Regularly, before signing off from his Friday simulcast (Radio/TV), Dan Patrick signals a mention of condolences upon the recent death of a prominent figure in our lives. When this blogger, first heard the opening drumline of "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire, he had to scramble to Wikipedia and YouTube to discover that the band's first album, Funeral (2004), contained "Wake Up." Now, when the accoustic open begins, it's a cue for an elegaic tribute from Dan Patrick. Today's illustration for Eags' own comments triggered by last month's deaths of David Bowie, Glen Frey, and Paul Kantner have a fitting accompaniment in "Wake Up." If this is a (fair & balanced) function of rock music, so be it.
[x NY Fishwrap]
Reading Rock Star Obituaries
By Eags (Timothy Egan)
Tag Cloud of the following piece of writing
David Bowie & Arcade Fire
Radio City Music Hall, 2005
They pass away with regularity now, frozen in provocative poses of youthful eternity. Gone in the last month are David Bowie, age 69, Glenn Frey, 67, and Paul Kantner, 74, musicians who lifted hearts, pushed boundaries, had it all and then had nothing that could hold off the inevitable.
You parse the cause of death, as if that explains something. You look for a pattern — years of debauchery finally catching up with them? — and realize simply that a rock star can have a very ordinary ending. Bowie, the Man Who Fell to Earth, suffered from cancer. Complications of rheumatoid arthritis and pneumonia stilled Frey, whose voice haunts a million sunsets from the Hotel California. And Kantner was felled by multiple organ failure brought on by septic shock. These are things that kill old people, not demigods with electric guitars.
A founding member of Jefferson Airplane, Kantner was once a co-author of a song with this anthem:
“One generation got old
One generation got soul
This generation got no destination to hold.”
Of course, we all have the same destination. Still, death does not become rock ’n’ roll. How can it be that all four original members of the Ramones are gone? Aren’t they still headbanging somewhere, three chords against a wall? Tommy, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee. Hey, ho, let’s go. They belong to sports stadiums now, in between innings.
A rock star’s death is at once shocking, because rock stars aren’t supposed to die, and no surprise, because many of them should have been dead a long time ago. The cadaverous Keith Richards, at the age of 72, is a living testament to how much self-abuse — heroin, tobacco, alcohol and sleep deprivation — one man can endure. After the apocalypse, goes the old joke, only Richards and cockroaches will remain. But then again, there was always alcohol in Winston Churchill’s bloodstream, so maybe the Brits are on to something.
Age-defiance has long been a part of the music that young white musicians fashioned from black rhythm and blues. The earlier genre had a place for mournful riffs on the passage of time. Rock pushed it away, though Bowie at least foretold it in “Changes,” one of his biggest hits:
“Oh, look out now, you rock and rollers,
Pretty soon you’re going to get older.”
So now it’s laughable that Pete Townshend could define his g-g-g-generation with “hope I die before I get old.” His band mate, the drummer Keith Moon, did just that, leaving this mortal coil at the age of 32. Townshend is 70, and still performing the song.
Mick Jagger was adamant about at least one thing in his youth: “I’d rather be dead than sing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45.” He’s a seasoned 72, and the Rolling Stones are touring yet again, sure to include that song.
Bob Dylan, at 74, or Neil Young, at 70, could be the Bernie Sanders of rock. They don’t hide their age, all crinkly, deep-lined and grumpy, and yet still draw the same youthful crowds that follow Sanders around like he’s Phish on tour. Hey, look at that old dude rock!
Bruce Springsteen has long had a poet’s feel for how life chips away at hope and ambition. From the stage at the age of 66, he holds his microphone out to the crowd for the lyric in “Thunder Road” — “so you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore.” Many of those who sing it for him are indeed scared, in an age of diminished expectations. But the song is a palliative.
Springsteen has lost at least two members of his E Street Band; he is the rare rocker who can sing of aging without sounding inauthentic. And yet, this being rock ’n’ roll, he and Paul McCartney (now 73) did not seem like creepy old farts when they belted out, “Well she was just 17, you know what I mean,” from a London stage in 2012.
Some of pop culture’s most talented stars — Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse — belong to the 27 Club, having died at that tender age. I wrote the story of Cobain’s death for this newspaper, and I ride my bike past the house in Seattle where he killed himself. It just seems foretold, for artists who can’t keep their psychic demons at bay, to die young.
At the other end, you have clean-living Pete Seeger, he of the folky “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” a song that makes me want to summon John Belushi from “Animal House” to smash his guitar. Seeger died at the age of 94, of natural causes. Of course.
Rarely a day goes by when I don’t miss John Lennon. I can’t remember if I cried when I heard that he’d been gunned down in New York. But I remember someone telling me that he’d be forever young, at age 40, which didn’t seem young at the time. He was so much older then. Ω
[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]
Copyright © 2016 The New York Times Company
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..
Copyright © 2016 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves