Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why I Am Not Broken Up By the Death of Several Popular Musicians

I am a bit out of step with my peers in not being especially moved by the death of some prominent musicians.  My Boomer friends were torn up about David Bowie, and now my Gen X friends are torn up about Prince.  And some of each were strongly affected by Michael Jackson's death.

A.J. Hartley has a good piece about why people who grew up before the internet might be more affected by the loss of favorite musicians than young people with easy access to music. I feel that some - I am old enough (I am on the Boomer/Gen X cusp) to remember listening carefully and memorizing whole albums.

Still, it is hard for me to think of a singer whose death would feel like a huge personal and social loss.  Springsteen has been my clear favorite since the '70s, and I appreciate his ongoing production of great songs. Nonetheless, if he died tomorrow, I would appreciate what he had made, but not feel a part of me had gone.

I am not sure why. Perhaps I am not as affected by music as others (though I don't think so).  Perhaps it is just these artists (though my Springsteen reflection makes me think not).

My best two best guesses are these:
1) As a sociologist, I see even exceptional artists as types, rather than as uniquely irreplaceable figures;
2) As a bourgeois, I feel at arms length from artists as people, even if I appreciate their work.

I am puzzled.  I would welcome your thoughts.


Charlotte said...

Question: Has anybody spoken to you about their grief over these deaths, missed a class, burst into tears, or is it all a social media phenomenon? (I am in no way diminishing the importance of the artists in asking this. Just curious.)

Gruntled said...

No one has broken down in person. My Facebook did fill up with Prince laments (as they previously did for David Bowie, Michael Jackson, and, to a lesser extent, Whitney Houston).

That this response is expressed through social media does not, I think, mean it is less strongly felt - but that sharing feelings through social media is the new norm for many.

Still, this is nothing like 9/11, which is the strongest moment of public emotion I ever experienced. For me, the Supreme Court decision awarding the presidency to George W. Bush was something of the same kick in the gut that many of my friends are reporting now.

Anonymous said...

Maybe because you never felt that they were saying something you couldn't say yourself.

Mac McCarty said...

Perhaps it is because for many, they have never suffered the death of a peer. Some of us have lost way too many friends and shipmates in the line of duty, often violently, over the years, so the loss of some relatively--repeat relatively--unimportant "artist" doesn't pack the same wallop. As far as "the strongest moment of public emotion I ever experienced", it would have to be the Supreme Court decision finding that the Constitution allows the killing of the unborn for the mere purpose of convenience. Bush v. Gore, a simple analysis of State election law pales in comparison.

Barry said...

I spend very little time on Facebook, however my analysis is that many people are much more effusive on this channel than they would be in actual conversation. One can find similiar comments on mac and cheese recipies, puppies, the weather, and Nascar drivers