Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane has died at 74. I remember visiting a friend in San Francisco back in ’01 and going to Vesuvio’s for a beer as I worked my way around North Beach. Lo and behold, there was Paul Kantner at the bar, just a few chairs over from me.
David Bowie, 1947-2016
I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.
David Bowie døde av kreft i natt. Triste greier. Jeg var ikke akkurat blodfan, men jeg elsker et par av skivene hans, og synes dessuten av Queen-samarbeidet Under Pressure er noe av det beste som er prestert innen popmusikk.
Hva angår resten av produksjonen hans, er det for min del heller snakk om å beundre mer enn å like, men Bowie er uansett en fascinerende figur å lese om. Han var utstudert, innovativ og provoserende, og likte ikke å stå stille i sitt kunstneriske uttrykk. Han var også en av de få av de virkelig store artistene som klarte dette etter så mange år i gamet, som er en prestasjon i seg selv.
Ser man på reaksjonene som har kommet etter hans død, skulle man tro det var en statsleder som døde. Det var det ikke; Bowie var en popstjerne, noe som tross alt er langt viktigere.
Sangen Lazarus blir hans gravskrift. Det er liten tvil om at Bowie iscenesatte sin avskjed i samme grad som resten av karrieren, og Lazarus føyer seg inn i rekken av musikalske avskjeder som bør få selv det hardeste hjerte til å mykne litt.
I woke to find that horror legend Wes Craven passed away at 76, due to brain cancer. His A Nightmare on Elm Street scared the pants of me and many others, and even if the series quickly went off the rails, the entries he worked on are all worthwhile, the first being a classic. The seventh entry, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, while not lighting the box office on fire, did the meta aspect years before the Scream series. While Craven dealt primarily in horror, he was a versatile director with a penchant for satire, and overall seemed like a decent fellow.
Pete Seeger is one of those artists who have always been there on the periphery; my mother liked (still does, as far as I know) folk music and when I took up the guitar, I inherited several songbooks containing chestnuts like Where have all the flowers gone and the like.
Reading about the man as I grew older, I learned the story of how he allegedly almost took an axe to the wiring during Dylan’s first electrical set (It turns out he didn’t, though he admittedly thought it was an infernal racket.); I learned about his political activism and him being an outspoken communist, though he later denounced the Soviet union; I read about how he was blacklisted during the McCarty years and how it took years before he was allowed back into the public eye. It was an eventful life, no matter how you looked at it.
Regardless, it was the music that mattered in the end. I won’t lie: I don’t often sit and listen to his recordings. Truth to be told, I don’t think he was much of a singer, and there are many versions of his songs out there that are far lovelier. (I suppose it may be less truthful, but give me a nice harmony any day.)
Truthfully, though, it doesn’t much matter. Whether it was Seeger originals, or songs he collected and recorded, they’re the kind of songs that live their own life and can be remolded and repurposed by pretty much anyone. Without Seeger’s black-and-white original as a jumping-off point, The Byrds couldn’t have colorized Turn, Turn, Turn and beamed it down to us from Heaven.
And cheesy though it may be, the Norwegian incarnation of My Rainbow Race found new relevance when 40.000 people in Oslo sang it to protest the horrific actions of the terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. It was a simple and moving testament to the power of song, and as fine an epitaph as I can think of.
Iain M. Banks, author of The Culture novels, as well as a bunch of others set in the (mostly) real(ish) world, has passed away from pancreatic cancer at 59. Sad day. Now where will I turn to for stories about young men in various states of inebriation and deracination who long for sleeping with their cousins? Jokes aside, Banks was a fabulous writer, and I’m sad he won’t be around to show us around The Culture anymore.
Margaret “The Iron Lady” Thatcher (1925-2013) died of a stroke today, at a ripe 87. Via the BBC, I learned that her personal spokesman is called Lord Bell, which immediately made me crave a team-up of Lord Bell and Howard the Duck’s Dr. Bong. Granted, Steve Gerber already died in 2008, but still … can’t you just imagine it? “The Duplicitous Duo of Dastardliness … Lord Bell & Doctor Bong!” Along with Mecha-Maggie, they form an entity named Lord Iron Bong, which feeds the blood of union members. (Somebody call Grant Morrison!)
I’m beginning to understand myself. But it would have been great to be able to understand myself when I was 20 rather than when I was 82.
Dave Brubeck died today at the venerable age of 91. I hate to be one of those people and join the ranks of those hangers-on who simply must share their usually less-than-profound thoughts on the passing of any celebrity, but Brubeck came to mean a lot to me over the years. My father first introduced me to Take Five, which I suppose is something of a cliché, but damn if it isn’t a fine piece of music. Listening to him brings back fond memories of many a late night at RISD, cursing and furiously working to meet some looming deadline or other, and how he became a late-night companion, offering brief respite when it all got to be a bit much. Dying at 91 after a fulfilling life is no tragedy, but still: a twinge of sadness to mourn a stranger who brought me so much joy hardly seems excessive.