Stuart Murdoch is the lead singer of Scottish indie pop band Belle and Sebastian. He has been living with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS) since the 1980s when he was a student. He has described his musical project in Belle and Sebastian as "a pop band that sprang out of infirmity."
Early life, career and illness[edit | edit source]
Murdoch was born August 25, 1968 in Ayr, Scotland, United Kingdom, and grew up in Alloway. At 17, he moved to Glasgow for college, quickly becoming involved in the music scene through work at a record shop, as a roadie at music shows, and as a DJ. Also at 17 (in 1986), Murdoch ran the Glasgow Marathon, finishing in under three hours (2:57:08).
At 19, Murdoch became ill with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS). He moved home for two years, eventually returning to Glasgow though his health had only slightly improved. For about seven or eight years, during the '80s to mid-'90s, Murdoch was severely ill. At one point he was hospitalized, but he says, "they didn't know what to do with me." While ill, he joined Glasgow's Hyndland Parish Church in Glasgow, participating in the choir and eventually moving into quarters on church property and serving as handyman and youth coordinator.
Belle and Sebastian[edit | edit source]
In 1996, while attending a course in music production at Stow College, he formed the band Belle and Sebastian, which he has said he had spent years of his illness envisioning and pursued with abandon when his health improved. Of that period of renewed health, he told The Guardian, “I was probably quite an embarrassing person to be around. You’re like a baby bird breaking out of an egg. I had a dream band in my head for years and years, while I was cogitating in darkness." Ultimately, he says, "You know, this is a pop band that sprang out of infirmity. There’s no doubting that."
Belle and Sebastian's first album, Tigermilk, debuted the same year and became a cult hit. Initially, Murdoch did not discuss his ME with his bandmates, finding the amount of effort required to explain his condition more costly than managing on his own: "That’s one reason I lived on my own for so long, because I had this thing and I knew how to deal with it and I hated talking about it because it was such a waste of energy and time." However a relapse circa 2002 forced the issue; he reports that "After that the band’s been really supportive.” The band continues to tour and produce records, including the 2015 album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance on which the first track, "Nobody's Empire", directly addresses Murdoch's experience with ME.
Belle and Sebastian cancelled their November 2015 tour due to Stuart Murdoch's "current health". Touring resumed from June to September 2016. Upcoming live performances are scheduled for the summer of 2017.
Personal life[edit | edit source]
Murdoch is a vegetarian.
Activism[edit | edit source]
Song about ME[edit | edit source]
- Nobody's Empire on Belle and Sebastian's 2015 album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
Interviews[edit | edit source]
2009, The New York Times Magazine, Murdoch, who was experiencing a period of improved health, talked about his experience of trying to gain recovery from ME:
Murdoch attended church as a child but drifted away as a teenager. In the depth of his illness, he began attending services at Hyndland Parish Church in Glasgow and joined the choir. Eventually he became the church’s handyman and moved into an apartment on the church’s grounds. (He’s still the youth coordinator for the parish.) 'I could cling to God or go the other way,' Murdoch said. 'And the other way would have been oblivion.' One day he visited a faith healer in his neighborhood. She placed her hands above his body for an hour. “I actually got sicker for a few months, and I feel that was when the demons were being cast out,” Murdoch told me as we hiked the beginning of the West Highland Way on a rare, clear Scottish afternoon. Murdoch’s health has largely rebounded — his energy has returned to near-preillness levels (though he’s still susceptible to colds that can linger for weeks)...
- 2015, Interview with the Solve ME/CFS Initiative, Stuart talked in a newly in depth and revealing way of his relapses and how ME has affected his life, the band, and his songwriting. He stated:
"I feel a little bit guilty because I haven't spoken up about ME for years and years. But I think with the last LP I basically had a relapse in the past two or three years, and it directly affected the work we were doing and then, it affected the songs I was writing and I had to talk about it during interviews...It's quite freeing to be able to talk about it. I kept so much of it secret for so long...
"When my band started and I started writing music and I got energy and my group came together, there was no point in talking to non-ME people about ME. It's so exhausting to try and explain what you're doing....At some point in the day you just have to disappear...It seems rude, but you just have to do it...I didn't mean to make it secret, it was just easier...
"[The past couple years, including when my son was born] it's been a cycle of virus and post-virus ever since...That's the thing about the show, you know. It's a great life...It can work great, but when I get sick, it just turns into the worse, because on top of the actual being away from home and just feeling so miserable, you have to do the show. They really will prop you up in front of a microphone, because so many people rely on you. You just can't afford not to...ME people are marginalized...I was a second-class citizen. I, sometimes still feel like a second-class citizen, certainty when in Britain...It was easier to put the metaphor of other [marginalized groups into the songs] because ME is almost too difficult to talk about. Or it's not dramatic enough or something...
- Aug 2018, Belle and Sebastian – Going Through The Emotions
- Sep 2018, Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian on ME/CFS: "This is a real thing - let's fix it."
- Oct 2018, Indie pop sensation's disease became his museRyan Prior produced Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Turning Points interview with Stuart, a short segment and an article.
Online presence[edit | edit source]
- "Stuart's Diary"
- Stuart has spoken out in support of research and Invest in ME Research and left a message of the group's online guestbook in Nov 2015:
"best of luck everyone, and keep up the good work "Invest in ME Research". it's a long hard struggle, but keep putting the boot in, and i'm sure that one day ME will get the recognition and the remedies that we so desperately desire. can't help thinking that in 50 years people will look back on these days as the ME dark ages. let's get into the light!"
Learn more[edit | edit source]
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Lynskey, Dorian (December 11, 2014). "Belle & Sebastian: 'I want to be in Abba but we're probably more like the Grateful Dead'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
- "Stuart Murdoch". IMDb. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
- Rodrick, Stephen (June 26, 2009). "More Songs About Feelings and Women". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
- "Pop stars running marathons: Belle and Sebastian". Run and Jump. September 12, 2014. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
- Murdoch, Stuart (September 2, 2015). "Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian ME/CFS Interview in L.A." YouTube. SolveCFS.
- Partridge, Kenneth (June 6, 2016). "Belle and Sebastian's 'Tigermilk' at 20: Classic Track-by-Track Album Look Back". Billboard. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
- Breihan, Tom (June 6, 2016). "Tigermilk Turns 20". Stereogum. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
- "November Tour Cancelled - Belle & Sebastian | Official Site". Belle & Sebastian | Official Site. November 5, 2015. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
- "Upcoming Tour Dates". Belle & Sebastian | Official Site. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
- Ciara (December 2, 2007). "Seats for Landing: M&S, S&M". Seats for Landing. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
- "Stuart's Diary Archives - Belle & Sebastian | Official Site". Belle & Sebastian | Official Site. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
- Puskar-Pasewicz, Margaret (September 16, 2010). Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism. ABC-CLIO. p. 246. ISBN 9780313375576.
- "OMF Ambassador - Stuart Murdoch". Open Medicine Foundation. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
- Hobbs, Mary Anne (May 2015). "Stuart Murdoch: Key of Life Interview with Mary Anne, More with Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, Mary Anne Hobbs - BBC Radio 6 Music". BBC. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
- Bennett, Sue (August 2018). "Belle and Sebastian - Stuart Murdoch - Going Through The Emotions". The Mind Map. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
- Murdoch, Stuart (September 13, 2018). "Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian on ME/CFS: "This is a real thing - let's fix it."". YouTube. Open Medicine Foundation.
- Prior, Ryan. "Indie pop sensation's disease became his muse". CNN. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
- Let's Do It for ME (November 13, 2015). "Message from Stuart Murdoch". Let's Do It for ME. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
- Let's Do It for ME (June 1, 2012). "Guestbook". Let's Do It for ME. Retrieved October 9, 2018.