It’s been a bad calendar year for influential musicians. From May 2015 until now those that have gone to the great gig in the sky include…
BB King (May 14th, 2015)
Scott Weiland (Dec. 3rd 2015)
Lemmy Kilmister (Dec. 28th, 2015)
David Bowie (January 10th, 2016)
Glenn Frey (January 18th, 2016)
Maurice White (February 3rd, 2016)
Merle Haggard (April 6th, 2016)
And most recently…
Prince (April 21st, 2016)
To all those who personally knew these people and their extraordinary talents, sympathies. For the rest of us, we only knew their art. But that always seems to be enough to strike an emotional chord in each and every one of us who have ever felt the loss of an artist’s passing.
If there’s anything to learn from this past year it’s that life is short. But the memories you create and leave behind for others are what define you. That’s what gives us a taste of immortality.
The aforementioned deceased are no exception. While most of us didn’t know these musical giants, somehow their work knew us as it rests in the background and foreground of our best and worst moments.
That’s the power of music.
Music is a language we all understand in some way. It’s in our soul. Subjective as anything the songs and artists we covet help inspire and invoke passion we can’t easily put into words. They’re there when we’re happy, angry, reflective, or despondent. Some songs touch you when you’re Under Pressure or when you have your first Kiss. They comfort when The Thrill Is Gone. They even define your independence while your Mama Tried to keep you from a Space Oddity.
You’ll always have that feeling of hearing an artist for the first time. Their songs act like 4 minute time machines, taking you back to that moment and all the sensations that come with it. The smell of stale beer stained floors under the dim lights of a smoky barroom. The feeling you had during that awkward slow dance at prom while your friends gossip behind you. The freedom of choosing a destination unknown, driving a Little Red Corvette with a late night radio date.
These kinds of people don’t just inspire a generation. Their work is generational. While the music industry fights to categorize an artist by conventional genres, most of these artists fought to be undefined. They were Rebel Rebels with an Ace of Spades up their sleeves. That’s what makes them transcendent while they leave discographies of work for us to continually treasure and others to discover.
Nobody can replace these trailblazers. To teach us what it sounds like when another bird cries, chronicling life in a faster lane, reincarnating Ziggy Stardust, or showing us just how blue the blues are won’t stand alone. It’ll only serve as a generic impersonation of the emotional attachment we have to the brand name. With any luck, a new generation of artists will blaze their own trail and reside in other’s lives like these fallen Shining Stars have.
Until then, I’ll be staying at The Hotel California.