Why do we as a society take it so personally when a musician dies? I've thought about this a bit over the past couple years, but today as I hear the news about Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, I find myself asking it again: why do I care? Why does this make me so sad?
I wasn't some huge Linkin Park fan. Sure, I had some songs downloaded, played them loud, and sang along. I even thought recently how they were probably great to see live, and wondered if they'd ever make new music again. I thought Chester had a great voice.
I thought back to the recent loss of Chris Cornell, and how I actually shed a few tears that day, listening to "I Am the Highway" and thought about how I once told a friend I could listen to that man read a telephone book, his voice was that good. (I realize some of you may not know what a "phone book" is; you can Google it)
Then I thought about Prince and how I regretted never seeing him live (and he had just been here!). I had a poster of him in my room when I was a pre-teen and knew every song on Purple Rain. And took great delight in listening to his "dirty" songs like Darling Nikki and.
I know exactly where I was and who I was with when the news of Kurt Cobain's death came out. I was working at Candyland at the Mall of America with my friend Pat Huot. We were both in shock when we heard it on the radio. Then the super cute guy from the Disney Store came in to get his regular order, and we told him about it and I was so sad I didn't even remember to flirt with Cute Disney Store Guy.
I can even remember when John Lennon died, even though I was just a kid. So what gives? When does it seem to affect people more than other celebrity deaths?
The only thing I can come up with that music touches the soul. Songs can take you back in time. When I hear certain songs, I can vividly remember sights, smells, and feelings from years ago. Music is an experience that connects us on an emotional level. Some songs can transport me back in time and remind me of things I'd rather leave in the past. Some songs actually stir up feelings that make me mad, while others bring joy and happiness.
Music has always been a staple in my life, like food and water. I have 35+ year old friendships formed on the basis of music. I had friends who were in bands. My dad raised me on classic rock and had a hell of a good vinyl collection. I sang in the choir, and played flute in the band. I cannot tell you how many concerts I've been to or how many bands I've seen live. I honestly can't count them all. And I don't discriminate: I've seen many different genres from punk rock to new wave and modern rock; alternative and metal; classic rock, grunge, and 80's hair bands. I've seen jazz and classical performances, and I've seen indie singer song writers as well as huge pop music stars. I've been to festivals and arenas, tents and VFW halls, house parties and clubs.
I've quoted songs and made mix tapes, CDs and playlists for people. The last time my husband and I broke up (before we finally got engaged and eventually married), I made a mixtape for him. *I think that's what won over his heart and got us back together. So when a musician dies, it's like a piece of the fabric of our lives is torn, not destroyed, but just changed. I think that's why it's so tragic each and every time. They pour their hearts out into words and notes and connect with their audiences on a level that is a bit different from an actor or other entertainer. They turn emotion into song, and when they die, we take it personally.
So, farewell to Chester, and Chris, and Prince, and Kurt and John, and all the others that are too many for me to list. Thank you for leaving little pieces of your hearts for us to enjoy and love.