Yahoo News - Nashville native turned country-rock star Jelly Roll's continued emerging fame has found him kicking off 2024 in an unlikely place: Capitol Hill.
Specifically in Washington, D.C. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, testifying in a hearing of the United States Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs titled "Stopping the Flow of Fentanyl: Public Awareness and Legislative Solutions."
Alongside Jelly Roll (listed in an announcement as "Mr. Jason' Jelly Roll' DeFord, Artist and Philanthropist") was the Fraternal Order of Police's National President, Mr. Patrick Yoes and investigative service firm Nardello & Co.'s Managing Director, Mr. Christopher J. Urben, a retired former Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Special Operations Division.
Jelly Roll was introduced by committee chairman Sherrod Brown (D - Ohio) as a "two-time Grammy nominee and CMT Awards-winner who sings about and advocates for those who are facing drug addiction [by speaking] with and for people struggling with addiction across the nation."
As he began reading a five-minute prepared statement, Jelly Roll noted that he was "nervous," because he was typically "backed by a rock and roll band when he had a microphone in front [of himself]."
He began an impassioned speech by noting that during that time, someone would die of a drug overdose — and that there was a 72 percent chance that the overdose would be fentanyl-related.
He defined himself as a unique panelist because he had been incarcerated 40 times before his 22nd birthday, and he was, first and foremost, a musician bearing neither Democratic nor Republican political affiliation.
Because of his criminal record, he noted that he currently has restricted voting rights and does not care to follow political conversations often.
Jelly Roll stays being the man.
In the United States, drug overdoses claim approximately 190 lives daily. This staggering statistic, often lost in the noise of daily news, was brought to light in a really powerful way by Jelly Roll yesterday. His impassioned plea to policymakers and society at large serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing drug epidemic that has plagued America for over four decades.
Opioids, and now fentanyl, are the devil.
I feel like just about everybody, especially from the north east part of the country can relate or shares that same sentiment.
If you are lucky enough to have not been affected by either of the two, or drugs in general, either yourself, or having a loved one who has, count your lucky stars.
You are truly blessed.
It's very rare today in this country not to know somebody, or be related to somebody who hasn't fallen prey to the disease of addiction, or worse, died from it.
190 lives a day is a fucking wild number.
Imagine, Jelly Roll posited, if a 737-passenger jet crashed every single day. The public outcry, the media coverage, and the immediate call to action would be overwhelming. Yet, the daily loss of nearly 200 lives to drug overdoses is met with a disturbing silence. This analogy is not just a call to action; it's a plea for empathy. Each of these 190 people is someone's colleague, family member, or friend.
"Fentanyl transcends partisanship and ideology," Jelly Roll asserted.
"I am not here to defend the use of illegal drugs," continued the performer, who noted the "unique paradox of his history as a drug dealer" who was "part of the problem" and now aims "to be a part of the solution."
From being an "uneducated man playing chemist with drugs [he] knew absolutely nothing about" to wanting to "get older, do better and be better."
Jelly Roll's call for a shift in perspective is profound. He urged America's elected officials and policymakers to delve into understanding the root causes of drug addictions, rather than defaulting to stigmatizing drug addicts. This approach is not only more humane but potentially more effective in addressing the epidemic.
It can't continue to just be ignored and expected to go away.
To underscore his point, Jelly Roll shared a deeply personal story. His daughter Bailee's birth mother is a drug addict, a reality that brings the national crisis to his family's doorstep. His fear that Bailee's mother might become another statistic is a harrowing reminder of the epidemic's reach. The history of America's drug crisis, starting with crack cocaine, transitioning to opioids and OxyContin, and now the fentanyl crisis, is a narrative of unaddressed systemic issues and failed policies.
Jelly Roll's statement didn't end with a plea to pass a specific bill. It extended to a call for open, sincere discussions at every level, from government chambers to the kitchen table. He identifies himself as a "stupid songwriter," but his firsthand experience with the impact of the drug epidemic provides him with a valuable and often overlooked perspective.
The drug crisis in America is more than a policy issue; it's a human issue that requires a compassionate and understanding approach. Jelly Roll's statement is a powerful reminder that behind every statistic is a human story.
I used to think drug addicts were stereotypical homeless people, sketching out at red lights, begging for money, or trying to wash your windshield. Then one of my best friends from high school, one of the smartest, most brilliant people I've ever met, who has a photographic memory, and came from one of the most loving and well-off families I know, went away to a big fancy schmancy college, graduated valedictorian, and landed a big time job doing investment banking in NYC. After I year there he was hooked on coke, then oxy. The oxy spiral sucked him down the drain costing him his job, all the money he made, and lowering him to a legit junkie. "The saddest thing in life is wasted talent" doesn't even begin to describe him. He went on to steal from his own family members to fund his habit. He destroyed almost every relationship in his life, watched other friends of his die from the disease, and watched both his parents pass away, heartbroken and shattered by him.
Thanks to his wealthy family he was never really able to hit "rock bottom", and instead has been in and out of fancy rehab centers in Florida for over a decade now.
This is a really fucked up think to think, and even more fucked up thing to type, but the fear of him overdosing or catching a dose with fentanyl has gone through my mind so many times over the last few years that I'm not really even fearful of it. My friends and I have just sort of come to accept it. That's the way this tragic story almost always ends.
Major respect to Jelly Roll for continuing to use his platform and stardom for the greater public good. You don't have to like the guy's music, but everybody should respect his character.
p.s. - here's the whole thing mentioned in the blog