Jun 23, 2011

Grieving those you don't actually know

When I was in high school, my senior year, Kurt Cobain committed suicide.  I wasn't that familiar with his music, as I didn't really get into the grunge thing, although I always did like Pearl Jam.  However I knew who he was and he seemed to really resonate with a lot of people that I knew.

When the news came out that he had killed himself, it was amazing to see the reactions from a lot of the people around me.   People who had identified with the words that Cobain spoke were devastated.   I remember to this day, although I don't remember who told me or who it was about, that a girl in our school ran to her locker and tried to down a bottle of pills when she found out.

Now, to me, that's a bit excessive.  However I think it's kind of interesting to see how the deaths of our creative heroes affect us.  I watched in intrigue the various reactions by people who were fans of Cobain.  Tears were shed, and of course suddenly everyone seemed to be a Nirvana fan. 

Surely many of those were just latching on to the moment, much like many people do whenever a celebrity passes.  Suddenly that person was the most beloved artist in the history of the world.    Just like whenever a rapper dies, no matter how insignificant or marginally talented they were, suddenly there are blog posts about "most underrated" and "top 5 dead or alive".


I got thinking about this recently, because last month Gil Scott Heron passed on.  Now, once again I was not super familiar with his work, although I clearly knew who he was.   I mostly was familiar with his work via the two most well known pieces, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and "We Almost Lost Detroit".

I was once again intrigued by the outpouring of emotions and grief expelled on twitter and facebook by people whose only connection to him was via his music.   People who had never met him, had only seen him in concert or via music videos or albums, and yet felt a kindred connection.   Felt an inspiration that moved them to become who they were.

One of those people who were so inspired and influenced by Gil Scott Heron is Jay Smooth, the host of "The Underground Railroad" radio show from New York, and the host of "Illdoctrine", a hip hop vlog.

I watched his newest video and it got me thinking about something.  First the video, and then I'll elaborate:

Whose death would affect you the most?  Which artist that you've never met, but were just inspired by or influenced by or just plain MOVED by, would their passing affect you the most?

I have to admit that I'm a fairly detatched person, to my detriment sometimes.  I try not to let myself connect too much to anyone really, because I have a hard time dealing when those relationships (both friendly and more so) go away.

However thinking about this, I have to say that if there were one artist that I would be hit the hardest by their passing, it would have to be D'Angelo.   D's always been my favorite artist.  I have both his albums, a crazy amount of unreleased live stuff in both video and audio, and I think he's the closest thing to an inspiration I've come across.

And with his long stream of legal issues, and alleged substance abuse issues, I've actually imagined that situation where I log online one day and see the headline that he's gone.   And I can't imagine that day and how I would react.   It's not something I'd even want to imagine.

And that's when I realize that suddenly realize that I'm really not that different from all those back in 1994 when Kurt Cobain committed suicide, leaving all his fans in shock and confusion.   

Those people I kind of scoffed at and though "how lonely are their lives that they're stressing over the death of someone they never knew".

Because then I didn't understand the pull an artist's work can have on you.   I didn't understand the touch of art that reaches inside you and just won't let go.  That touches you inside and changes you forever.

And when they are gone, it's like that spot that they touched is empty.

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