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The Music Issue

Dead Musicians

It is typical of music fans' immaturity and blind self-absorption that they mourn the deaths of their idols.

Hendrix on the way to the recording studio. Photo: AP

It is typical of music fans' immaturity and blind self-absorption that they mourn the deaths of their idols. Witness the annual candlelight vigils to mark the passing of self-loathing pasty-faces John Lennon and Kurt Cobain. Worse, note the stubbornly cretinous denial of Elvis and Tupac's deaths by nonfunctional, ego-tarded devotees. In their infantile egocentrism, the faceless hordes of pop-music leeches lament the passing of their favorite stars as if the stars would really give a fuck if THEY died. And yet, it is obvious that most musicians die in order to get away from their fans. Jimi Hendrix, even though he was only five-foot-seven, is widely regarded as the greatest guitarist, like, ever. Yet during the 27 years he was alive, he was so busy doing drugs and chasing tail that he recorded a meager three studio albums. But in the 35 years he's been actively dead, he's been quite the busy bumblebee, releasing at least one album yearly. Death provided Hendrix with the solace and "quiet time" that most artists require in order to blossom. For Hendrix, choking to death on his own vomit was the ticket to a highly productive post-existence music career. It seems like only yesterday that convicted rapist Tupac Shakur was senselessly gunned down in the Las Vegas streets by an anonymous hooligan unaware that being murdered would be the wisest career move Tupac ever made. The foul-mouthed, mustachioed, oft-topless son of a crack addict was so preoccupied thuggin' it up during his short life that he excreted only five studio albums. Yet since his fortuitous demise, he quit flexin', settled down, and to date has churned out eight additional long-playing musical odes romanticizing criminality. For Shakur, Thug Life was not nearly so fruitful as Thug Death. Not to mention the fact that dying has made it much more difficult for him to rape anyone. Who—besides me—didn't shed a tear when sightless troubadour Ray Charles recently received a whopping eight posthumous Grammies? Joining the rarefied ranks of rigor-mortis-stricken Grammy-winning songbirds such as John Lennon and Nat King Cole, the blind-as-a-bat fresh corpse refused to appear at the ceremony, citing his death. But during his long, grinning, drug-addled life, he was repeatedly snubbed by Grammy voters, who treated him more like a janitor than a genius. Yet all it took was for him to keel over, and now everyone wants to be his friend. I'll bet that in his casket, Ray Charles has a wider grin than ever. And I'm sure he's only beginning to make music. JIM GOAD