He was so young.
Oh my God, I used to love him.
I must have played that album a million times.
But I just heard him on the radio.
These comments are all too familiar to many of us. Music legends are dying at what seems like an unprecedented rate lately. For us Baby Boomers, I guess, it’s inevitable, as the performers on the soundtrack to our lives are getting up there in years. Neil Young’s opinion was that “it’s better to burn out than fade away,” but many of the musicians that we grew up with are still shining bright with no signs of slowing down, while others, sadly, have left us with nothing but our memories and all that amazing music.
They are only human after all, these music legends. Super human maybe, but why is it so difficult to say goodbye to them? Maybe it’s because they remind us of how we were when we were younger; full of life and possibility, boundless energy and willing to take on the world and it’s challenges. We were so certain back then that we would never turn into our parents, so old, so settled. But most of us did grow up and generally we’re fine with the way our lives have evolved. But in our minds, our music heroes are still the same as before- young and sexy with voices still pure and beautiful. So when the news spreads that one of our favorites has died, we’re in shock. How? Why? He was so young. This is so tragic. We just can’t believe it.
When John Lennon was gunned down in NYC in 1980 at the age of 40, I remember exactly where I was when I heard. I was getting ready to go out to dinner with my then boyfriend and randomly turned on the news. The shocking report brought me to my knees. It just couldn’t be true, but it was. The ‘smart’ Beatle was gone. Years earlier, Buddy Holly’s plane went down and for many, that truly was the day the music died. Gun violence results in the loss of thousands of lives and planes do, on occasion, crash. Every human life has value, but let’s be honest. Aren’t the lives of music legends just a little more important?
Iconic performer Prince died yesterday at the age of 57. 100 million records sold, 7 Grammy awards, a Golden Globe, an Oscar and a lifetime of memorable songs and performances. RIP Purple Prince. You will be missed. A few months ago, Glen Frey’s death left me in tears. My first thought when I heard the news was: Oh no, I loved him. My second? Thank God we finally got to see The Eagles perform last year. And right before that, the amazing David Bowie died from cancer. Do the deaths of famous people really come in threes? If so, can we please be done for a while?
One study done in Australia actually proves that rock stars really do die young. Researchers found, on average, that musicians die 25 years younger than the rest of us and have higher rates of death by accidents, suicide and homicide. The average musician today is expected to live to their late 50’s or early 60’s, way younger than the general population. Is it because the music industry has been guilty of celebrating the bad behavior and destructive lifestyles with its’ cornerstones of sex, drugs and rock and roll? Are those drawn to performing actually suffering and more likely to self-medicate? Look at the members of the 27 Club: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Cass Elliot, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. All lived troubled lives and had issues with alcohol and/or drugs. But thankfully, their music lives on.
I don’t mean to depress you with all these references to death. Instead, celebrate life and relive some of those memories. Reach back into your music library and rock out to Mick and the boys or Eric Clapton or Jackson Browne. Do it tonight. Your kids will laugh at you or roll their eyes, but so what? If you don’t embarrass them on a regular basis, you’re just not trying hard enough. Take some of your hard earned money and go see that band or performer that you’ve always wanted to. Ticket prices are crazy. Two tickets to the Eagles last year cost about the same as my first car. Of course, it’s a ripoff. But those songs that you know every word to, even if you haven’t heard them in a long time, are calling to you. Turn off the TV, turn up the music. At least for tonight.