Great Music is Timeless

This year started out with one great artist passing after another after another. From Lemmy to Bowie to Maurice, a week didn’t go by without reminding us that our idols are getting older, and we’ll be losing more and more of them due to the vagaries of age.

And that’s kind of weird, or seems to be. Because until now, the “standard” musician death has been, well, what non-musicians picture: drugs, guns, partying, vehicles (especially combined with drugs, alcohol, excessive speed, etc.). Yes, there were the infrequent articles about some old blues gent or one of Lawrence Welk’s band or some one-hit wonder from the ‘50’s or ‘60’s mentioned in the obits, but those were the exceptions. And, honestly, when I’d skim over those in my ‘20’s & ‘30’s & ‘40’s it wouldn’t faze me. I didn’t know their material; they didn’t seem that important.

But somewhere as I aged, I found that more and more I knew these folks. Some I had studied, as I consider myself a rock historian more than a musician (as would some of my bandmates from time to time I think). Some I had liked from an early age & they weren’t well known at the time. But more and more came down with respiratory/heart/brain problems. And, of course, as will continue to happen for my generation, cancer.

This has been an exclusive club, one where you had to achieve at least a half-century to join the shared experience of loss that musicians fortunate enough to age somewhat gracefully have been experiencing. I felt as though someone had walked into a club without an invite when I read a lot of Facebook posts after these people had passed. What were these young pups doing, trampling on my memories? Weren’t they still debating the merits of NSync vs Backstreet Boys? What did they know of Bowie?

And that’s when it hit me: the pre-teens at those shows in 1995 are the ones going to clubs now. We’d better HOPE they know the giants of the past! If they don’t, then their only chance of hearing that music in a live venue will probably be a local artist.

Will it matter if people don’t play music of the past? If 30 years go by and no one has heard anything live by the Stones, the Who, Simon & Garfunkel, the Eagles, and you could even throw in people who are still touring but won’t be in another 20-30: Creedence, Fleetwood Mac, any part of Zeppelin or Floyd, and of the old classic R&B acts, from the Temptations and Supremes to Stevie, Smokey, and any Jackson.

I didn’t start out thinking this was going to be about covers or even tribute bands. It was about aging and idols passing. But the more I thought about the idols passing, the more I thought something I know they would all believe in their souls: their music shouldn’t die with them. And that doesn’t mean it should be a museum piece. But a living, breathing, piece of performance art. So I guess I do feel there is value, and not just in that single show, to Robert Bruce Scott & me presenting our Simon & Garfunkel. Or doing our full night of Eagles anywhere people want to hear something that is a loving tribute to Glenn and the guys. And the next time I see a cover band, I’ll raise a toast to absent friends, in appreciation for the enjoyment they’ve already given.

And as a bribe so they’ll save me a front row seat & call me up to jam!

-Joel Conner - MU Guest Author
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