Our Music Hero’s Are Dying and It Reminds Some Of Us Boomers Of Our Mortality

Dying Header
Dying Header

With the recent passing of the amazing Jeff Beck, a true guitar virtuoso, I started thinking of all the artists that I loved and who are no more with us.

These were people who I followed, whose music I played over and over again – artists that I grew up with, and aside from a certain sadness as I reflected on them, it hit home, my own mortality was staring me in the face.

We all know that when we were young, mortality, dying and death in general, were things that only “old people” had to be concerned with.

We were invulnerable! We lived for the moment and to hell with an old age future. And in fact – who actually wanted to get old let alone think about it.

“Hope I die before I get old”

Immortal words from Pete Townshend and as Boomers, we took it literally. Grab life, give it a shake, dive deeply into the moment, to hell with the consequences.

The key to these words is “old”. As a young man old simply meant, “like our parents”. They were old and our grandparents were really old.

Interestingly in later years Townshend revisited these words and he said: “I now find myself thinking, and sometimes even singing, “I hope I die before I get old.” This time I am not being ironic. I am 61. I hope I die before I get old. I hope I die while I still feel this alive, this young, this healthy, this happy, and this fulfilled. But that may not happen.

I may get creaky, cranky, and get cancer, and die in some hospice with a massive resentment against everyone I leave behind. That’s being old, for some people, and probably none of us who don’t die accidentally can escape being exposed to it.

But I am not old yet. If getting older means I continue to cherish the lessons every passing day brings, more and more, then whatever happens, I think I’ll be happy to die before I get old, or after I get old, or any time in between. I sound like a fucking greetings card.“ [http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/news/article/0,,3833778,00.html]

Now not all Boomers may think themselves as old. The Boomer Generation is said to be those born between 1946 – 1964. Statistically that’s probably right, but those of us born in the 5 years after WW2 (1946 – 1950] have very little in common with those born in the last five years of that period [1960 -1964].

I fact I was witnessing the death of some of my music hero’s at the very time the last of the Boomers were just being born.

The first of those who actually meant anything to me was Buddy Holly. I was only 13 but I knew of him and had heard enough of his music to understand what a loss he was.

By 1964, I had started to tune into the music of the black soul and R&B artists and the death of Sam Cooke and then Otis Redding in the mid 60’s, was a disaster to me.

Yet, while I felt saddened over their loss, their deaths didn’t have the same impact as the deaths of others. First was Brian Jones in 1969. I was 23 years of age and nothing could touch me, but Brian’s death was the death of a young man, someone only 4 years older than me.

That touched me!

It hurt, apart from the fact that I believed the Rolling Stones should have been called the Brain Jones Blues band, a recognition of my love for his creativity, I realized for the first time that if it happened to him, it could happen to me!

Then we lost Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix in a short space of time in 1970. This heralded a short period of time when I thought about how death is actually with us all the time.

But many dope smoke rooms and psychedelic substances later, the feeling of invulnerability wasn’t as strong as it used to be, but I developed a belief that, “what will happen, will happen”. It became the dominant belief. It was enough!

It wasn’t a matter of melancholia or pessimism, it was more a belief that your journey was set out, and what will be will be. A case of “Que Sera Sera”, as another musical star, Doris Day had sung.

I guess the only time the death of one of my music hero’s caused a great emotion, that of anger, was the death of John Lennon in 1980.

By then I was 34 and no longer an “innocent”. I knew the world was filled with actions that were neither fair nor unfair – people died, and some people died far too young through no fault of their own.

Life didn’t give a flying fig about “fairness”.

Even so, life held much for me and thinking about my own mortality, except for brief moments, simply didn’t happen.

I went on to make music, record and release albums of my own music, to literally grab as many experiences as I could, to take risks to just do what felt right.

All this was somewhat tempered with a new reality when I had my own children. Now I realized my actions could also affect others close to me, who really mattered. It didn’t stop me “living”, but I took fewer risks and thought ahead a little more about my actions and their consequences.

Even the death of my parents over a period of a decade did NOT affect my own thoughts of mortality. I just kept on keeping on, mostly focused with still a tad of “devil may care”.

During this time Freddie Mercury died, Jerry Garcia died, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley – two of my most loved musicians died. Artists kept on dying. Death is an inevitability but I kept shrugging off thoughts of my own “life-line”.

Dying HeaderNow Jeff Beck has died!

His death did have an an effect on me.  I only really became aware of him and his guitar work when he joined the Yardbirds back in 1965, when he took the place of a disgruntled Eric Clapton.

My initial response was dismay – Clapton was a far better guitarist in my mind. But I came to realise that beck took the guitar to places that Clapton had failed to visit and in doing so, took the Yardbirds into a new stratosphere.

While I can honestly acknowledge the brilliance of his performing, in fact he is in my top 5 all time guitarists; which is headed by Jimi Hendrix, his death did not affect me like the death of Hendrix and Lennon. However, it has suddenly bought home the issue of my own mortality.

At 76 years of age, and rapidly running, OK maybe not running any more- maybe trotting toward 77, I most certainly have far less years left than I have lived.

Hell, I have probably less years to live than I have lived this century!

So what?

I am very much a pragmatist. I have come to grips with the fact that no longer can I even vaguely consider I’m invulnerable.

A stent inserted in an artery some 12 years ago, having to give up smoking dope because of my lungs, some 9 years ago, arthritis in my joints all remind me that time is tight!

I don’t leap out of bed but more slip out gently, often waiting for the light headiness caused by my bodies blood pressure equalizing itself, to go away – it reminds me . . . . I am” old” in age.

What I have found is, that I can for all intents and purposes still do pretty much everything I could do 30 years ago, just slower and with more breaks.

I do try and keep fit without being a “gym junky”, I walk a lot. I brush-cut my ½ acre property, I still “build things”, lumping bags of concrete, sleepers/timber, digging and I maintaining my house and property.

In fact life is good. I probably do drink a tad more alcohol than I should – especially in the warmer months, but then again compared to many others I think I’m a moderate drinker.

In fact “moderation” is probably the one word that means most to me. I have indulged in so much, in so many ways, but never to excess.

It is said, and not by me, that some folk have “addictive personalities”. While I do not subscribe to that line of thought, IF it is the case, then I feel confident I have a “non-addictive personality”. Hell I gave up smoking weed after some 40 years non-stop, cold turkey – I have never had the desire to resume.

So where does that leave myself and my “old” 76/77 year old Boomer body?

I recall a story – paraphrased, from the book “Zen Body Zen Bones”, by Nyogen Senzaki – a book still in my collection.

In it a young priest asked his Zen Master what the difference was between living and dying. The Master replied, “There is no difference”. To which the young priest asked, “Then why do we die?”

“Because there is no difference”, the Master responded.

Think about it!

The Boomers came, we saw, we conquered, we took, we contributed and one day, the very last Boomer will die.

It won’t be me! I will already be dead but, I will also keep living and THAT is satisfying.

My Body ages
My spirit thrives
Ageing is inevitable
Only treadmills break



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