There’s an almost anti-intellectualism angle at play when you hear all these whining, soppy or pious points of view that the death of Glenn Frey from the Eagles is as important as David Bowie’s and/or Lemmy’s and/or anyone else who has shuffled off recently.
Lives matter. Absolutely. But when we mourn a musician we are celebrating what they meant to us. As I said regarding the death of Glenn Frey he meant nothing to me – or rather his music (most of it) meant nothing to me. That doesn’t mean I’m glad he’s dead.
I wasn’t all that upset about Lemmy dying – largely because I think he did well to cheat the system by at least 20 years given his daily diet, his appetite for destruction. I liked Motorhead – because you really only needed to like one song. But the idolisation of Lemmy had already gotten just a bit silly – that documentary about him, the one everyone seemed to love, it was just parading around a sad, soulless old man really.
We don’t have to value every rock’n’roll death – we’re allowed to pick and choose, decide which ones mean the most to us.
I’ve been called up to comment on rock’n’roll deaths for a few years now and the last couple of years the phone has been going more than it ever – normally – does. And that’s okay. But I can’t always say what people want.
One time a radio station introduced me as a music snob, the host was supposed to be talking to me about the passing of Bowie and Lemmy and Glenn Frey and there was this ridiculous premise around who, if anyone, of today could mean as much when they go. Kanye West was mentioned. He already means more to a lot of people than The Beatles ever did. You and I may not think that’s right – I have no issue with it actually, that’s anyone else’s choice if they want – but there’s a desperation from the boomers to cling to their heroes; to remember only the greats and to therefore be sure they’re so great.
Nostalgia is almost always rose-tinted after all.
The host on the radio show chose to paint the segment as being about musical snobbery, that Glenn Frey was of the same generation as Bowie and was certainly successful therefore he should be remembered as being every bit as important. He wasn’t. Not to me. There are Eagles fans. And there are Bowie fans. And perhaps there’s a Venn diagram – you can certainly like Bowie and the Eagles. But you don’t have to. If it’s valid to line them up alongside each other just because they belonged to the same generation and had a similar occupation then it’s valid, too, to choose to see no real (lasting, meaningful) connection.
Perhaps I should be honoured to be called a music snob.
But for that to be the title bestowed is surely missing the point of commenting on music. We all have our own preferences. And writing, to me, is about putting across those preferences, exploring prejudices and embracing contradictions. It’s certainly about putting across your own personality, putting your own stamp on things. We can’t all like everything. And we shouldn’t be placing the same value on these people. (Their lives, yes? I guess. Sure. But their work? No chance).
What purpose could that serve?