RIP The Soundtrack of our Youth
Since Easybeats frontman and solo artist Stevie Wright died on 27 December, and Motorhead frontman and metal legend Lemmy Kilmister on the following day, it has seemed like barely a few days can go by without news of another rock or pop music icon passing.
Barely a month into 2016 and we have also lost Natalie Cole (31 December), Robert Stigwood (manager of The Bee Gees and Cream, producer of movies such as Grease and Saturday Night Fever – 4 January), David Bowie (10 January), Glenn Frey of The Eagles (18 January), Jimmy Bain (bassist with Rainbow, Dio and The Last In Line – 24 January), Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship – 28 January), Signe Anderson (also of Jefferson Airplane, also 28 January), Brad Kent (D.O.A. – 3 February) and Maurice White (Earth Wind & Fire – 4 February) [and they’re just the more well-known names.]
“69 or 70 is too young to die!” some fans have cried, despite not having bought their idols’ albums for years and not even knowing their recent work.
Well… I have sad news for rock fans everywhere.
There are many more deaths to mourn, and they’re coming soon.
The super-talented innovators who soundtracked our formative years and most important life events (and in many cases continue to inspire and influence younger generations) are all in their ‘60s, ‘70s or beyond.
They’ve survived being at the forefront of the cultural revolution: indulged in free love, experimented (and often leaned heavily on) all the drugs, been dragged from town to town and gig to gig in endless tour buses and planes, and had to deal with the pressure and stress of ever-increasing artistic and commercial expectations in an ever-changing marketplace.
How the likes of Keith Richards and Jimmy Page have avoided (against all odds) death by misadventure is a miracle in itself!
Age, weariness, the decay that their hedonistic lifestyles must surely have had – all must take their toll, and having survived the pressure, the partying, the addictions and the rigours of the road, their enemy is now Father Time.
We have finally reached the tipping point.
The surviving Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Beach Boys, Eagles, members of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, KISS, Slade, Sweet, ABBA, Thin Lizzy, ZZ Top and many, many more must all be firmly in the sights of the Grimmest of Reapers.
There’s something tragic about losing an artist who soundtracked your pre-teen or teenage years, your first date, first kiss, first fleeting tastes of love. Most of us can remember the first record we bought and the first gigs we attended: magical moments that played a huge part in who we are now, and which still influence the music we listen to even now. What a debt we owe these artists!
The outpouring of love and loss when Lemmy and Bowie died was staggering: despite being so radically different, each had amassed a body of work which touched many, but more than that, they each boasted an attitude of individualism, of creating something that had never been before, and each in their own way had given their middle finger to ‘the man’ and lived their lives the way they chose.
We can’t help but find that admirable: even the most conservative amongst us harbour a glimmer of rebellion inside. What would our society be like now if there had never been a Bowie, A Motorhead, a Beatles or a Stones? Sadly though, when these bastions of social insurgence succumb to the ravages of time they are proven mortal – and we all feel a little more mortal because of that.
At this rate we will have precious few true rock stars left in ten years.
Don’t wait until your other musical heroes die to remember them: do it now while they are still with us. Remember the way they moved us and shaped our lives. Now is the time to shout their praises loudly to your friends and online, so that maybe they can hear a groundswell of appreciation before it’s too late.
We never know what we have got until it’s gone: dig out your dusty vinyl records and CDs, play them loudly, and then go investigate the latest works of that band who used to be your favourite. You might be surprised, and you’ll be giving one last gift back before that long goodnight claims them back into the earth.
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About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE