Our heroes didn’t die, they’ve just been upgraded…
I found the quote above while scrolling through my Facebook-feed, and I couldn’t have said it better myself.
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you share my passion for music. “Rock stars” have made me the person that I am today. Their music has been the soundtrack of my existence, and that’s a pretty big deal.
My first experience of loss was when I was 7, and Elvis died. I remember it very clearly. It was a regular weekday and I went with dad to a local mall. He used to buy a newspaper, get a coffee and read the paper. Well, that day he met a friend there so while they were talking I grabbed the newspaper and saw the headline: “Elvis has died“.
Elvis was my first “real” idol. I couldn’t believe that someone like that could die. Stars, musicians, celebrities – in my mind, they weren’t like regular, mortal people. They were above that, somehow.
And in a way, I guess they are. They never die. For all I know, he could be alive and well, making music. I never met him anyway and probably never would.
But that first shock stuck in my mind. Death was something I had very little experience of at the time. All my relatives were still alive, nobody had died, loved ones, friends – all there. I felt like life was so long that it was almost “forever”.
Well, the second shock came three years later, when I was ten. The timing couldn’t have been worse. I was such a dedicated Beatles-fan, it was true love, like a teenage crush, just something that made my heart sing. Beatles and their music – that was like celebrating Christmas, New Year’s and my birthday every single day. That’s the best way I could describe it.
One day, our teacher came to class, looking like something really terrible happened. He didn’t say much, and he was usually a very talkative man.
He went straight to the record player that was in the left corner of the class room, and put on John Lennon‘s latest album, “Double Fantasy” and the first words of “Just like starting over” filled the room.
He lit a candle and said: “John Lennon has been shot. He’s dead”.
Our teacher was a big music fan as well. He used to play songs he liked for us. He was the one who introduced me to Simon and Garfunkel and many other classic artists.
I felt like throwing up. John?! Dead?! He was BEYOND DEATH. So many thoughts and emotions that I couldn’t get a grip of. I was still too young to understand, I cried all day.
My heart was in a thousand pieces, I knew every song, every little detail in every Beatles song, Lennon song…. I didn’t have any other hobbies or passions back then. I focused ALL my time and love on music. And there WAS no other music in my world, but the Beatles. I was still exploring other types of music, which maybe wasn’t typical for other 10-year olds who were interested in mainstream Top 40 type of music. I don’t know where that came from really…
I played Beatles records all day that day, and just cried till I could barely breathe. It was the end of the world. John Lennon?! The greatest of them ALL! “You’ve got to hide your love away” from the “Help!”-album felt like a voice from the other side.
My mother came home, yelled at me because I hadn’t done the dishes, which was my chore. She had no understanding whatsoever of my grief, she thought I was just being ridiculous. It only made things worse that I had nobody to talk to who felt the same and would understand where I was coming from.
The third really big strike was when Ronnie James Dio passed away. I remember being in Split, Croatia with my dad at the time, and someone texted me the news, cause I didn’t have access to WiFi.
I felt so horrible, wanted to just crawl up in a corner and cry, or just call someone, anyone, and vent for a few hours. But I couldn’t. I was in an environment where nobody would get it. At ALL.
My dad was the most wonderful person on the planet, but he couldn’t understand what he called “idol worship”. He used to say “they are just people, no better than you or me!”. What do you say to that? Dad and I lived on different planets sometimes…
I remember texting my friend Kevin in Florida about it, he was just as devastated as I was. The news of Dio’s death hit us all hard. He was one of the true greats of hard rock/heavy metal. Not only that, but this time I was an adult and had personal memories and references. I had met Dio as a fan and as a journalist, and he was always kind. It felt so wrong that he had to go.
Most recently we lost an icon – Lemmy, and one of the biggest pop/rock geniuses of all time, David Bowie.
I don’t think anyone was surprised that it was time for Lemmy to say goodbye, I’m sure he wasn’t either. With Lemmy, it wasn’t so much his music, cause I was never a huge fan of Motörhead, but it was because he was genuine and real. He symbolized rock’n’roll like nobody else, he lived like most people only dream of, with the integrity of very few on the music business. It was a HUGE loss. He was just the coolest, baddest of them ALL.
[Filmed this one summer at Sweden Rock when I was fortunate enough to be invited to side stage to watch the show]
I spent the evening at the local rock club, Dr Feelgood’s, with about 100 other fans, watching Lemmy’s memorial service on a big screen in the darkness, feeling sad but at the same time a feeling of peace and happiness because it was a celebration of life more than anything. The way it should be.
David Bowie… I cried again. I can’t imagine the music world without Bowie. The music he created, the spectacle, the piece of ART he made of himself…. will never be surpassed. They don’t make artists like that anymore. I still feel incredibly sad when I think about it.
I couldn’t watch his last video “Lazarus”. It broke my heart, I felt horrible. Will never watch it again. It’s just so bizarre. Even in death he speaks, it’s as if it was all perfectly staged and timed. “Let’s make this video, then let’s release the album on my birthday, then let me go and die a few days later and nobody will ever forget it – and I left my own goodbye message”…
At the same time… The band in the sky will kick heavenly ass, and I can’t wait to get my front row ticket to an angel choir consisting of Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Freddie Mercury and David Bowie for instance.
For a musician, death is not the end. It’s the beginning of ETERNITY. It’s when they truly become bigger than EVER.
For a musician, dying is the way to sell more albums and becoming a legend.
It’s all the way it should be. Thank you for the music, all you guys and gals up there…. or down below, wherever you all gather for your afterlife jamsessions… Without you, I would be nothing.
I finally feel that it’s okay to cry. We all stand united in life and in death. I never say “Rest in peace” to any rocker. They weren’t made for resting in THIS life and they certainly won’t be resting on the other side.