Why So Many…
I was saddened when I heard of Merle Haggard’s passing last week. I chose to take the rest of that day off to hike, to contemplate, and to write, just as I did with the passings of Glenn Frey, Michael Been, Christ Whitley, and Stuart Adamson. Each has left substantial etchings on my psyche.
In 2016, people are asking the same question,
Why so many rock & roll deaths all of the sudden…?
It actually makes sense. Like the big bang of the universe, Rock & Roll had a big bang of its own in 1954 when Bill Haley sang Rock Around the Clock. That singularity set the Rock & Roll universe into motion. Haley would be 91 if he were alive today. But he’s not alive, he’s dead, just like everyone else is or will be.
Like any big bang, the Rock & Roll big bang resulted in an increasing complexity, creating more and more stars as time passed. Whether they be stars in the universe or those here on earth, stars are born to grow bright, some more bright than others, and to ultimately perish. With so many more stars existing than ever, that they are losing their lives with increasing frequency should not surprise us.
Despite the sadness we feel when they go, each passing star is the ultimate reminder of their work and their gifts. So long as we remember it and pass it to the next generation, music can be eternal, if even the musician can’t.
On The Values Of Music…
“Music has the power of wings.” Mike Scott
Music has helped me frame moments and has provided postures that have salvaged me time and again. In my post-divorce years, music helped me find faith and mindfulness. On stressful days, music has been a release – a way to vent by listening rather than speaking. Music has helped me relax when needed, and I have used music to amp me up when coffee had its limits. Music has calmed a heart full of rage, and prevented a clinched fist more than a time or two. Music transports.
Above all things to me, music has been about relationships. The relationships which have come my way because of music have had the power to endure in ways many of my nonmusical relationships haven’t.
When I was 15 my father caught me jumping on my bed and mimicking Jeff Baxter’s guitar solos in My Old School. My dad, who hated rock music, found the humor, then joined me on his own air guitar, forging a moment in time I will never forget.
Music can help reinforce a strained relationship better than concrete and steel. Had it not been for a common love of music during her teen years, my relationship with my daughter might have never recovered after her mother and I divorced.
In the 16 years since that divorce, my daughter’s mother and I remain close friends – largely because of a love of music. Just three nights ago my lovely former wife called to ask me about some of the guitars Sister Rosetta Tharpe played. At first she chastised me for never exposing her to Tharpe
“Why haven’t you ever told me about her…?” she asked.
We stayed on the phone for quite a while and enjoyed some laughter. I got a bit weepy when we hung up because the conversation was so dear; two divorced people laughing and talking about whether or not Prince’s guitars might be derivative of Tharpe’s, and whether or not it was a Gibson or a Gretsch.
If being human is about relationships, then I know of no better way to enjoy or enhance a relationship than by exposing it to music. Music can transcend politics, religion, philosophy and even social status when it is allowed to. For this to work though, one’s ears need to be open.
I think of my camping friends who I meet most summers in Nebraska. From working class schlubs like me, to educated working professionals – conservative and liberal, Christian, Atheist or Jew, when the campfire is aglow and the guitars come out, we harmonize as one.
Music To Our Children And Beyond…
As a child, when my father wasn’t playing Pete Fountain or Mitch Miller on the Sears Robuck stereo, my mother was playing Eddie Arnold and Bobbi Gentry. On Brigadoon, they both agreed. Music was encouraged. In our house at one time or another were drums, trombones, a trumpet, and the ever-present untouched guitars. Our musical dreams destined to be unfulfilled, though experienced quite well through the lives of others.
When my daughter was an infant in her bassinette, and just days old, her mother and I danced around the room singing to The Ramones…
Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker, Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker oh oh oh oh oh oh
As part of the earthly autographs etched into the Golden Record aboard the Voyager I spacecraft, are recordings of Blind Willie Johnson, Mozart, and Chuck Berry. How wonderful it would be, I have thought, that if the only thing an alien species gave a rat’s ass about in receiving this information would be Chuck Berry’s Oh Carrol…? Surely they would put the tops down on their intergalactic Cadillacs and head our way with the best of intentions. Maybe we could trade some of our vinyl for some of theirs. And some dilithium crystals – we will need more dilithium crystals if we’re ever going to get out of here. The God I believe in plays air guitar. Be well… rc
If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so. Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from me, Roy Cohen. I wrote this nearly 30 years ago for what was to be the world’s first rockabilly opera, but never completed it. Enjoy…