If 2016 Had a Theme Song, It Would Be “All Things Must Pass”
By Dave Price
Under a somber November sky, as they waited for the plane arriving into Washington from Dallas, author Mary McGrory turned to then presidential aide, later-to-be Senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan and famously said: “We’ll never laugh again.”
“Oh Mary,” Monihayn replied. “We’ll laugh again, but we’ll never be young again.”
While McGrory and Moynihan were talking about the tragic 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the sentiments expressed seem equally appropriate for so many of us Baby Boomers as we look back on 2016, a brutish year for music which claimed so many performers who had provided us with the soundtracks for our lives.
In fact, it seemed at times that 2016’s main intent was to drive home the fact that while the music of our younger days might last forever, the musicians who created it wouldn’t.
From the January deaths of rock icons David Bowie, Glen Frey of the Eagles, and Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane to the December passing of George Michael, the outgoing year saw an inordinate number of musical artists taken from their fans.
The role call of 2016 deaths included some of rock music’s biggest names such as George Martin (producer for the Beatles), Keith Emerson, Robert Stigwood (manager of Cream and the Bee Gees) Merle Haggard, Prince, Phil Chess (co-founder of Chess records), Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Mose Allison, Greg Lake, Bobby Vee, and Sharon Jones, lead singer for her band the Dap Kings.
Popular bands that lost members included Earth, Wind, and Fire, Tower of Power, Mott the Hoople, The B-52s, Sha Na Na, Thunderclap Newman, Flying Burrito Brothers, Fairport Convention, Spooky Tooth, The Mar-Keys, Parliament Funkadelic, The Box Tops, Blue Oyster Cult, The Dixie Cups, The Black Crowes, Weather Report, and Status Quo.
Now, of course, death is nothing new to the rock world.
There is the plane crash immortalized as “the day the music died” in Don McLean’s anthem “American Pie”. There is the 1980 assassination of John Lennon, a murder that assured the Beatles would never again perform as a group. And there is the eerie continuing saga of the infamous 27 Club (musicians who all died at age 27) that includes among its members Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Pigpen McKernan (original keyboardist for the Grateful Dead), Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.
But 2016 was something different.
Maybe it was the star power of many of the deceased. Maybe it was the sheer number of deaths. Maybe it was that the monthly recurring incidents kept the topic alive for the entire year.
Obviously, the most affected were the fans of those musicians the cruelly indifferent Grim Reaper decided to claim.
But how could the shock, grief, and mourning be so great for people so many of us had only heard or seen from a great distance?
Experts tell us that these celebrity deaths feel so personal because they resonate with us at our deepest psychological levels. They remind us of our lost youth, the transience of life, and our own mortality.
“We grow up with these people,” Chief Professional Officer of the American Counseling Association David Kaplan told The Huffington Post after the unexpected death of Prince. “We hear their music on a regular basis and we really get to know them. In a sense, they become a member of our family, so when they die, it’s like an extended member of our family dies.”
The rise of social media has also intensified the impact of celebrity deaths. Once a death of someone who was in the public sphere occurs, we are barraged with new information from posts, tweets, news articles, and essays at lightning-fast speed.
But while social media exacerbates our initial reactions, it can also help with our healing.
“We are social creatures. We want to know that we are not alone,” Kaplan says. “There is a sense of community in those that are grieving together by posting thoughts on social media. That connection can be very helpful”.
Psychologists insist that it is perfectly normal to feel a sense of loss triggered by a celebrity death, especially if you were an admirer of that person in life.
However, if your mourning becomes truly excessive, you should seek help.
“Grief is a normal, natural function. But if it starts to interfere with your life, that’s when it needs to be addressed (by a professional),” Kaplan says.
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