Set list


It’s starting to feel like the chorus of a Billy Joel song around here.

Whitney Houston, Davey Jones,
melatonin wouldn’t solve their woes.
We didn’t start the fiiire …
And so on. (You have to sing melatoninwouldn’t like it’s all one word for my shitty line to fit up there. Work with me here.)

Whitney Houston’s death seems particularly tragic since she died in a bathtub. Jones’ heart attack feels more natural, even though it might have been just as preventable for all I know. Anyway, I thought it might do to put these deaths in perspective with other musicians who have died too soon.

The most recent, of course, is Michael Jackson, whose doctor was just found guilty of homicide. It is impossible now, to know what his comeback tour would have produced. We are no closer to fully solving questions about his behavior with young children. Cleared of charges, yes, but not of suspicion. But he’s not the only one.

We’ve been losing rock stars ever since they started singing. Even more so since they discovered hard drugs. I’ll give you a list here of the ones I can think of without research.

The plane crash that took Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens, of course, spurred “Bye Bye Miss American Pie”. The separate crashes that that killed Otis Redding and three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.* didn’t generate tribute songs that I know of. I don’t think much can be learned from these deaths. Unless it’s ‘don’t fly in a small private plane if you don’t have to’, but I think that’s a little unfair, and it does nothing to address car crashes (damned nearly claimed Gloria Estefan), or other accidental deaths (Eric Clapton’s son who fell out a window. Christ.)

Similarly, it’s hard to pinpoint any teachable (or possibly learnable) moments from medical deaths. I think one of the members of the Byrds got blindsided by a heart attack. I’m pretty sure Mama Cass choked to death. (Jesus, what a way to go.) Strokes, pneumonia, complications from HIV (fare thee well Freddie Mercury), all of these things amount to a life cut short, a career ended brutally. Even June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash whose careers were long and storied belong on this list. They died of natural causes before they were ready to stop singing, before we were ready to stop listening.

It gets more senseless from there. The drug deaths? Elvis on the can, Marilyn Monroe sprawled across her bed, Janis Joplin beside the bed, Jim Morrison in a Paris hotel (God knows about the bed), Jimi Hendrix in his apartment. The suicides? Michael Hutchence hanging in an Australian hotel room, Kurt Cobain with a shotgun and a note. The murders? John Lennon shot by a crazed man, Selena shot by a former employee, Tupac shot in the street, Jam Master Jay shot to death in a recording studio. Death doesn’t get more violent or immediate.

The list is incomplete – it’s just what I could come up with without looking. That so many names should come to mind one after the other after the other speaks volumes to the dangers that come with musical fame. And in the last few weeks, two more names have gone on that roll. Whitney Houston, drowned in her own bathtub, and Davey Jones, heart attack.  James Dean may have thought it better to burn out than to fade away, but I personally would like to see more of my idols die from the complications of old age.

I suppose the only thing left to say has already been sung by The Righteous Brothers (Bobby Hatfield, cocaine). They got a hell of a band somewhere, people. A hell of a band.


*  Confession. I cannot spell Lynyrd Skynyrd without research. I had to Google that. The overuse of the letter y in place of “eo”, “a” or “i”  throws me. In my stupid rigidly grammatical mind, the band pops up Leonard Skinnard, even though this isn’t an area where I object to the poetic license. It just won’t stick.

Do I care, Jessie? Quit interrupting yourself woman.

I’m finally submitting to my own meme, my life in music hosted with Bella of If This is Motherhood. Stop by with your own tributes and memorials.


About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Set list — 18 Comments

  1. Of all the types of performing, I think musicians have it the hardest. (I can say this, because I used to do musical theater, actually wanted to pursue it at one point. The stamina that required paled in comparison to what must be required at a rock concert.) It has to take a toll on the body to play and sing for two plus hours, sometimes every night for weeks in a row without a break. You end close to midnight. You're running on the adrenaline of that whole thing for hours. You sleep half the day, IF you can sleep, IF you're not already gearing yourself up for the next show. Then, throw fame into the mix. You can't stop touring, can't stop producing, because people will forget you.

    All I can say is I wouldn't trade places with someone like Lady Gaga for anything in the world. I like living too much. I'm sure she would say her life is better than many, but I bet she can't buy herself a whole lot of time.

    • How did I not reply to this? I'm so dumb sometimes. You're exactly right. And you're largely at the mercy of others. If you get a bad booking agent, you might get booked to appear in Philly one night, Atlanta the next, the back in the middle in Ohio on the third. And you'd be responsible for all that travel, all the hotel bills. Stressful and exhausting. Killer, in other words.

  2. Montgomery's own Nat King Cole came to mind for me. (Not sure NKC would claim us as his birthplace… and couldn't blame him). He died at the young age of 45. Smoked 3 packs of camels a day, and smoked several cigarettes in rapid succession before a studio recording. He believed it added a rich quality to his voice. He certainly had the voice… not sure if it was the cigarettes. But he did die of lung cancer. I'd much rather seen him around another 30 years or so with a "less than perfect" voice… he would have still sounded better than most.

    Great post! Nice blog. I'll be visiting often.

  3. Your mind's stubborn refusal to spell Lynyrd Skynyrd is logical, because they named themselves for a hated P.E. teacher, as I recall. I would never have known or cared if I weren't from Jacksonville.

    Musicians were right there, all up in our lives in a primal, lizard-brain way at important moments, and I believe that's why their deaths grab us so tightly. Whaddya think?


    The Good Luck Duck

  4. Great post! Although I'd argue (because I'm contrarian) that both 'Pro-Life' and 'Pro-Choice' are loaded terms. Both assume a moral correctness that denies the same to the other side. For example, if I'm 'Pro-Life' the assumption is that people who disagree with me are 'Anti-Life.' Likewise, if I'm Pro-Choice, it assumes that people who disagree with me are anti-choice, which is an oversimplification of the anti-abortion agreement.

    Having said that, I use both terms. But they have been coined by their respective interest groups.

  5. I'm still shaken by Whitney's death. I don't know why it got to me more than anyone else's except that in the 80s and 90s when she was a rising star, I used to use her singing as a guide to mine. I can't really say that for anyone else.

    i can think of Amy Winehouse, death by overdose I think? and Aaliyah, also taken by small personal plane, and there was that trio, I think one of them died in while the other 2 got hurt butI cant remember their names. It is tragic all around and too many of my favorite celebrities have passed away on me of late.

    • I think Andra really captured some of the reason for it above. Really, I'd like to see some of these people go out the Liz Taylor way, old and graceful.