In honor of the death of one of my biggest musical influences, Alex Chilton, here's me from the summer of '94 performing his Big Star song "The Ballad of El Goodo" in an Ann Arbor coffee house. I've digitized it and done my best here with a heap of processing to mitigate the fact that the guitar was recorded too loud as compared to the vocal.
I discovered Big Star some time in the year before that, which was an especially depressing/angsty time for me, when I was done with college but hadn't yet started grad school, and it (Big Star, all 3 CDs of them... the 2005 reunion one is a different fish, though with some of the original charm, and the 1993 live reunion one is kind of a mess) was a kick in the gut for me. The combination of despair and snarkiness continues to inspire to this day, as does their version of the big guitars/nice harmonies model, which somehow they did better than others in the same vein. This gig took place I think soon after I met my wife, and this was a tune I'd play for her and make her cry.
So: death. My best friend from grade school, whom I'd only recently reconnected with after close to 20 years via Facebook and talked to once since then on the phone, died of a massive heart attack this year. One of my favorite artists, here, frustrating though he was with his recent, infrequently released 30-minute albums of mostly covers, has died now in his 60s. Not too far long before starting this podcast, I learned that my grad school advisor, Bob Solomon, had died since last I checked on him. All of my relatives' pets seem to be dying of late, though my 16-year old chihuahua/dachshund keeps hanging on somehow, increasingly grumpy, deaf, and medicated.
How sad am I supposed to feel? I'm not even sure how sad I do feel. Of course, I feel abstractly very sad for the immediate loved ones of those listed, and bummed that I'll not have more experiences with these folks, but they weren't my immediate, current associates whose loss would devastate me. I make it a policy not to invest myself in tragedies that are not mine--Haiti, Katrina, Tsunami, 911--because if you're going to be sad when something happens like that, you'll always be sad, and your life will suck. Still, how much grief do we owe people, or does the question even make sense, and asking it just reveal that I've become way too disconnected from myself?