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Death is DUMB Volume 5: John Lennon - The End Started Here
MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #33




REC – “Some Things Happen” (from Parts and Labour)

REC – “Lost Found” (from Sympathy for the Weird)



We can do this forever. Death is a constant. And when a celebrity dies – especially too soon & especially one that created something we’re passionate about, we feel it and never forget it. You can go back as far as Franz Schubert & Frédéric Chopin for untimely deaths that shook the music world. Hell, you can go back way farther.


Even if we’re sticking with the 20th & 21st centuries, the list is endless. From the 1950s on, there are hundreds of tragic music deaths. The first that comes to mind (though by no means the actual first) is “the day the music died”, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens & the Big Bopper’s plane crashed. Then you have the infamous “27 club”, which took shape in 1970-71 with the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin & Jim Morrison, but also includes the Stones’ Brian Jones from the year before, Kurt Cobain & Amy Winehouse way later, and according to the internets over 75 musicians in total, dating as far back as 1892.


Then there’s Elvis. The twin mega drummer losses of Keith Moon & John Bonham (both 32). The Lynyrd Skynyrd crash. Ian Curtis of Joy Division. Marvin Gaye. Freddie Mercury. Selena. Aaliyah. And on and on up to Bowie, Prince, Chris Cornell, and all the others I’ve discussed in previous Death is DUMB volumes. Way too many to mention here.


So what’s the point of all this? Death is death & loss is loss. What matters is which deaths strike a chord with you. The reason I won’t do an episode on everyone I mentioned above, let alone all the people I didn’t mention, is because while all of them are tragic, only some made a difference to me. The last three for sure. The drummer deaths to some extent. The rest? Varying degrees of not quite as significant.


And that’s where John Lennon comes in. I’m old enough to remember Elvis’ death pretty much all the others after him. But the first loss I felt personally was Lennon. You could say he’s the patron saint of Death is DUMB, if not the whole reason why. When I’ve talked about any other death – Adam Schlesinger, Scott Weiland, Adam Yauch, Layne Staley – my ability to articulate what it feels like & why it matters all comes from the impact Lennon’s death had on me. That immediate loss of the future, of possibility, of reunion, of renewal, of hope. The taking away of a vibrant creative and existential energy. For me, the idea of a final ending in a musical life & career all started with John. I’m still not over it.


And that’s all I’m saying here. No need to rehash any of his life or death or legacy. Better historians & musicologists than I have done it thoroughly. My only main point is this: we take music personally. We connect and identify with the music and musicians that move us. If that’s 1959 for you, or 1970-71, or 1977, 1980, 1984, 1994, or any year before or since, it’s because that’s who mattered to you. And as much as we should mourn all these deaths however we feel them, the passion that makes us feel them at all is something we should celebrate.


John’s solo work has influenced me in that I always strive for personal honesty & plain-spokenness in my lyrics. I always try to achieve both a musical AND lyrical impact, no matter the genre. Take your pick of any of my songs, but you might want to start with these two:


REC – “Some Things Happen” (from Parts and Labour)

REC – “Lost Found” (from Sympathy for the Weird)


Did Lennon’s death hit you the way it hit me? What other musical deaths have impacted you? Discuss dammit!

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