to have to be skinny and look presentable.

You'll get rare perfect storms like Zeppelin, who were both heavy and skinny and they become legends, because the metal heads and the women found something they agreed upon.

Metal is pretty impressive in one respect. The stuff you hear on Clear Channel isn't the heavy stuff. Nickelback doesn't count as metal. Those lesser beta and omega young men have created a small separate part of the music industry that moves a lot of albums without the help of mainstream radio play or music video. Way back when MTV still showed music videos, this stuff was relegated to latenight (Headbangers Ball).

Anonymous said...

One of the features of your new President who is both a smoker and somewhat svelte. I enjoy the sound of his voice though not so much the content.

Content? I must have missed that.

SKT said...

Not all musicians are skinny though. There's always plenty of fat kids in the band or orchestra.

Reader said...

Possibly relevant: Rock drummers 'are top athletes'

Anyway, this is a fascinating question, and there are probably multiple causes - still, my guess would be with music attracting a lot of people who aren't well-suited to or interested in sports, and also the fact that keeping busy at anything remotely physical is going to lend itself to weight loss.

Amazing how many people are suggesting drug use as the main cause... I take it none of the people proposing this as an explanation can play an instrument at an even rudimentary level and therefore have no real idea of the level of discipline and commitment it takes to really get good. We're talking thousands of hours of practice, much of it dreadfully boring (drilling scales, chords, arpeggios, etc. into the muscle memory) before you are going to be giving any flashy stage performances.

Iron John said...

I tend to favor the Sheldon body type idea. Ectomorphs tend to be the nervous, neurotic, uncentered type that can't sit still and always seem malcontent. Rock music is a great channel for all the bitter, malnourished hatred of the skinny guys.

Notice how the skinnies feel obliged to make comments against fatties, verging on moral preaching. Fatties "can't control their urges," they are "lazy," they don't "work to fit social expectations."

Bio-fact of the day. Human beings are not made for sedentary labor, and the American economy is completely skewed away from manual labor now. Fatness is what happens when you put the human animal in an unnatural environment.

Ectomorphs get a pass from the obesity epidemic because they are naturally ascetic types. Notice how these people always make some kind of religion out of their diets and have to preach about it. That's the preachy ectomorphic personality talking.

I will never forget when I was a younger guy walking down a city street at night and some black guy passed me and called me "Slim." Not a good feeling. Skinny=weak. In SWPL environments, weakness doesn't matter and is even admired.

Better to be a big, paunchy guy with bone-crushing strength on reserve. Guys like that can walk among the non-wimpified men of other races and feel more secure than the nervous little ectomorphs.

Julien Sorel said...

Isn't it obvious that:
1) Muscular guys have the easiest time with girls, and with status generally;
2) Compared to either muscular guys or skinny guys, fat guys are on average relatively more interested in things, well, closer to home than music or love or status;
3) So, skinny guys are the ones most driven to explore innovative ways of appealing to women and garnering status. They may also be the ones whose souls are most full of longing and therefore most musical.

As Julius Caesar says in Shakespeare (who took it from Plutarch), he is worried about "lean, hungry" men such as Cassius and Brutus. (He didn't mean guys who hunger for actual food...)

As someone who is both skinny and musical, I also think it's possible there may be some natural link there, perhaps through higher metabolism; but that seems less certain than the obvious sociological/psychological differences.

Pia J said...

As someone who was often challenged by lesser, ectomorphic musicians when I was in high school, I can honestly say that mesomorphic and all I moped the floor with them. Not surprisingly they weren't any good for that either.

rob said...

At least in college-educated white men, obesity and IQ are negatively correlated. IQ and most musical abilities are positively correlated. The two taken together make it likely that musical ability and obesity are negatively correlated.

By and large, fat people are more impulsive,dimmer and lazier. That's why there are so many stereotypes about fat people having less self control and being dumb and lazy.

even endomorphs are generally more attractive to women [than ectomorphs are]

Sure Mark, chicks dig fatties.

Peter said...

Dumb, dumb theory. To wit: Meatloaf, D. Boone, Bob Mould, Jack Black, Van Morrison, Belinda Carlisle, Cass Elliott, all the members of Metallica, John Bonham, Frank Black, John Popper, on and on. Go look at the English pop band "The Magic Numbers", they must all weigh over 180 pounds, even the women. Musicians don't tend to be any skinnier on average than investment bankers, advertising execs, actors or any other profession where appearance and self-presentation matter. Really dumb theory, Steve, just dumb. And you complain about people making unfounded assertions with no statistical basis? Come on, man.

tommy said...

Maybe young guys who spend money on instruments and amps just don't have much left for food?

This reminds me of a VH1 documentary on Metallica where Lars talked about living on "hand sandwiches" while Metallica was trying to get their break. He explained that the guys in Metallica didn't have enough money to buy bread so they had to resort to eating bologna out of hand.

It's not a full explanation, but fat guys are also less photogenic and a lot less likely to appeal to young audiences when on stage or video.

I also noticed in high school that rockers tended to disdain both jocks and fat kids alike. Truly buff rockers that play for a mostly male audience are also not that common.

tommy said...

Is there any difference in the physiques of British versus American rockers?

John Seiler said...

What about The Great Fatsby, Leslie West of Mountain? Canned Heat had a couple of hefty guys. John Lennon bloated during what he called his "Fat Elvis" period in the mid-60s when he was depressed and taking Acid. And don't forget Mama Cass and Jake Blues.

Unknown said...

Peter wrote (emphasis mine):

Dumb, dumb theory. To wit: Meatloaf, D. Boone, Bob Mould, Jack Black, Van Morrison, Belinda Carlisle, Cass Elliott, all the members of Metallica, John Bonham, Frank Black, John Popper, on and on.

Look at Metallica when they first made it (link). You sell a couple million records while playing metal (and not the bleached hair Poison/Motely Crue brand knockoff), and you can get bloated when you hit your 30s and 40s with no problems.

But they weren't a fat band when they went multi-platinum.

Anonymous said...

Iron John said...
Notice how the skinnies feel obliged to make comments against fatties, verging on moral preaching. Fatties "can't control their urges," they are "lazy," they don't "work to fit social expectations."


Ah yes, the old "it's glandular" excuse. Fact is, though, that only a small percentage of fatties actually suffer from glandular disorders. Overeating and lack of exercise account for most obesity in the U.S.. Are you suggesting that our skyrocketing obesity rate is caused by a sudden rash of glandular disorders?

Tony Danton said...

I can't believe anyone doesn't think the young Chrissie Hynde wasn't hot. Yeah, she shot her mouth off a lot and was for goofy stuff like PETA, but compared to the competition-the Liza Minnelliesque Pat Benatar (okay, without the schnozz) and the vacuous, huge-headed Blondie-Chris was way ahead. Way ahead.

Iron John said...

"Ah yes, the old "it's glandular" excuse."

Hmm, I don't see a mention of glands anywhere in my earlier comment. I did say that the obesity epidemic is primarily caused by forcing human animals into an unnatural sedentary lifestyle.

I did say that ectomorphs incline to asceticism in general including food asceticism. The ectomorphs get a free pass on the obesity epidemic because their penchant for mortification of the flesh and eating bird seed diets (or Vegan or low carb or radioactive food whatever the latest cuckoo trend is) saves them from the effect of a sedentary lifestyle.

I also said ectomorphs tend to be preachy and can't understand why others don't engage in their self-mortification diets. Most people are just like animals, they eat what tastes good because fats and sugars are not abundant in nature. Ectomorphs are an exception. They have a physiological predisposition to bypass the "eat" instinct and get themselves on starvation induced endorphin highs. Problem is: most people are not ectomorphs by inclination and don't "get off" on that kind of asceticism.

The solution is exercise. Not treadmills, real useful productive physical labor. The solution is to pay American workers a good wage for physical work. The solution is to stop the petty high school class warfare between the brains and the brawns and respect people for their natural stations in life.

Is that more clear?

rob said...

Notice how the skinnies feel obliged to make comments against fatties. Ectomorphs get a pass from the obesity epidemic because they are naturally ascetic types. Notice how these people always make some kind of religion out of their diets and have to preach about it. That's the preachy ectomorphic personality talking.

Number of sentences between whining about 'skinnies' stereotyping your personality and stereotyping thin people? Four.

Anonymous said...

I did say that ectomorphs incline to asceticism in general including food asceticism.

Most ectomorphs just have extremely fast metabolisms and eat whatever they want without getting fat. They aren't morally superior to fatties, just luckier.

And with regard to Pavarotti, he was lazy. He never bothered to learn to read music--he just listened to recordings of other tenors singing and copied them. He was also a notorious glutton who routinely stuffed himself on rich foods and never exercised, which is why he became morbidly obese. He could get away with that foolishness because he had become a big name, so he could just coast along half-assing everything and still make tons of money. Great voice, but a lazy, mediocre musician.

John Seiler said...

More fat musicians: In addition to Fats Domino (mentioned in other posts), there's also Chubby Checker, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison after he gave up LSD for Bushmills.

Iron John said...

"Most ectomorphs just have extremely fast metabolisms and eat whatever they want without getting fat. They aren't morally superior to fatties, just luckier."

Tell that to the ectomorphs.

The basic point is that the American media have been saturated with diet preaching for more than a generation now, and the country is getting fatter and fatter and fatter. Obviously the preaching about self control is not working.

Back in the 1905's, when Americans ate burgers and fries and milkshakes they were skinny. Why? Because in the 1950's 40% or so of the American economy was blue collar. Now that is nearer 15%.

For a body to function, it needs a head, yes. It also needs hands, legs, a spine, guts, and balls. The readership here gets the brains part fine, but leaves out the spine, guts, and balls part. Heads with no bodies end up as frankenstein monsters, which is what has happened to our country.

The heads don't realize this, but lack of hands-on life experience short-circuits the brain's ability to think realistically and pragmatically. You end up with brains divorced from real experience needed for real problem solving to happen.

This brain-brawn disconnect has also brought America to a point where the hands speak a different language from the head right now. Now the disembodied heads complain about the grafted hands without even really understanding how the body got to this point.

Anonymous said...

Iron John said...
Tell that to the ectomorphs.


I do. Frequently.

IJ, you're preaching to the choir here about the need to bring back well-paid, respectable blue-collar work in America. But the fact remains that the typical American diet & eating habits have steadily worsened over the years. Combine that with sedentary lifestyles and you get an epidemic of obesity and its attendant problems like heart disease and diabetes.

rob said...

The basic point is that the American media have been saturated with diet preaching for more than a generation now, and the country is getting fatter and fatter and fatter. Obviously the preaching about self control is not working.


Of course not. Self control can't be preached into anyone about anything. The obese would have to have some to start with.

Back in the 1905's, when Americans ate burgers and fries and milkshakes they were skinny. Why? Because in the 1950's 40% or so of the American economy was blue collar. Now that is nearer 15.

They ate smaller portions, ate out less frequently and didn't stuff their faces constantly, They occassionally got within shouting distance of a vegetable.

New York magazine had an interesting article on bariatric surgery.

http://nymag.com/nymetro/health/features/1868/

But all bariatric surgeries also require a lifetime of vitamin and mineral supplements, which some patients ignore. Because it's hard to take a couple of pills every day when one has no self control.

The director of research at U.S. Bariatric in Fort Lauderdale, says that about 30 percent of its patients convert a penchant for overeating into alcohol dependence. Just like any other addict switching one drug for another.

One may think that skipping some candy to avoid a heart attack, or maybe only blindness losing some toes, or a foot diabetes is ascetic. One who thinks that has has time preference, low tolerance for discomfort, high impulsiveness...just like every other addict.

clem said...

Regarding the effects of diet: Famous vegetarian rockers include Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Don "American Pie" McLean, Tom Scholz--the 4.8 GPA M.I.T. Engineering graduate, mastermind guitarist/songwriter behind the group Boston--"guitar god" Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo.

Whenever you're tempted to impugn the virility of vegetarians--and I know that many of the "real men" posting here aren't shy about doing that sort of thing--think about the above list.

Most skip-rope and smoke dopers from the '70's look like Tom Petty.

Another vegetarian.

heavy metal and country are rather masculine

Sample size of one, but Ozzy Osbourne is vegetarian.

...a fat sweaty guy hyperventilating on stage can be a real buzz kill...

Oh, that reminds me: Meat Loaf is a vegetarian too.

Do you have any idea how much the whole long-haired musical profession skews not merely toward the political left but also toward the low-fat diets which are a natural outcome of a respect for animals and the environment (you know, "goofy stuff like PETA").

Rock musicians, however, had to deal with all sorts of image issues, not just the hedonistic lifestyle that was mandatory, but appealing to women (must be thin) and heavy, heavy drug use of drugs that keep you thin (cocaine, heroin) by suppressing the appetite rather than fat by encouraging it (Marijuana).

Now that's funny--a classic "T99" observation.

Have you ever hung out with rock musicians at all, '99? Even in your Roissy-esque wet dreams??!

Yeah, no "last dance with mary jane" going on there at all. LOL! (Full disclosure: The last time I personally "partook" was precisely while jamming with a half dozen electric guitarists in their rehearsal space.)

Skinny guys don't like sports so much because even if they are athletically gifted they tend to get knocked around a lot, and that's really humiliating in high school.

There are plenty of non-contact sports out there, from baseball to badminton and tennis. If you don't like the contact in hockey, play goalie (that's what scrawny-little-me did in junior-high; MVP of the team, too.)

Also, the Juno ceremonies (Canadian equivalent of the Grammys) were just held over this past weekend. Every year, prior to the award-giving evening, a team of NHL old-timers plays a "Juno Cup" hockey game against a team of Canadian music stars, captained by Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo). Other players: Barenaked Ladies drummer Tyler Stewart, Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle, country singer Aaron Pritchett, and country singer George Canyon.

"John Dinsmore, who plays bass for [Kathleen 'Hockey Skates'] Edwards and will suit up in the game on Friday, [said:]"

"'Probably all of us played hockey before we played music, certainly I did,' he said. "Then when you realized you weren't going to make the NHL, and (music) was a better way to meet girls, then it's just with you."

You don't learn to skate and play hockey as an adult if you weren't doing it as a kid. And unless you were in net, you were getting hit.

Obviously there are no musicians among those determining whether or not musical ability can be determined by body type.

Precisely. Yet "experts" on it all, nonetheless.

Maybe skinny bodies mean skinny fingers, which means easier more precise picking and fretting. Kind of hard to get big meaty sausages placed just so...and with speed a-finger, no less.

You need to check out Wendell Ferguson's "sausage fingers."

Seven-time Canadian Country Music Assocation guitarist of the year, and a virtuoso in any style you want to name, from Atkins to Clapton.

Jerry Garcia was missing a finger on his picking hand, from a childhood wood-chopping accident. Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi lost the tips of two of his fretting-hand fingers in an industrial accident.

So sure, thinner fingers make it easier; but you can do it at a world-class level even without all your fingers, if you just have the drive to succeed, and are willing to put in the thousands of hours of practice per year (i.e., 6+ per day) that it takes to get good at the art.

You can do it like Eddie Van Halen, sitting on the edge of your bed with a six-pack from 7 pm to 3 am while your brother was out getting laid; or you can do it like Zakk Wylde, practicing all night and then sleeping through your classes in the daytime. But there's no other way to get to a professional level than to put in those extreme hours of practice ... for from three to ten years.

Nickelback doesn't count as metal.

No shit! Good Lord, are there people anywhere who imagine that they do count?!

In the words of Paul Simon (like Mama Cass Elliot, a 160 IQ): "The music suffers, baby/The music business thrives."

[Iron John:] Rock music is a great channel for all the bitter, malnourished hatred of the skinny guys.... Notice how the skinnies feel obliged to make comments against fatties, verging on moral preaching.

"Methinks the fatty doth protest too much."

The solution is to pay American workers a good wage for physical work.

Work, that is, which could and should be done more efficiently by machines.

And when any high-school dropout can make "a good wage" for doing gruntwork, what incentive is there to complete a Ph.D. with mountains of debt, hmm?

Absolutely brilliant idea there, "Steely John."

Iron John said...

"They ate smaller portions, ate out less frequently and didn't stuff their faces constantly, They occassionally got within shouting distance of a vegetable."

The economics was different in the 1950's too. Women were basically stay-at-home Moms who had time to cook. Eating out was very expensive for the middle class. People came door-to-door with things like vegetables, milk, and so on. People had big families, and cooking for more people is more economical.

And more like 40% of the workforce was doing physical labor by day. Neighborhoods were safe so kids could go play outside all afternoon instead of play a video game inside.

This is why I get angry when physicians and diet gurus talk about the obesity epidemic (which is shockingly real) without talking about the environmental issues, which translate to political issues.

Comparing overeating to drug addiction is not helpful. First, because all animals need food to survive, and animals will overeat too in unhealthy environments. Second, it is not clear that drug prohibition has reduced the consumption of narcotics at all.

All talking about obesity in quasi-moralistic terms accomplishes is that it allows affluent, well-educated SWPLs to pat themselves on the back. Which they do constantly anyway. It does less than nothing for the ballooning population that is literally crippled by obesity.

Other reasons people overeat: People were also I think happier in the 1950's. Happy people have less a need to self-medicate with junk food. People also lived with less fear, and I bet that fear is also a factor in overeating. Talking about human emotions in clinical terms as if this is the individual person's moral fault is not helpful. These are political problems with political solutions.

One small pragmatic thing would be to tax junk food. I agree that McD's is a poison. Vegetables are expensive and need time to prepare, but greasy death-inducing hamburgers are cheap and quick. Classify foods below some threshold of nutrition per calories as "junk" and tax them.

A bigger solution would be getting this economy in order so that physical types can do the physical work that comes naturally to them and makes them happy, productive, and healthy. The exact opposite of Obama's "college for everyone" policy goal. To do that, America needs to get off the poison-drug called cheap Third World labor.

David Davenport said...

you're preaching to the choir here about the need to bring back well-paid, respectable blue-collar work in America.

Please explain how American blue-collar workers will both be paid well and be competitive with Chinese labor.

Felix said...

I've noticed that quite a few famous writers, historians etc are a bit overweight, or more

perhaps one factor is that musicians don't grow up intellectually while writers etc grow up and mature, and this difference is reflected in their metabolisms

Anonymous said...

David Davenport said...
Please explain how American blue-collar workers will both be paid well and be competitive with Chinese labor.


Yeah, you're right. FUCK American workers. Let 'em flip burgers at Micky Dee's for minimum wage. That'll teach those losers.

chriswnw said...

"The solution is exercise. Not treadmills, real useful productive physical labor."

Not going to happen -- we aren't going to revert to being a blue collar economy. The solution is apparently cities and suburbs where it is easy to get places by walking and cycling, and where driving is somewhat expensive. See Europe and Japan.

rob said...

Comparing overeating to drug addiction is not helpful...Happy people have less a need to self-medicate with junk food.

Actually, the addiction model is both helpful and useful. If you want to know why people are willing to die from overeating, it's because they're addicted.

You know what people use to self-medicate? Drugs!

Anonymous said...

Iron John

- best comment on isteve in ages.

Anonymous said...

Please explain how American blue-collar workers will both be paid well and be competitive with Chinese labor.

I don't know about paid well, but if the average man didn't pay 50% of his income in taxes he wouldn't have to work so hard, or he could have his wife stay home.

David said...

skipping some candy to avoid [...] blindness losing some toes, or a foot diabetes

The most common form of diabetes (90% of victims) is Type II. Type II Diabetes is genetic in origin; it is not caused by candy.

Of course, diabetics should avoid candy, which was your point. But a misleading impression was created about Evil Candy there. In moderation, candy is OK for the non-diabetic.

rob said...

David, people who avoid obesity rarely get type II diabetes. On a population level it's gene/environment.

On an individual level, it's be behavioral. Virtually everyone who does not get obese and exercises a bit doesn't get type II diabetes. They also put of the diseases of middle age into older age. In addition to improved functioning at any age.

My general point was that people who can't or won't avoid getting obese to avoid the consequences of obesity do have different personalities from people who do. The comparison does not favor the obese.

In moderation, candy is OK for the non-diabetic.

Obese people do not eat in moderation.

Epicurean said...

Let's put some paint to the idea that skinny is sexy. It's isn't, unless you're white, female, and plugged into Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is extremely fatist. This is all such bullshit, it doesn't matter how you look, you can be the ugliest fuck in the world and be a great musician that gains respect by many people. Just cause you skinny little bastards think you're all wise and philosophical doesn't mean fat people are bad people. Maybe some of us get the munchies a little more than others, alright.

thebeav said...

Amusingly enough, the majority of the comments left here illustrate the answer to this question. It is the sheer shallowness of our society that accounts for this phenomena. For starters, your average "rock musician" is usually not very talented. It seems that many of the "musicians" who posted responses are exceedingly egocentric and self-congratulatory. Well, for all you "skinny musicians" who think your physical appearance accounts for what you probably consider to be virtuosic talent, listen to the jazz composer/bassists Charles Mingus, organist/trumpeter Joey DeFrancesco, bassist Christian McBride, Indian percussion master Selvaganesh, or drummers Dennis Chambers and Kirk Covington: all overweight and all more talented than probably all of you.

Anonymous said...

okay all of you who say drugs is the reason they are all skinny are mental. thats just a stupid stereotype. not all skinny guys do drugs. and just cuz they are iln a band doesnt mean they do drugs either.

Anonymous said...

well theres the drugs sex and the lack of food

Lucas said...

i am a tuba play most everybody knows tuba players are fat i am very fat i weigh 260 lbs

Anonymous said...

I was pondering this question and came across this blog. I'm a singer & pianist, and I'm skinny. I've been performing since I was 5, and I've always been skinny. I noticed that most band members are. I don't know why. I don't like being seen as skinny, but it is what it is unless I consume upwards of 5,00 calories a day, I don't gain an ounce. Maybe there's some connection, who knows. But it makes me feel better that I'm not the only one :)

Anonymous said...

I've been a musician for 50 years. It's a compulsion -- very small money. Ectomorph. No white powders, except sugar. Pretty normal among my peers, many of them athletes or former athletes, former fatties who learned self-control, all showing various kinds of physical & mental advantages over non-musicians, an attitude of go-out-and-do-it, and of course less tendency to sit around watching TV complaining about how hard their life is. Non-musicians generalizing about musicians make me feel sad.

MrsGoKEV said...

I wondered about this too, having moved to Nashville recently. The guys I know who are musicians are not into drugs at all but are just rail thin. My hypothesis is that they are just so focused on practicing and getting better at their music that they just don't focus on food as much. I equate it to when I'm wrapped up in something and then, later, realize that I missed a meal. I find it sad that everyone just equates musicians with drug addicts.

Anonymous said...

Non musicians don't get it. We, musicians, are focused on what it is we do. It's all we think about. Better technique, better sound, better performance. I know very few working pros that are drug addicts. It takes a tremendous degree of discipline to play with any level of competence and balls of steel to perform in front of a crowd. It can be exhausting. A 45 minute set leaves you drenched and breathless. 2-4 hours of practice a day burns a lot of calories.

Musicians tend to get into a zone quit often. Time stops. You forget to eat. You lose sleep. I find that, when I am busy gigging, I don't get as hungry and tend to lose weight quickly. No TV. No sports. No other distractions.

I worry that something I eat will make me ill for the stage, or upset the bowels at an inopportune moment. I worry about staying hydrated. Nerves need to be managed without affecting performance.

It sounds vain, but performance is enhanced when you are lean and fit. You breathe and move better. You are able to get around your instrument unencumbered. Fat fingers don't fly. A gut will affect every aspect. Singers and horn players push from the diaphragm. Most pros are in phenomenal aerobic shape.

I think you are missing the point. You are speaking to stereotype rather than actuality. Gigging, pro musicians are like pro athletes in that respect. A lot of similarities.

Anonymous said...

WTF? Several of you need to get with the times. I barely know of any musicians that do drugs. The only reason drugs would make you skinny is because they are slowly killing you. Like the person above me said. Professional musicians are just like arhletes...we train for everything we do.

Anonymous said...

Because a low calorie diet increases growth of new nerve cells. Nerve cells, of course, are very important to musicians.