The tragic suicide attempt at the heart of The Kinks

Rock and roll has never been known to be a walk in the park for anybody. For all of the time spent on the road and the hours spent in the studio, the idea of being creative all the time isn’t always easy if it means pushing away the people that you care about the most. It’s never easy to step off the track, but Ray Davies came close to death once he realised his dreams didn’t make him happy anymore.

When looking through the first half of The Kinks’ career, it didn’t seem like there was anything to worry about. The band had already laid out a distinctive sound completely separate from the other British Invasion acts of their time, and becoming the unintended father of genres like heavy metal didn’t necessarily hurt, either.
That’s not what Ray wanted to do, though. He wanted to create stories with his songs, and albums like The Village Green Preservation Society made him refocus what he wanted to do. For every great track with a good melody, Ray also made up characters the same way a novelist might, creating a subtle vignette of what the person does from day to day before getting out of there at around three minutes.

After seeing how the sausage was really getting made, though, Ray started to resent some aspects of the music industry. Letting out his passive aggression on albums like Lola vs Powerman (and the Moneygoround) Part 1, things began to crack around 1973 when his wife left him.

In the middle of their separation, Ray’s brother, Dave, was also beginning to butt heads with him. Although any siblings in a band usually have their differences come out now and again (just look at The Everly Brothers), Ray started to get deadly serious about his depression leading up to a gig at London’s White City.

While Dave remembered the gig as being terrible, that was nothing compared to Ray’s state of mind. Not finding a way to make himself happy, he ended up overdosing on pills right before the show started in an attempt to end his life. By the time they hit the stage, he was on the verge of collapsing at any moment, even blurting into the microphone his thanks for supporting the band for so long.

Once Ray’s girlfriend found an empty pill bottle backstage, he was immediately rushed to the hospital, stating when he walked in, “I’m Ray Davies, and I’m dying.” Even though the whole thing may have been chalked up to him losing track of how much he was taking, Ray saw the episode as a deliberate suicide attempt.

Looking back on the incident, Ray claimed that everything was breaking down, telling The Daily Mail, “The doctor gave me pills and said, ‘Take one of these when you feel a bit down.’ I was doing what I thought was my last show, and I felt down every ten seconds, so I just kept taking them.” While it was clear that Ray needed a break, he was able to keep himself together to return to the band, leading them until their final album, Phobia, in 1993.

Although Ray might not have had any value in his life then, there’s no telling what lay in store for him had he not survived everything. He may not have been able to reach the same heights as his contemporaries, but his contributions to music both before and after his suicide attempt have still left their mark on legions of aspiring songwriters.

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