The Year the Music Died: Bowie and Prince Forever, Kantner Lost in the Frey…

If there’s anything sadder than the deaths of our pop music heroes, it’s our attachment to them in the first place.  If we are truly such a brilliant species to have created such popular paeans to ordinary pleasures, then we are truly pathetic to imagine that this is the be-all and end-all of our short little existences.  But we are MTV kids, back from when MTV actually meant something, not just our own absurd realities exposed ad nauseam on TV.

Funny, I don’t remember all the bobby-soxers mourning Frank Sinatra for months on end, or even Elvis or Lennon, for that matter, all hugely popular, so maybe all this weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth is cause and/or effect of our modern Warholian ‘social’ (anti-social?) media culture, in which everyone is famous for fifteen minutes—in their own minds, at least, and those of anybody willing to ‘like’, ‘follow’ or ‘share’ them.  Modern progress: now we are all teeny-boppers, slaves to fashion and followers of fallen idols.

For better or worse, the era of pop-culture heroes is likely drawing to a close—with the possible exception of… I don’t know whom.  I just don’t see any icons on the horizon in the new generation, and I think that is because there are none.  But that doesn’t mean that we’re past all that—pop-culture and whatnot—just the opposite!  Everybody wants to be a star now, or at least an entertainer!  And with so much competition, no one can raise head and shoulders above the heap.

Many ‘millennials’ in hope of stardom would rather live with Mom and Dad all their lives than go out and get a job as a plumber, or a welder, or a carpenter with designs, though burger-flipping does seem to be gaining in popularity as the yearly take approaches $30K (and the price of a burger hits $10), and it requires no great expenditure or investment of intellect or effort.

So music stars today make do with much more limited horizons than the stars of yesteryear, but possibly with more control of their careers and more realistic schedules, actually playing gigs, not just ‘recording artists’ in studios.  But if our historical worship of pop culture is genuinely notable, then these latest manifestations of grief are truly over the top and beyond belief.  So this is probably a good thing, the end of an era of pop-hero-worship.

After all, we don’t love Prince so much as we love ourselves, our memories, our friends and possessions, our comfort food, intimately tied up with our memory of where we were the first time we heard ‘Purple Rain’ or some other such nonsense, aka ego ejaculation (I made that up, as preferable to mental you-know what).  In this view, Prince or Bowie serve mainly to reinforce how we already see ourselves, notwithstanding their own notable skills at entertainment.

Alas and alack, most are poor role models, anyway, with lifestyles and habits that are hardly sustainable, self-consuming and full of drugs and sex and dysfunctional families, so it’s not too surprising that many die before their time, age twenty-seven being especially popular for overdoses and suicides, squeezing out rhythms and rhymes with the help of chemicals and auto-tuning, the lives of pop heroes but chem-trails across the sky, small lives emblazoned in big letters.  Unfortunately this is no substitute for skill and creativity.

So who will the next round of heroes contain: Kanye guess?  It’s Beyonce belief, but I’m Justin asking, so hopefully I don’t make you Gaga.  I reiterate: that era is over, and for that I celebrate.  Frankly I don’t need any heroes to worship any more than I need a DJ to tell me what to listen to.  Exploration is half the fun, no?  No?  I rarely listen to dino-rock and I don’t eat KFC.  The future is green and bright, and I like my artists that way, too.  Bring it ASAP, and keep it fresh.  Prince made a conscious decision to be a social and fashion icon, not merely an entertainer and musician, and for that we remember him.  R.I.P….

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