It started for me with Cobain. For a lot of people, it started long before that. The list is long, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Keith Moon, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Buddy Holly, Freddie Mercury… And there are so many more.
But, for me, it started with Kurt.
I was six at the time and didn’t really understand what had happened, but I knew that particular sound was dead. It wouldn’t be until a few years later that I would come to understand grunge and “the Seattle scene”. It was probably a few years after that before I understood suicide, but right away I understood that there would be no more Nirvana.
After Kurt, for me, came Shannon Hoon. Blind Melon had been unique and refreshing. It was unbelievable to me that there would never be more. Then came the deaths of John Denver and Michael Hutchence in the span of a month.
I wouldn’t even learn who Jeff Buckley was until long after his death.
It had become common for me to see members of my favorite bands pass away by the time Bobby Sheehan from Blues Traveler passed away in 1999. By the early 2000’s I was into my own musical career and, such as it was at that point, my own road to ruin.
In 2004 my writing partner passed away. We were 16 and 17 at the time. It was at this point in my life I developed the method I still use to this day when it comes to the deaths of great artists.
By the time we lost Jeff Healey in 2008 I had become a master at dealing with the sadness you experience when a person who means the world to you and influences you heavily leaves this earth.
I like to let the work speak to me, and speak for itself before I move forward.
Ill never forget the day Ronnie James Dio died.
I was in a hotel room in Virginia Beach, devastated. I had never met Dio and had never really been all that influenced by his brand of metal, but was devastated.
I remember blasting Gypsy on the way to my gig that night. I remember thinking how much that music meant to music on the whole. I had decided earlier in the day that we would play his version of Dream On and Welcome to my Nightmare.
That night, I decided not play those versions after all. His music needed to speak to me in whatever way that meant, but it needed — without my comment — to speak to others in whatever way that meant for them.
The last two months have been hard for me. It started with the death of a man as close to God as there was on this mortal plane, Allen Toussaint. Toussaint was the person who through everything kept jazz safe in New Orleans. He was the person who knew “how it was supposed to swing” or at least that’s how it was once posed to me. To give you an idea who Allen Toussaint was, “Trombone Shorty” Troy Andrews who is the most famous New Orleans musician with Toussaint gone, played the second line and The Neville Brothers were pallbearers.
After Toussaint, I didn’t think I could be more devastated but I was wrong.
To paraphrase a radio friend of mine, it was like living the moment that you always knew was coming but prayed never would. On Dec. 3rd 2015 Scott Weiland died. We all knew about Scott’s history with drugs and alcohol but his death was shocking none the less. The voice of a generation was gone.
Then the unthinkable, unimaginable, and unfathomable happened. I was convinced Lemmy would outlast all of us. Despite his history of hard drinking and hard living I thought maybe even death was scared of Lemmy.
Then I woke up Monday morning. I’ve never been a David Bowie fan, as it were. I like his music and I certainly wouldn’t turn it off, but I was never really a fan.
Or so I thought.
As it turns out I owe a huge debt of gratitude to David Bowie. Bowie was the first and maybe the only musician to change his style and persona like they change Doctors on Doctor Who. He didn’t care about the zeitgeist. He wrote what he wanted and played what he wanted. He was a musical chameleon and he made it cool to just do what you wanted.
Everyone I’ve listed and everyone I haven’t have one thing in common: They all made it cool to be who you were. To wave the flag for whatever it was that made you tick. It means a lot to me to be able to say that all of these great artists have influenced me.
I want to leave you with two thoughts. The first is from Pete Townsend of The Who.
“Look at my life! Look at my generation! How did that work?! Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Keith Moon, the list is fucking endless! They’re dead. My life is full of dead people. My friends are dead. My friends! They may be your fucking icons but they’re my fucking friends! They’re dead…”
The second is my own:
“Immortality is not a function of living forever. Living forever is impossible. Immortality is possible. Immortality is a function of memory. As long as someone remembers you, thinks about you, loves you, then you are immortal.”
I cannot wait to see the band in the afterlife. Its going to be amazing. Thank you one and all. My you find eternal rest. You are immortal.