Sunday, August 27, 2006

You know they've got a hell of a band

Over at FireDogLake my friend TRex put up a post about his wonderful friend Elissa, who lost a fight with that Goddamned disease cancer last night. He also posted a wonderful song she had recorded, making the piece especially poignant. And he was sweet and thoughtful in asking commentors to list their own Angels, those who they lost.

Of course, I mentioned Kristin, of whom I have written here often, and our friend Lizzy, still after 4 years losses that really make no sense, that grind at my emotions daily.

But I can't help thinking about other musicians that have left us, especially whose who went too young. We can't help wondering what they might have done, if they had stayed with us longer.

In the late '50s, we had The Day The Music Died. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper, all in one plane crash. And reportedly a coin toss kept Waylon Jennings off the flight. It may seem grim to speculate, but I think, of the three, Holly would have had the longest and deepest career. His music was pretty revolutionary, an amalgam of fresh rock and country influences and creativity that, I think, would have lasted quite a while.

Valens, while clearly talented and a major fave of mine, was a little more mainstream and conventional. While he did some great songs, and his sparkling Come On Let's Go was, I feel, not treated well by Los Lobos in his biopic La Bamba, my gut tells me that if he were working today, his last new recording would have come by the middle or end of the '60s, and he'd be doing the state fair circuit like so many older rockers.

And J.P. Richardson, The Big Bopper, well, IMHO would be hosting a syndicated oldies radio show, as Chantilly Lace would have been his only hit.

In the early '70s we had another tragic 3 losses, not together, but awfully close: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. I consider myself truly lucky to have seen all three, Hendrix twice. What they have been doing today? Again, pointless conjecture by no one but me.

Hendrix was the most prolific of the three, playing and recording every chance he had, and was at the time of his death making plans to work with jazz arranger and composer Gil Evans. With that kind of vision, and open-mindedness, he would at the very least be a 2nd generation Les Paul, perhaps not recording anything new, but still playing often, to adoring crowds.

Joplin, while surely at the peak of her powers, was also at the peak of drug addiction and self-destruction. It's hard to predict what she would have done, but I can picture her as an elder stateswoman of rock, an older Aunt to Bonnie Raitt, Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, and a contemporary of Mick Jagger: not doing anything new or different, but still doing what she did so well.

Morrison is a little trickier. He seemed like the rock'n'roll precursor to Marlon Brando, excess weight, excess partying, and mediocre artistic output. While The Doors created some truly memorable music, it was a combination of talent that made it work. How many people know that Light My Fire was actually written by Robby Krieger, the guitarist, and not Morrison? I suspect that Morrison's best was already behind him when he died.

Again, all speculation by someone who takes music really seriously, but has no crystal ball into the future, just a lot of memories of the past. For more, see the 27 Club. And this gem by Stephen King.

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