Thursday, February 25, 2016

When The Music Dies Part 3

I turn 45 this year, which is a long way from old but does mean that many of the artists I grew up enjoying are certainly approaching that category. The recent string of celebrity deaths has been a reminder of that fact. When many people were asking what was going on, when there seemed to be a new announcement almost daily, the answer was actually quite simple. Like it or not, age is catching up to many of the people we currently consider to be legends. Add in health problems - and rock stars of past generations have not exactly had reputations for healthy living - and the prognosis is not good.

We have new artists coming along behind them and, while opinions vary, there will almost certainly be new legends among them. Time keeps flowing, no matter how much we may want it to stop, and that is not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a thing. It just is. The old gives way to the new, which becomes the old and gives way to the new. Round and round we go, which is one reason why it is so important to remember to enjoy the journey and not spend so much time worrying about the destination.

Peter Steele
1/4/1962 - 4/14/2010

If you are around my age and went through a gothic period, odds are good that it coincided with the rise in popularity of such things as Anne Rice’s vampires and bands like Type O Negative. With his resonating bass voice and imposing physical stature, Peter Steele definitely stood out in a crowd. At 6’8” tall, he was literally head and shoulders above most of the rest, and with stated influences like Black Sabbath and The Beatles, he was a man after my own heart, musically speaking.

It was more than just the music, though. Steele had an outlook that felt almost personal. During an interview in 2007, he was quoted as saying, “I've always been a very depressed person, but that's only one side of me, you know. It makes me feel better when I can express my depression, my anger, my frustration through music... sonic therapy." Sound familiar? Even when I didn’t get the music, and sometimes I didn’t, I always got where he was coming from.

Peter Steele died from an aortic aneurysm on April 14, 2010, and an oak tree was planted in his memory the following year in his hometown of Brooklyn. Aside from the certainly fitting use of such a large tree to remember such a large man, I can’t help but think he would have approved on a spiritual level.

Ronnie James Dio
7/10/1942 - 5/16/2010

It is almost impossible to be a metal fan around my age and not be a fan of Ronnie James Dio. It pretty much is impossible to be one and not have been influenced by Dio. The man had a fifty year career with nearly a dozen different bands ranging from 50’s rock ‘n’ roll to being considered one of the pioneers of heavy metal. In the latter category, he also performed with nearly every other legend at one time or another. Dio had one of the biggest voices in the business, and he had a presence that could not be missed.

This amused some people to no end, since the man, himself, only clocked in at 5’4” tall, making him pretty easily one of the smallest men in modern popular music. The fact that one of the early bands he was known for was called Elf just opened itself up to the jokes. For me, though, coming in at barely two inches taller, this was secretly a source of happiness. I never told anyone back then, but it actually meant a lot to me that he was so popular and around my height. My height doesn’t bother me today, but it was a sore subject as a teenager, and having someone I could look up to, so to speak, helped with that.

David Bowie
1/8/1947 - 1/10/2016

What can I say about David Bowie that hasn’t already been said in recent weeks? He was an amazing performer with a gift for distinctive imagery and self-reinvention, who touched and influenced almost every aspect of modern performing arts. He didn’t just make it okay to be a freak, he made it cool. Bowie took music and theater and tied them together in ways that so few performers are able to do, and he did it with magic. If anyone has made us believe in magic in modern entertainment, it was David Bowie.

He was the Starman and he was the Goblin King. It sometimes seemed like, no matter what he was doing, Bowie was always touching the fantastic. Sometimes he was even doing so much more than just touching, and he always took us along for the ride. Even when we didn’t always understand where we were going, we knew we were going somewhere special. He had a heart that was as big as his imagination, and David Bowie knew that we could always be heroes.

There comes a time in every life when we have to say goodbye and let go. It’s almost never easy, and sometimes are harder than others, but it has to be done just the same. What we lose is never really gone though. Everything that has touched us has changed us, and those changes continue as long as we do.

Music fills our lives with wonder, and gives voice to things we might otherwise be unable to say. We have lost some great ones, but we cannot lose what they gave us. The music is dead. Long live the music. Or, as another one of those legends (one still with us) put it, “You can’t kill rock and roll.”

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