prince

A long long time ago…

I can still remember…. 

how that music used to make me smile…

……………………….

The music train of popularity chugged past the station without halting for me, black billowing smoke choking the sky in its wake.

You can’t buy a ticket when you have your back turned away from the platform.

……………………….

Emergent watercolour crimson-orange hues delicately brush up and over the dawning horizon. Wispy waking songs of flickers and goldfinches begin to fill the airy space like the opening strains of a symphony orchestra.

Alas, the morning sun fails to rise for one.

Another day, another passing. Another icon fades away like ink on paper after a coffee spill.

I don’t well up in tears or feel that gut-wrenching pain in my abdomen.

I don’t feel the deep inner thrust of the silvery shovel blade and suffer the sentimental emotion of a tune and its connection to my past life, my past loves, my past triumphs or defeats.

Yup, sometimes I’m a flat note in a major key.

Already this year there has been an incredible outpouring of profound angst and grief over the departures of famed musicians … singers and songwriters.

Performers to the masses.

  • David Bowie

  • Prince

  • Gord Downie (Tragically Hip)

And yet, the deaths of these superstar darlings have left me flat, unmoved, tear-free. You may feel differently.

Somehow, despite their enormous popularity… their poetry, their music, has never penetrated my outer shell and spoken to my head or heart.

It’s not because I’m cold-hearted or unfeeling.

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When I watch the Oscars each year, one of my favourite I-love-it-but-I-hate-it portions of the ceremony is the IN MEMORIUM section. Now that hits me like a (another lost icon) Muhammad Ali punch in the solar plexus.

Stories of departed lives in a picture-book progression of faces and names that have held personal meaning at one point or another in our lives are paraded in front of our eyes.

The melancholy bittersweet tune of violins and guitars rises and falls on the ocean swells of my emotional ship.

I feel tidal surges of pain and quiet joy as face after face reminds me of something about myself.

It’s a few achingly beautiful moments and far too brief to truly remember or properly memorialize the creative talents of those who lived and laughed and sinned and cried… but they are evocative and cathartic like listening quietly to our own eulogy.

Songs and movies are powerful markers of our lives and when one of those creative markers takes its leave, it takes a Lilliputian part of who we are with them, like one more matchstick pulled and burned from our once full book of matches.

I don’t experience a sense of something missing in my life now that Bowie, Prince and Gord Downie are gone or are soon to expire.

No matches pulled for me.

My matches are usually the small names, likely no less talented than the big names that garner the headlines.

Glenn Frey‘s musical contribution to the tunes and harmonies of The Eagles had a far more profound effect on me with his passage, and yet the public outcry was relatively muted.

I felt bigger rips in the fabric of my universe when I heard of the deaths in years past of Harry Chapin (Cats In The Cradle), Jim Croce (Time In A Bottle), Stan Rogers (Northwest Passage), Raylene and John Morris Rankin (Fare Thee Well Love).

Billy Paul, more than Bowie, took a tiny shred of me away earlier this year in knowing that he’ll never lisp out those words that once coursed through my teenage head…. “Me and Mithuss…. Mithuth Jonths… Mithuth Jonths…. Mithuth Jonths…” (Me and Mrs. Jones)

Even the loss of old-timer “Okie” Merle Haggard has me feeling more affected than Prince.

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There’s a singer and a song for everybody.

No matter if I’m a flat note in a world where most prefer the sounds that fill 20,000 seat arenas compared to my preference for the songwriters that turn out at small coffeehouses and 3,000 seat auditoriums.

Within the private confines of our cars as we cruise the highway, each of us bursts out in song to our own individual melodious soundscape, just as some prefer X-Men and Captain America movies to Inside Out or The Big Short. 

So long as we breathe, we can still enjoy all those inner sensations we experienced in younger days we shared with family, friends, and lovers. (BONUS: there is an oxytocin releasing effect to music; yup, the same hormone released during sexual arousal, oxytocin increases rapidly, with a big burst at orgasm.)

No matter if it’s John Lennon singing Imagine or Patsy Cline’s drawn out longing in Sweet Dreams, Buddy Holly belting out That’ll Be The Day That I Die or Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas. 

The really great thing about music produced in the past 100 years is that – even if one of my favourite songwriters Don McLean might disagree – it doesn’t disappear or fade when the artist leaves us.

The singer may be long gone but the soulful strains of their song – our song – remains immortal.

Maybe one less match to burn but the light stays lit… the music doesn’t die.

 

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So Bye, Bye Miss American Pie”

burning match

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