Death, Timely and Otherwise

In the last few months we’ve lost David Crosby, Harry Belafonte, Gordon Lightfoot, and Tina Turner: singers I grew up with, although Belafonte (born in 1927) was a durable star from my parents’ generation.

At 71, I’m at an age where I should expect these losses: the singers and groups I listened to as a teenager and as a young woman were often about ten years older than I was. You do the arithmetic. I’m doing it more and more often.

But sometimes the loss was not age-related: some folks in my approximate cohort died young:

  • Overdose: Janis Joplin at 27
  • Heart failure: Mama Cass at 33; Jim Morrison at 27 (a determination unencumbered by an autopsy)
  • Plane crash: Jim Croce at 30
  • Smoke inhalation on a plane: Stan Rogers at 33

This coming Friday–2023 Jun 02–is the 40th anniversary of Stan’s death. I still remember my shock when I heard the news. Was he the last person to die in North America in an airplane fire that didn’t crash the jet? Maybe.

But last or not, he was gone and at an obscenely early age. If he had lived (and overcome his struggles with drugs, documented with loving regret by his brother, Garnet) what life would he have lived? What music would he have created? What Canadian stories would he have celebrated in song?

For me, the deaths this year of the singers of my youth make me reflect on the lasting legacy of so many artists. Stan’s death 40 years ago makes me reflect both on his lasting legacy and on the wasted potential. For me, every such event, every such anniversary, is a source of both gratitude for what was and of regret for what was not.

Still, there are many ways to waste potential: untimely death-by-accident is just one of the more dramatic. These events can also be an inspiration to live my own life to something approximating its full potential and, where I have the chance, to help others to do the same.

This entry was posted in Appreciating Deeply, Feeling Clearly and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Death, Timely and Otherwise

  1. Ken from Kenora says:

    All well said Isabel, each one to be missed and remembered. Harry B. and Tina surviving those tricky years allowed us to enjoy much more of their melodic work. I enjoyed her immensely in the 60s and 70s and with her RE-birth collaborating with Mark Knopfler in the 80s we got to enjoy Tina ll. All hail the Acid Queen.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Ken 🙂 It’s amazing/impressive to me how many singers recreate or rejuvenate themselves in mid-life and beyond.

  2. Tina is one of the few big-name popular singers I have seen in person. Her energy was amazing. Her reinvention of herself was inspiring. Her kindness, I hear, was legendary. Holding a show together as a single, focal performer is no mean feat and she did so with tremendous aplomb, grace, timing, and synchronization with her backup singers and the whole production team. And would be doing so several more nights that week and on many more tours, year after year. She has earned the accolades.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – 🙂 In-person concerts are in a whole other league, for sure. Great that you have that memory of her.

  3. barbara carlson says:

    My memory of Tina is a drag queen we got to know very well. “Her” rendition of Tina was spot on — the fright wig included. The artistry of those guys as they studied the artists of their choice was a wonder. To watch them evolve from boys — over 40-50 minutes — into “stars” was a peak experience in my life. I felt privileged to be taken into their world.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – That’s delightful. There’s a lot of hoo-haa these days about drag queens and I wonder how much is just that we fear the unfamiliar.

      • barbara carlson says:

        It’s all down to Other. Ridiculous. Underneath we pretty much all want the same thing: recognition and love. No matter how it’s prettied up on the outside — and these boys were gorgeous when “in face” — those with shy personalities changed into DIVA’s. We loved them. Still do, but their world is too seductive: it’s like being with 12-year-old girls who believe actions have no consequences.

  4. Isabel Gibson says:

    <> I think that’s true for most people independent of any orientation, persuasion, preference or background. And I think that across the groups defined by those trivial differences, there are people who want different things, like power. But they’re pretty easy to pick out of a crowd.

Comments are closed.