Prompt 102: Death of an Entertainment Icon
102. On December 8, 1980, former member of The Beatles John Lennon was shot dead. What would it be like if one of your favorite musicians from today was murdered? How would you react and what would you do to grieve?
So far in this life, I've never been shocked or devastated by an entertainer's death to a significant degree. A good, close friend of mine expressed -extreme- grief the day that David Bowie's death was announced to the public. Recently, Eddie Van Halen passed away, and although I enjoy the music he created and brought into the world over the past 40 years, I can't say his death shook me to the core. I heard the bassist from The Dead Milkmen died by suicide, and his death doesn't mean I can no longer listen to their albums - and that band practically instructed me in life since like 6th grade.
However, as time has gone on, I have taken to watching and witnessing the death of many entertainers I've known since I was a kid. I've written about Johnny Carson briefly here before, and how I would like to have met him in person to soak up his vibe a bit. I think Harrison Ford will die soon. I am certain I will be sad when Grace Jones, Sigourney Weaver, and Jamie Lee Curtis pass away (the three of them are like my movie star crushes). I think the cinema world will die inside, at least a little, when both John Carpenter and Martin Scorsese are dead. Johnny Cash is already gone.
Were I to personally grieve for an entertainer upon notice of their death, I think it would be Neil Young. Like Cash, he is akin to a mythic figure of American music (despite his Canadian nationality). He's like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton... Easily identifiable, never to be replaced or forgotten.
I still remember when I fell in love with what Neil Young was bringing into the world. I'd heard Heart of Gold on the radio in the past, but never really knew who he was beyond that. Then, there was the MTV Video Music Awards. Who was this tall, shaggy, sasquatch-lookin' dude carrying a guitar on stage with Pearl Jam? He's wearing, like, a wood-bead necklace or some shit...?
He then began to play, and I instantly understood. I don't think I really comprehended what guitars could do before hearing his solos in "Rockin' In A Free World" during that performance. I was transfixed. I still come back to that live performance on YouTube or whatever, and I'm still blown away with that singular performance.
I learned about his son, and the massive model train set he has set up with a button-operated smokestack. I learned about his patents. I learned about Farm Aid. His website is as singular and unique and archaic and arcane as he is.
A couple years ago, I saw "The Last Waltz," a concert film of The Band. Young had a cameo and played a rendition of "Helpless" with the help of Robertson and Co. Joni Mitchell did backing vocals (or could you say co-vocals?). Sure, Young was around in the '60s but to me the '70s are captured in songs like "Helpless." It's the type of song that renders the archetype of a decade/era of music. He impresses me and is more recognizable to me than Bob Dylan.
One of his performances of "Cortez the Killer" with the young pups called Promise of the New brought me to tears on a first listen. "Cortez" is a fantastic song in its own right, which I would tattoo on my heart were it possible. To hear him play it in the late 2010's, in this day and age, at a benefit show for the farmer's way of life (facing erasure at the hands of massive agricultural conglomerates), it was like hearing a man play his own funeral march.
While I consider myself a rather quiet person, I still believe his death will affect me greatly.