Death of musical royalty is not even sacred in the age of social media.
Take a quick moment to think about what really happens to us when one of our favorite artists or musicians passes away. Most people say that it feels like a part of themselves is gone. We feel it in our hearts and perhaps even deeper. It also brings back memories of the first time we heard certain songs, or even when a song we already knew well helped us through a tough time.Especially in our teen years, when we are still in the initial stage trying to find our places in life, music has a profound effect on our behaviors and emotions. It validates our feelings of love, hate, anger, sadness, happiness, anonymity, loneliness, passion, jealousy, and all other emotions that our popping into our youthful minds. It plays an enormous role in our development as human beings.
Just as musicians mature and evolve their tastes as they get older, listeners mature as well. Not all of us are lucky enough to have one single favorite band since we were ten years old. Is there anything wrong with that? Does that mean these artists are any less important to us than to one who has idolized them nonstop since the first listen?
I pose these questions because, in the wake of the seemingly endless list of passing music legends over the past couple of months, there has been a bit of negativity circulating around the web (surprise, surprise). For example, a few days after David Bowie’s death, I came across an article entitled, Everyone Pretends to Enjoy David Bowie for 4 Days to Fit In. This particular article was very obviously just a strongly opinionated jerk with no real reasoning other than the fact that he doesn’t like Bowie’s music. However, I saw a similar article following the death of Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland that had a bit more credibility (meaning it wasn’t just a crazed rant). The basic argument behind this article was that all of these people posting about how Weiland is the greatest frontman ever and has always been their favorite had not said a word about him in years; basically calling them out as posers or hopping on the bandwagon.
While it is highly possible that some of these people are indeed acting in this sense, it is incredibly naïve to assume this of anybody. Weiland’s death is a perfect example. The band that he became famous with was no more, and his then current band did not have anywhere near the recognition as STP. He had been out of the spotlight for quite some time, even though STP songs had still been consistently played on commercial rock radio stations. I will be the first to admit that I had not thought about Weiland or STP much in quite some time, except when I heard “Plush” or “Interstate Love Song” on the radio. But when I heard about his death, it immediately brought the memories of my childhood rushing to the forefront of my brain. Does this make me a poser? Does it mean that I just hopped on the bandwagon and posted about how great he was just because everyone else was doing it? No.
Bowie represents another great example. In recent years, he began releasing new music again, but it had been long since he was in the “spotlight.” But during his prime and throughout a very prominent career, he touched a lot of people’s hearts, and those people felt the same rush of memory and emotion that I felt after Weiland’s death. Some of us are too young to remember when “Changes” came out, but does that mean that it had any less of an effect on our lives as those who were around for it? I was born in 1987, but I grew up listening to classic rock radio with my dad. Does that mean that Bowie impacted my life any less than someone who was in high school in the ‘70s or ‘80s? No.
The viewpoints of these articles seems to create a problem in the music community that must be stopped. We have to let go of this mindset that if you weren’t “there,” you don’t “know.” We have to use common tastes in music to come together and find common ground. Music should not create ego; it should subdue it. Music should not create division; it should demolish it. Let us all rejoice in the fact that we live in a world where people of all ages, races, religions, nationalities, etc. can share a common love for a musician or band and use that common ground to make lifelong friends and relationships. Leave aside any petty grievances that make you think others do not have a right to mourn the loss of an artist, and let the music play.
“If music be the food of love, play on!” – William Shakespeare
Words: Randy Harris