Musical gratitude

Of late, we music fans have been shaken to the core by the recent spate of deaths of longtime musical heroes. It seems like it’s been oppressively fast and furious.

Just since December, we lost Scott Weiland, Lemmy Kilmister, Natalie Cole, David Bowie, and Glenn Frey. And others with whom I wasn’t as familiar, including members of such great bands as Tower of Power and Mott the Hoople. Personally, David Bowie and Glenn Frey hit me the hardest, being the most familiar with their music. It’s difficult knowing that these talented people are no longer with us.

But along with sadness and feelings of mortality, another, more positive feeling has shown up in the mix for me as well. Gratitude.

I’m grateful that these artists lived long enough to show us their full range. There have been so many great rock stars who joined the “27 club”–dead at the age of 27. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse are the most well known. A quick Google search told me that some other members of this unfortunate club include Robert Johnson, the Grateful Dead’s Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Badfinger’s Pete Ham, Big Star’s Chris Bell, and the Minutemen’s D. Boon.

We saw such greatness from these artists who died so young, yet with their passing, a sense of incompleteness and unfulfilled potential lingers. With Hendrix, there has always been the question of “where would he have gone next”. The same is true of the others. The “what might have been if they had lived” is the nagging question.

It’s difficult to find an upside, but if there is, it’s that the artists who recently passed away had long, illustrious careers. We saw them grow up, create, blossom, invent, inspire, and entertain. We got to see something that feels like their full range. We didn’t have to ask “what comes next”–they lived long enough to answer that question, many times over. Yes, it still feels like their time was cut too short, but at least we got to spend more time with them.

For all the music they gave us, I am grateful. I am thankful that they were around long enough not only to influence subsequent generations of musicians, but in some cases, to interact with them and be considered their peers. This was a gift to us all. Thank you.

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