A while back, I wrote the first article about losing talented musicians too soon. In the second of that series, I need to clarify that soon is a relative term. When it comes to the music that moves me — and so many others — life itself is too short. It’s not always a matter of the good die young, but rather, the good don’t live long enough.
Bad Things Do Come in Three’s
In the past week, the music world lost three talented and popular artists. All three were singers and songwriters. The first of these three was Daniel Johnston, a singer and songwriter for a variety of bands. He was 54 and suffered from kidney issues shortly before his death. The second was Eddie Money, best known for his hit, Two Tickets to Paradise.
Most recently, news broke about the former lead singer of the Cars, Ric Ocasek, being found deceased in his New York residence. Though both Money and Ocasek were 70 and 75, respectively, it still feels like their allotted time was too short by several measures. No matter their ages, the good don’t live long enough by far.
Talented Artists Struggle with Life
There are no unnatural causes believed to be involved in these three losses. That doesn’t mean these musicians were immune to the struggles that seem to accompany artistic talent. It was well-known that Johnston struggled with mental health issues. In spite of that, his music was poignant and filled with the struggles many of us share. Though he was not a commercially successful artist on his own, his songs were covered by bands that did achieve cult status with their fans.
Many musicians and other artists openly discuss their struggles with mental health and self-destructive behaviors. Countless artists have died through drug use and alcoholism. Regardless, their pain is often transformed into beautiful music and imagery. For me, The Cars provided a backdrop to my own struggles in both middle and high school.
Music Matters, no matter who you are
I have heard many people say that they don’t care about the personal lives of musicians. In fact, many claim that the death of a rock star doesn’t affect them at all. Everyone is entitled to their personal views and feelings. But for me, music is the only way I can get through a single day. I am sure that i am not alone. There are countless people who find themselves tapping along with a favorite song or humming lyrics in the shower.
No matter who we are, music touches us in a million ways, every day. From commercial jingles to mood music behind television shows and movies, music is everywhere. Children learn there ABC’s through song and many students have put rhythm to important study notes. Music moves us and touches us in ways we don’t even see or understand.
For that reason, the lives of those behind the music, do matter. Someone wrote the theme behind Star Wars and Cheers. These individuals are able to tap into the hidden parts of themselves, wrestle with the pain of life, and wrap it in music that gives voice to the silent. Even if they live a full lifetime, the good don’t live long enough.
With death comes appreciation
Sadly, the old saying, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” holds especially true with musicians. We often just take it for granted that a favorite artist will always be there. Those that we cherish have the ability to transport us back to the time we first heard a certain song. How many memories are bound up in the notes of a a piano or guitar solo? How many singers have lamented lost love while we nurse a broken heart?
Certain artists were simply born to share their gifts and talents with the world. How many of us had to smile when we hear a familiar song? Some songwriters have an indescribable knack for putting into words thoughts that are too hard to express by ourselves. Others are gifted in making life seem somehow sillier or less stressful.
For me, The Cars could take some of the most mundane moments in life and bring a smile to my heart. “Uh oh, It’s Magic” and “You Might Think” never fail to lift my spirits. Ric Ocasek said that he was a nerdy and awkward looking man. However, he had such a beautiful and unique vision of the world. His quirkiness helped many kids in the 70’s and 80’s learn to appreciate their own unique giftedness.
From housewives to CEOs, music is life
No matter our own personal calling in life, it is likely music touches us in ways we don’t see. A housewife may find the daily tasks of caring for children goes smoother with tunes in the background. A CEO may find relaxation at the end of a day by unwinding with a favorite concerto or metal concert. It doesn’t matter what we do, it only matters how we do it. Music helps in more ways than one.
Most people are shocked when they find out I have a tattoo of my favorite band on my leg. After all, middle-aged moms of many have to present a certain image, right? What’s more surprising is that I have a deep love of melodic death metal music. It is funny to see people react in different ways when I finally share a song with them. The point is, we simply can’t judge how music speaks to an individual.
I will be forever in debt to the gift of music for saving my life, many times over. For that reason, I care deeply about the musicians behind the music I cherish. Regardless of the genre, musicians add a vital beauty to life. I would never wish to live in a world devoid of this art form. So matter the age when one of these artists leave us, to me, the good don’t live long enough.