The Din of Inequity

The Din of Inequity

...yes, I spelled it that way on purpose.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Too Young to Die?

I was perusing for the first time in eons, and I only got a couple of links in before I needed to come write.

There was a link to this: Top 50 Musicians Who Died Too Young

I love this kind of thing--pretty much any top whatever list about music will catch my eye, and of course will bring a lot of opinions out. So this one was right there.

Let me start out by saying that I'm not a sentimentalist, and I'm not all mystical about death--it happens to everyone eventually, and being dead doesn't confer any "untouchable" status that protects you from commentary or ridicule. So if you're real sensitive, and don't want to hear (see?) someone slag off your favorite dead artist for some stupid-ass reason, stop reading. Don't come crying to me after. Actually, go ahead and cry to me, but make sure you do it in my comments. Also note that I tried to stay at least a little bit away from judging the actual quality of the music these folks purveyed. Even if I didn't like Selena, her music was popular with a lot of people, so who am I to say she sucks?

So anyway, I brought up the list and the first person on it was Robert Johnson. Died young, I'll give you that. But I really need to know--how'd he make the top 50? I'd probably be more likely to put him in the "Top 5 artists everyone swears is a genius though they've never actually heard a recording of him" list, or maybe the "Top 5 most-owned, least-played box sets of all time" list. Personally, I'm not a huge fan, and I'm a definite blues fan (yes, I own the box set, and no, I don't listen to it often). I don't like that scratchy old Delta stuff all that much, but I know good from bad, at least. Yeah, he's pretty emotive. A couple of his songs have stood the test of time pretty well (Sweet Home Chicago and Cross Roads Blues most notably) in the hands of other musicians, too. But often if you listen to the original stuff, you'll find a lot of interpretation has gone into the more modern or popular versions--you'd hardly connect Johnson's recording with the Cream version of Crossroads, for example. Finally, what the hell is this guy doing on a list of otherwise popular musicians? With the possible but doubtful exception of Sid Vicious, he's the least-mainstream musician on the list.

The next few didn't bother me (though Charlie Parker is flirting with to "Top 5 most unheard genius list" for popular music fans--but I actually like what I've heard at least).

There's a three-way cheat at number 6, putting Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper together, presumably because of the difficulty in separating the body parts. I think it's always a bit of an insult to put the Bopper in with those other two. Buddy Holly was churning out hits at a serious clip, and it looked like Richie Valens was on the same track. The Bopper had Chantilly Lace, and that's about it. As far as I know there wasn't much else in the pipeline there. But somehow he's Top 50 instead of a one-hit wonder because he croaked in the presence of greatness.

Then the list gets good and solid for quite a bit, up until number 19 which is Cass Elliot. That one I don't get. She was essentially a backup singer for John Phillips and Denny Whatsisname's songwriting, just like Michelle Phillips was. I think you really have to be a standout singer to make a list like this without any material of your own, and as I understood it they wouldn't let her join initially because she wasn't any good. There's some probably-apocryphal story that she became a great singer after getting hit over the head in a bar or something, but I kind of doubt that one. Backup singer. Not Top 50 anything.

Number 21 is another plane crash three-fer, this time with Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don't know if Skynyrd would really classify as a true Top 50 act, but I like them plenty, and the plane crash definitely killed the band.

Sid Vicious is 22. Should not be on the list. He was a crap musician at best. Yeah, I liked the Sex Pistols just fine, but he had nothing to do with what made them good. I'm not sure he's even on any of the records, except maybe late live stuff. His own work is crap. Largely talentless junkies die all the time, and they don't make Top 50 lists. Off the list.

Number 26, John Belushi. Not. A. Musician. Blues fan, sure. Singer, sort of. Musician? Not that I know of. Off the list.

Number 29 is where it starts to get ugly, I think. Ricky Nelson. He died at 45. Not old, but WAAAAAY past his last hit. How many hits did he even have? Three? I don't think you should make the "died too young" list if you were demonstrably done making important music long before you died. I'll just go ahead and say the list should also have shitcanned these folks too: Andy Gibb (#30--geez!), Jerry Garcia (#35--let's face it. His music was on "repeat" since about 1970), John Denver (#40), Carl Wilson (#41--also, backup singer, though a beautiful voice, and how come his brother Dennis isn't on the list?), John Entwistle (#44--not exactly the songwriting power of the band, and long past contributing), Maurice Gibb (#45--he died a long way after disco did, unless he was writing hit songs for other people still--which isn't impossible, but I don't know about it), Robert Palmer (#47) and Rick James (#50). Rick fuckin' James. I'm sure he'd have made the list without Dave Chappell's help. I almost added number 43, George Harrison to the "was really over long before he died" list, but ultimately decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

So anyway, I've opened up a lot of room on the "Top 50 Died-too-young" list. I was going to ask for additions, but maybe I should just ask for suggestions to get it down to 25 instead.

|| Bikeboy 1:12 PM ||
Well, Carl Wilson did write some fine songs ("Feel Flows", "Long Promised Road", "Trader") and after 1966 was the defacto lead singer of the Beach Boys, the man Brian trusted to sing his songs, and he was also the defacto producer and arranger of some of their later good to great albums, so he's no backup singer. And because he died, Mike Love took control.

So he belongs, probably much higher.

Ricky Nelson had 32 top 40 hits, including 17 top 10s.
However, you are right about Nelson, since his last hit was the #3 Garden Party in 1972. But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well...

And I can't believe they put a Gibb, put Entwhistle, and put Rick James on the list, AND George Harrison. Harrison was an over 60 year old man with cancer.
I don't think they should have included people who committed suicide (and I count Karen Carpenter in that list). After all, they didn't "die young," they fucking offed themselves.

There's a good argument to be made that without depression/mania/drug addiction many of these people would not be legendary musicians at all. You don't get to be a great artist by being happy and well-adjusted.
Furthermore, great musicians who recover from depression/mania/drug addiction almost always cease to be great.
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