Like family, we are tied to each other. This is what all good musicians understand.—Billy Joel
Tuesdays are beginning to annoy me. Traditionally, major music labels drop new songs and new albums on Tuesday, so that is how I plan my day’s soundtrack. Some weeks I hear some really great stuff, others not so much, but that’s part of the joy. This year, however, this 2016, is upsetting that plan. Last week, instead of music dropped that day, I, along with nearly everyone else on the planet, was still listening to David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar. We even wrote about it. Now, this morning, I’m postponing new music once again to listen to Glenn Frey’s last album After Hours (2012). If musicians would stop dying for a couple of weeks, I would be most appreciative.
There are some musicians whose deaths are not quite so surprising. Country crooner Mel Tillis has been in critical condition in a Nashville hospital for several days. Had it been his obituary in my newsfeed, I would have been sad, but not surprised. There are several others, rock stars whose lives in the 70s should have dictated early deaths but didn’t, who I suspect are one good bout of pneumonia away from the grave. But Glenn Frey, man, I wasn’t ready.
What’s frightening, is that Glenn wasn’t the only musician to pass yesterday. Within 24 hours, we also lost Blowfly, musician/songwriter/producer whose work many found offensive; Dale Griffin, drummer for Mott The Hoople, one of those bands you didn’t know you knew; Mic Gillette, brass player with Tower Of Power, a band that helped define the sound of the early 70s; and Gary Loizzo, lead singer for American Breed, whose Bend Me, Shape Me put them on the charts in 1967. Loizzo was also the sound engineer for Styx, who recorded many of their hits in Loizzo’s studio.
Of course, musicians aren’t the only ones who seem to be dying at a heavier rate than usual. If you were paying attention, just this past Sunday I wrote about the high number of notable deaths just last week. What makes a difference with musicians is that we connect them so strongly with their music and their music is so strongly connected to our lives. Music is not just something to keep our ears occupied. Music defines places, memories, and even relationships. Is there anyone from my generation who doesn’t have some memory connected to Hotel California, or Take It Easy? When musicians die, we lose more than a person, we lose a connection to a specific time and place.
One might think music fans would be somewhat accustomed to the unexpected and even untimely deaths of the musicians they honor. After all, the 27 Club, musicians who died young at the age of 27, is legendary; from Jesse Belvin in 1960, to Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in ’70, Kurt Cobain in ’94 to Amy Winehouse in 2011. The list of club members is long enough that every musician should make a big deal of making it to their 28th birthday.
Even when they don’t die young, we lose dozens of musicians each year. Last year saw the passing of greats like B.B. King, Lemmy Kilmister, Scott Weiland, Alan Toussaint, Cory Wells, and about 60-something others. Each year, we can be sure that the “In Memoriam” reel at all the awards shows won’t be too short. Death happens.
Yet, when they seemingly happen one right after another we’re left wondering just what’s wrong with the world. Music gives our frayed world some sense of sanity. As we lose those who give us music, our world feels a little less assembled. Critical pieces are missing. Sure, we still have the recordings and are thankful for them, but knowing the people who gave us those recordings are gone, that there will be no new albums or concerts coming, creates an abscess we don’t know how to fill.
So, here we go with another Tuesday emersed in memories. Glenn Frey left us more than enough to fill the day and enjoy every minute. We are thankful for everything he gave us.
But seriously, musicians need to take a break from dying for a while. Please.