It’s coming up soon, three years from the day Prince Rogers Nelson took that elevator and left this mortal coil. And if that aint a damn shame then I don’t know what is.
Watch that video and tell me if you don’t believe that the man sitting there playing guitar is going to live to be ninety and end up like one of those Shaolin monks or kung-fu teachers who only teaches the very best of the very best like Pai Mei from Kill Bill.
He was fifty-seven when he died. Too young. Tom Petty was sixty-six, Miles Davis was sixty-five, Frank Zappa fifty-two and Michael Jackson a mere fifty. Musicians age like test pilots and underwater welders.
I often feel like musicians don’t get back nearly as much as they give out. George Harrison once said about Beatle fans “They gave their money and they gave their screams, but the Beatles gave our nervous systems. They used as an excuse to go mad, the world did, and then they blamed it on us.” People went mad. A madman killed John Lennon at the age of forty, and another madman stabbed Harrison nearly to death two years before his untimely death to cancer at age fifty-eight.
All these names I mentioned: Petty, MJ, Prince, the Beatles, Miles, Zappa. . . these are among the successful ones. Think about the ones who didn’t have a lengthy career of acclaim and success. Or the ones who dipped in and died fast. It’s been twenty-five years now since Kurt Cobain committed suicide, age 27. Seemingly with the world in front of him, dying like the world was on top of him. The peers of his era like Chris Cornell (suicide, age 52), Scott Weiland (drug overdose, age 48), Layne Staley (drug overdose, age 34), and Shannon Hoon (drug overdose, age 28). And I’m probably forgetting countless others.
We have never solved the pointlessness of drugs somehow equaling a good time and demons somehow equaling creativity and all of those things factoring in together. Even if it were to be true that drugs make you creative (they won’t) or that you have to be in some sort of emotional torment to create good art (you don’t) and that these things are the price of business (they aren’t), it’s not good for you and it’s not worth giving a pound of your flesh over to people who can’t understand the significance of it. Nor is it healthy to numb yourself to the pain of life or the pain of rejection because people don’t understand you even if they really do like you.
They can pay the cover and tell you what a good job you did but you gave your nervous system to them and it’s hard to get that back. The Butthole Surfers are all still alive and each one of them has a thousand-yard stare like they’ve done time in the ‘Nam.
Scott Walker died age 76 and you couldn’t help but be happy for the guy that he held on so long.