Death of Iconic Musical Artists
Within the last week we have seen the death of two well-known musical artists.
David Bowie died on January 10th, 2016 two days after his 69th birthday.
Founding member of the Eagles, Glenn Frey died January 18th, 2016 at the age of 67.
As I was driving to work this morning, I listened to some of Glenn Frey’s music, both with the Eagles and as a solo artist. Songs like “Take it Easy”:
I lived in Arizona for more than 20 years, and the “Standing on the corner on Winslow, Arizona” reference in this song had special meaning to me and many other Arizonans that have visited Winslow to stand on that unremarkable corner themselves.
I came across one of Frey’s solo pieces from the 80’s “Smuggler Blues”. It was from the Miami Vice era, but for some reason, I really dig the groove of the guitars in this song:
The line I love the most (for some unexplained reason) is “You be cool for twenty hours and I’ll pay twenty grand.” Fun lyrics to sing considering the dark, drug-trade topics in this song.
I underwent the same ritual last week, listening to much of David Bowie’s hit catalog. “Changes” was one of the first songs of his that I remember hearing in my youth:
Then I heard about Bowie’s new album Blackstar that was released just before his death. I sought it out on vinyl and found it at a local Austin record shop, Sound Gallery Austin. I’ll admit, many or most of Bowie’s songs can be an acquired taste. Still, I encourage you to listen to “Blackstar” and “Lazarus”. They demonstrate his musical genius.
Reconnecting Through Binge-Listening
While listening to these songs among so many of others in each of their respective catalogs, I was contemplating why I feel the need to reconnect with Bowie and Frey’s music now that I know they have died.
I’ve begun to realize, that, with streaming music so readily available on services like Spotify and Pandora, it’s incredibly easy to binge-listen to music. Music that I may not have listened to in years, decades or, quite likely, ever. Pick an artist, band, genre, whatever, and I have quick access to a curated list of greatest hits as well as those deep cuts that didn’t know existed.
I feel connected to the artist and begin to self-identify as a fan because I’ve consumed so much in a compressed space of time. Does this make me a true fan of David Bowie or Glenn Frey or [enter any name here]? Is this why I’m diving so deep into their music when two weeks ago, they weren’t on my radar? Am I just a bandwagon fan (no pun intended)?
Is It Really This Simple?
No, I don’t think so. Music has played a large role in the daily rhythms of my entire life. I’ve often thought of the songs of various singers, songwriters and bands as the soundtrack and mile markers of my life. It’s quite likely that I’ve heard and listened to the voices of these artists more than most people I actually know.
When one of these artists die, because of the role their art played in our lives, large or small, we feel as if we knew them. This may be why so many of us go through a sense of mourning at their loss, feeling as if we’ve lost a close family member or friend. How many of you have had a conversation with someone in the last week that starts something like “Can you believe David Bowie died?” or “Did you hear about Glenn Frey?”. And in lowered voices and sadness on our faces, we share how we heard and a memory of a particular song.
In this day and age where the skill of listening and actually hearing people is practiced less and less, the power of song fills a space and need that we may be severely lacking. Music and song provide us the opportunity practicing the skills of listening with the intention of understanding.
To me, it feels like my exercise of diving into the musical history of a singer, songwriter or musician, help me understand their view of the world, and by extension, broaden my own view and understanding of the world around me.
Or maybe, I simply like the way the music makes me feel.