I'm afraid to turn to the obits section these days. 2016 is off to a sad start in the arts. What's with all the icons dying?
First it was David Bowie on January 10th at the age of 69, from cancer. Then came Celine Dion’s manager, celebrity maker and husband also from cancer on the 14th and on that same day we lost actor Alan Rickman and most recently this week, Glenn Frey, 67, who was one of the founding members of the Eagles.
When I think of David Bowie I am catapulted back to junior high when Let’s Dance was released. I remember dancing around my bedroom, trying on blue eyeliner and listening to Modern Love over and over, until I knew every word. It’s the album that led me back to what was perhaps Bowie’s greatest masterpiece, Ziggy’s Stardust. I was born ready for that music, even if it came before me. At a tender 22 when he wrote it, Bowie was an indisputable genius.
The world would not have Céline Dion had it not been for René Angélil, whose funeral is being held today in Montreal. He died from throat cancer two days before his 74th birthday. To be sure, Ms. Dion is a rare talent all on her own. But it was Angélil who saw the star power potential when he first heard her demo tape and then made it happen. Kate, Leo and the Titanic would not have moved us as they did without My Heart Will Go On. I need a box of Kleenex just thinking about it.
British actor Alan Rickman may be recently and widely known for his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, but that is just the tip of the 30-year career iceberg and for me, it’s all about the film Love Actually. It is a romantic classic and a Christmas tradition in my house, in which Rickman beautifully portrays Harry, a middle-aged man so foolishly seduced by a pretty young thing. Next Christmas that movie will take on a richer nostalgia.
And Glenn Frey. What a tragedy to know I will never again have the pleasure of seeing him play live. The Eagles is one of my most favourite bands. Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 album was for many years the highest selling album ever in the U.S. (today it sits as number two, behind Thriller) I will forever love their laid back ’70s L.A. vibe. I’ve seen the Eagles perform multiple times, including a Hollywood Bowl show for the ages. (If you like live music, put that venue on your bucket list.) Frey was a leader of one of the most important rock bands in the world.
Of course, not all artistry is for everyone and the work of these icons varied greatly from one to the next. But what they shared is that unlike so many other artists who have a single period of creativity, usually in their youth, each of these men continued to produce hits and explore new and relevant creative ground throughout their lives. In a way, they refused to get old.
They were all too young to go. And now that they have, I am – like you are – thinking back to my life unfolding alongside their work. Where was I when a certain song was a hit; what was I wearing, where did I live and who did I think I was in love with. With their deaths it dawns on me that so many years are spent and the feeling of the passage of time is palpable. Because that’s just it, now that they’re gone the chapter is closed. Even if it already was.
Individually and together these artists moved millions. They gave us an escape and hope. At the core, they represent youth. And with youth comes a belief in big love and recklessness without consequence. In a future that goes on forever. These movies and songs take us back to the time when we believed in all that, before life took over and we got old. Each of them kept believing in it and so should the rest of us.
May they rest in peace.