Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oops, I OD'd

I was thinking, recently, while watching a special on Kurt Cobain and reading the 50 greatest comic book characters of all time, that the greatest music tragedies of all time should be examined.
So... here are some that shouldn't be ignored as significant genre changers, ends or beginnings of cultural eras, and just plan old bad luck for music lovers.

1. The first of course is the infamous "day the music died" as portrayed in Don McClean's sometimes annoying ballad American Pie, and chronicled films like The Buddy Holly Story, and La Bamba. On February 3, 1959, the fledgling rock and roll industry was crushed by news that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP Richardson had perished in a plane crash in Iowa.
The music scene would be forever changed, and artists such as Waylon Jennings, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis wouldnt be the same. The first rock superstars are now legend.

2. Jimi Hendrix was able to crank out so much material in the studio prior to his 1970 overdose. Many have imagined what this guitar virtuoso would have been capable of if he had survived past the age of 27. True, now most kids picking up guitars can turn out sounds similar to Hendrix, but at the time, the style and sound was unlike anything previously heard. Everyone agrees he is a genius and we will all be able to only speculate on what would have come next.

3. John Lennon's death was a major shock to everyone, not just the music industry. A victim of a selfish, crazy super fan, Lennon's assassination stole what many believe was a brilliantly creative and loving mind from future music greatness... despite Yoko Ono.

4. Some say Randy Rhoads is Metal's equivalent of Hendrix. This makes his short career as Ozzy's axeman that much more subject to mythic and tragic adoration. Like Hendrix, Rhoads has been named as a major influence by many contemporary guitarists in the genre. Ironically, Rhoads died in a fiery plane crash... very Metal, and also a throw back to the greatest plane crash in rock history (see number 1).  and perhaps if Rhoads survived, Ozzy wouldnt suck now.

5. Seattle's music scene in late 80s and early 90s exposed rock and roll excess as ridiculous and childish, and cemented the more realistic nature of art mirroring truth . Kurt Cobain's suicide brought this renaissance to a crashing halt, and highlighted the fragility of the mind of a damaged artist and addict. Nirvana was survived by the future success of drummer Dave Grohl's project the Foo Fighters, and Courtney Love's embarrassing antics and long arrest record.

Other notable tragedies are:

Janis Joplin. She has been vaulted to near mythic status, due to a career in music that is borderline appropriation. Her finest moment: the Canadian railroad tour in 1970 with the Grateful Dead, the Band, and Buddy Guy. 

Bradley Nowell. Sublime's front man OD'd and ended the career of a band so unique and talented, there could have been so much more.

Shannon Hoon. His greatest mistake... hanging out with Axl Rose. But we'll always have No Rain. 

Jim Morrison. I hate this guy. But for some reason, the Lizard King is a legend. Dirtbag.

Jerry Garcia. Greatly missed. His death came during a tumultuous point for the band, having gone from counter culture underground success to hugely popular fandom bordering cult following, it was only a matter of time before the band either took a much needed break, or someone died.

Bobby Sheehan. Bassist and soul of Blues Traveler... the band and Jon Popper have never been the same... they suck now.

Cliff Burton. quite possibly the best metal bassist ever. It took Metallica decades to get over.

Biggie and Tupac. Although I dont necessarily care, the hip hop community thought it was a big deal. the genre hasnt been the same. its too bad that terrible rappers like Puff Daddy and 50 Cent cant die.