To say that 2016 has been a bad year for losing the great artists of our time is not only cliché, but a gross understatement. I’ll say it anyway. It’s been an absolute shit show. In fact this year has been so bad that if you start typing “artist deaths” into Google’s search engine, Google won’t even let you finish. The year 2016 just pops up. That’s right, even my computer knows the deal. And it doesn’t seem to be getting better. Yesterday Prince Rogers Nelson, known simply as Prince, died. He was 57. As far as icons go he was the real deal.
I’m still processing this devastating news. Still crying. Still in disbelieve we all have to go through this yet again. Like Groundhogs day, it seems that in 2016 we’re destined to relive the same nightmare over and over. I know that collectively we’ll all get over the pain, anger, and sorrow, but it won’t be easy. In Psych 101 we learned about death and which ones were the most impactful starting with spouses, then parents, then siblings, and on down the line. I don’t remember rock stars or musical icons being on the list. They should have been.
This then begs the big question we’re all asking ourselves in times like these. “Why do we grieve so deeply over the loss of someone we never knew personally?” Then I realize that question almost answers itself. Through their music, these icons shared the most significant piece of their spirit on a very personal level. The emotional impact music has on our lives is just as much a part of our souls as that of our family, friends, and close acquaintances. In some cases, especially for other musicians, even more.
I look back at all the things I said about Bowie on his death just four short months ago. I’m now forced to repeat myself. Just as I was forced to repeat myself when Keith Emerson died a few months later. And Merle Haggard. And Glen Frey. And Sir George Martin. The list keeps growing, but the passing of Bowie and now Prince have hit me particularly hard. And the same thoughts keep popping into my head. These creative powerhouses, these spirits from another world, these beings who shaped and changed our lives have now left us choking in the dust. And those are just some of the most notable names in the musician category. There are more. Artists. Actors. Entertainers both in front and behind the scenes. Names you may know. Names you may not. Famous or otherwise, they are all significant to our collective way of life.
Back in January, through my grief and tears I wrote this about David Bowie and never put it out for public consumption partly because it’s part of much larger work and I was too lazy to break it up into something easily digestible. Time passed and in some ways I felt I had missed an opportunity to contribute my thoughts along with the countless others who shared their personal reminiscences to a world in mourning. Because of the parallels shared between Bowie and Prince as our now fallen Gods among men, it makes sense to revisit the following snippet, as it is just as appropriate when memorializing Prince:
“I’m sure my feelings aren’t unique among not just those of my generation, but—and this is what is truly remarkable about the man— extend, and will continue to extend to my own children, my children’s children, and on and on ad infinitum until the planet implodes upon its own self-indulgences and civilization as we know it no longer imposes its will. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere out there in the vastness of the galaxy, there are alien lifeforms enjoying his work right this very moment. I can’t think of a better barometer to gauge the man’s genius.”
I have this theory, one that conflicts with my spiritually ambiguous path, but when icon after icon keeps dropping off the face of the earth, one grasps for any sort of explanation. And while this theory may be perceived as a bit wack-a-doodle and will probably make me sound every bit my age and then some, it’s simple. The Universe is taking the greatest artists off the planet in a recycling effort to replenish its stock of talent in order to counter the disparity being force fed to the masses across today’s airwaves. That’s right, I said it. Today’s music, at least what’s being passed off as such by corporate monkeys still trapped in the decaying paradigm of an industry that’s long lost the very reason for its existence, has none of the stamina as the music of previous generations. In a word, it sucks and needs to go away. And while it may take a few generations for this recycling effort to replenish humankind’s artistic soul, our icons spirits that are being ripped away from us will eventually make their way back to this green earth in some form or another and save civilization from mediocrity.
Or maybe it’s not that complicated. Maybe it’s just God, or the Universe, or whatever deciding that amongst all the bullshit distractions cluttering up our heads these days, we need to be reminded of what really matters. Iconic art trumps politics and false celebrity every day of the week. So for now let’s take this opportunity to appreciate the voluminous catalogs these icons have left behind and relish in the memories their music has scored, because you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.