Blake from Blake’s 7
Sir George Martin
Frank Sinatra Jr
Guy Hamilton the Bond director
Chyna, the world’s most famous female wrestler ALL DEAD…
…and we’ve just passed EASTER.
This is mental. It feels like the plot of Kingsman 1 when all the celebrities were disappearing in the news every night!
I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years now. I think it’s probably a result of the explosion of celebrity as a concept in the '60s and '70s (and beyond). People who became well-known in that era are now reaching the age where death is more likely.
That, combined with the fact that we’re now a lot more aware of celebrities (even relatively minor ones) on a global level, probably means that this is the shape of things to come, sadly. A lot of well-known and well-loved people are entering their autumn years.
(Another factor that probably won’t matter for a good few years yet is the relatively recent explosion of the more z-list celebrity rung - reality TV show stars, talent show contestants and the like. That creates a whole new level of people who are ‘known’ and whose deaths will probably be marked by the media. In years to come, half the news is going to be dominated by obituaries at this rate!)
It sounds a wee bit grim, but I’ve been doing that for years, ever since I went to see Nina Simone play and missed out on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. When Screamin’ Jay died soon afterwards, I started to try and see all of my idols before they were gone. I missed out on Bowie though.
There’s an article on the BBC up about it, analysing some data.
It indicates a bit of both. Before the 1960s with TV and pop music there weren’t that many celebrities. It was mainly a handful of big movie stars. While Bowie and Prince were undeniably A list plus, some are more on the periphery and I think that will get bigger. In previous decades without the internet and more TV channels people were less exposed, American members here may not know Ronnie Corbett or Victoria Wood (or like Jerry just know the 'four candles sketch) but they do know and watch a lot of that stuff now. I was listening to a podcast today where the Americans on it had watched Channel 4 sitcom ‘Catastrophe’ on Amazon. That wouldn’t have happened a decade ago. Nobody in the UK before the late 1980s would know any American wrestlers, like Chyna, they didn’t show it.
However they also looked at published obituaries in major publications (including themselves and the Telegraph) and they are at more than double the level of last year or the year before. It is statistically unusual, we haven’t suddenly hit a year everyone gets old and by current life expectancy Bowie, Prince, Rickman etc should have been expected to live longer. It is a bad year.
Yeah I passed on seeing Johnny Cash in early 90s and passed on seeing David Bowie in the early 00s, and those were not great decisions. In both cases I thought I’d have more chances. I did see Prince though.
Later this year I am seeing Dolly Parton, Brian Wilson, and Bob Dylan for the first time. The “see them while they’re with us” element is part of it, particularly with Dylan.
Something that is pretty incredible is how many of the old, old guys are still with us. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis. The inventors of rock are still alive! Meanwhile the only band in which all original members are dead are the Ramones, who started in the late 1970s. It’s odd.
I’ve heard Dylan is pretty bad live, like you can’t even really tell what song he’s playing. Still, though.
And Willie Nelson just put out a great album with Merle last year.
(It is subtle, but fyi, there is a double meaning to “It’s All Going To Pot”)
The problem with Willie live is that he used to play for like 90 minutes with barely a single break in the music. One song would just flow into the next, and it was incredible. At his age he just can’t do that—the endurance and dexterity for the guitar is too hard at that age. Dylan now only plays piano in concerts.
Yeah, glad I saw Chuck Berry, James Brown and technically Bowie (at the Phoenix Festival, but can’t remember a damn thing about the set apart from a lot of that drum n’ bass stuff he was into at the time).
That said, I’m of the belief that if you weren’t there for the peak of their abilities, it doesn’t really count. Seeing James Brown live is a ticked box, but it certainly wasn’t the ‘doing the splits, hobbling off stage then coming back’ peak of Brown’s career.
That’s the problem with all the comeback gigs, a lot of them are pretty damp squibs compared to their first flourish.
I think that is the case with some artists but not all of them.
It is probably more the case when a band gets back together just for a cash-in tour than when a career artist plays. I saw people like Neil Young, Prince, David Byrne, Willie Nelson, and Al Green in the 2000s and they were certainly more engaged than a lot of bands that I’ve seen in their prime. I saw a big rap night hosted by the Roots once in the mid-2000s and Big Daddy Kane destroyed everybody on stage. Stuff like that.