Follow by Email

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Day the Music Died...or Did It?

Don McLean asks:

Can music save your mortal soul?

The answer is indisputable:


For me, music is like a drug with a mainline to my gut, my heart, my mind.

Unlike, say heroin, this drug soothes, excites, and connects, but without the nasty detox or potential loss of life.

But, it can get pricey. Just take a look at our iTunes account…

I digress.

It seems to me that since the beginning of 2016, a huge shift has happened in our world of music. We’ve already lost a tremendous amount of talent so early in the new year. How many more can we expect to lose? There are still about 333 days left.

Kinda gives me the goosebumps.

I read a lovely blog from spiritual guide, Elizabeth Peru, regarding artistic souls leaving this planet, particularly the souls of musicians. It resonated deeply with me. In it, she points out that this is a good year to transition to the other side, thus opening up new pathways for creativity to flow back in. They are “giving back” even as they move on.

It’s an interesting perspective and I must admit, I believe it. I’ve seen my own creativity kick into high gear in the past couple of months.  Whatever it’s worth, I pay homage to those who have paved the way for us, from music to writing to painting to sculpting, etc. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Take a minute to check out her blog if you feel so inclined, but finish reading this first, okay?

This has me thinking about my connection to music and my personal creative process. I can’t speak for everyone but I think that inspiration is stoked in many ways. For me, music might be number one.

There has been some scuttlebutt on social media from certain folks. Folks who mock those who feel genuine pain and loss after the death of a musician, begging the question “did you know him?”

The answer is usually no. Ordinary people don’t typically run in circles with megabands, huge solo artists, or rock stars. But, we are most definitely connected to them, certainly on a spiritual level.

Music penetrates us. It evokes feelings and memories. It creates vivid images. It colors the dull landscape of the barren desert stretch on the 10 freeway heading East out of California.

And even now, as I sit here typing in the Corner Bakery, I’m hearing “Kind and Generous” in the background and I’m instantly transported to my hospital room. It’s almost 17 years ago, I’m watching the sun come up, holding my newborn son, weeping tears of joy, listening to Natalie Merchant. Knowing my life had changed forever. Not knowing what the future would hold.

“I’m bound to thank you for it.” Indeed. Thank you, Natalie.

I watched “The History of the Eagles” documentary yesterday afternoon. I wept more than a few times. The death of Glenn Frey, even more so than the death of Bowie, penetrated my core. And Bowie, that one rocked my world too. I think the one/two punch knocked me out.

But, The Eagles represent so much of my life; a connection to my father, to my writing, to my love. The title of my novel-in-progress was inspired by some of the lyrics from Already Gone, for shits sake.

I think I took it for granted that I would be able to see them in concert again. I had no idea Frey was battling rheumatoid arthritis, that his bones and joints ached so terribly, that his stomach was torn apart by medication. His spirit was generous, infectious.

Did I know him? Of course not. But, his very nature lent itself to feel like I did. Like we all did. The Eagles were a bunch of regular guys wearing tattered t-shirts, flannels, and tennis shoes.

They reminded me of my dad in every way. Harry used to make up lyrics, laughing while singing horribly off-key. Kenny Rogers’, “Lucille” became “Four hundred children took a crap in my field. I’ve had some bad times, lived through some sad times, but this time my hemorrhoids won’t heal…” and The Supremes, “Stop in the Neighborhood” was also a classic in his repertoire.

But, The Eagles, he never changed their prolific stanzas. I can hear him now, belting out, “Standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona, Such a Fine Sight to See. It’s a Girl my Lord in a Flatbed Ford Slowin’ Down to Take a Look at Me.”

Death-and I mean as a whole, not just death of the artist- alters the ways in which we hear and process music. It might take some time and distance to see the change, to understand it.
That one song, you know exactly which one-it evokes a new emotion, a memory, laughter, tears.

It changes shape and is redefined.
It assumes a new identity.
It evolves.

Just like we do.

The anger I once felt that fueled an intense letter to Rolling Stone when Kurt Cobain killed himself in 1994, has dissipated. I can look back on that time and recognize the pain and anguish he felt. I called him a wasted iconoclast then and I still feel that way now, but I have compassion rather than rage. And for all the other artists who lost their lives too soon, either by choice or accident, I forgive you and thank you for what you left behind.

Time: it robs us of our youth but it gives us so much more.

To the folks who mock and ridicule those of us who mourn the loss of these great artists like we know them; we do. They craft the soundtracks to our lives.

I feel sorry for you. You’re missing out on an emotional and spiritual connection that draws us together, that reminds us we are one.

The good news is, there’s always time to save your mortal soul, right?

I think Don McLean would say yes, and I’m guessing he’s rethought the day the music died. That day didn’t kill music, just a few really amazing musicians.

The music lives on.