Someone take these dreams away
That point me to another day
A duel of personalities
That stretch all true realities
That keep calling me
They keep calling me
Dead Souls - Joy Divsion
I've always held a bit of a fascination with those tragic figures in music, I think everybody does. Recently, augmented by a indulgence of early era Manic Street Preachers, the death of Michael Jackson and the 20th anniversary of Unknown Pleasures (Joy Divsion's debut album), I've been thinking about death in music alot.
It feels almost romantic sometimes, the reverance that is held for those music heroes after an untimely demise. A Romantic tragedy. Somehow they become martyrs of music and, almost invariably, this post-humous reverance was nowhere near as comparable to that they received in their lifes. Infact, intrusions into private lives, disrepectful comments, and sometimes complete derision is these days the norm.
Take Richey (James) Edwards out of Manic Street Preachers. Since he pulled a Reggie Perrin in 1995, abandoning his Vauxhall Cavalier near the Severn bridge, there have been countless documentaries, mainstream obituaries championing him as a great poet and voice of a disenfranchised despairing nation. However, when alive, had to put up with Rhona Cameron sardonically asking "what do you hate about your life the most."
Richey was all too aware of the Burn out > Fade away hypothesis of Neil Young's My My, Hey Hey cited in Kurt Cobain's suicide note just weeks before. On top of this, Journal For Plague Lovers, the Manic's first album to post-humously use Edwards' lyrics for 15 years, features the song Marlon J.D. It is thought by many to be about Marlon Brando and James Dean. They were almost mirror images of eachother in the 50's but not for long. Dean burnt out, Brando faded away becoming a grotesque parody of himself in the process, former glories eclipsed. James Dean's... for eternity... intact. A legend.
It almost seems that a factor in Edward's 'suicide' may have been a belief that it's almost better to commit suicide, before youre character is assasinated.
You cant discount the manic depression and the bulimia and the general being a poor old tortured genius. (I would have loved Richey alive, if I wasnt only 6 when he disappeared) But you also can't discount the role of reputations in these things.
Michael Jackson's death, coming when it did, will undoubtedly shape public perceptions of him in the future. Compare the tabloid character assasinations; the thing with the baby dangling, the thing with the kiddy fiddling, the Wacko Jacko moniker... with the reverence, the hyperbolic blanket declarations of his genius and the branding of him as a gift from god to humanity. Compare how it would have been if, instead, there'd been a guilty verdict... or he'd dropped his baby... Or if he'd lived on to be shit at the O2.
There's always a tipping point for the media and therefore general public opinion. Somebody is good, until they go too far, then theyre bad. For Hitler it was 6 million jews, for Richard Nixon it was watergate and for Cliff Richard... it was... well.. everything (What? He's still alive!?). Past the tipping point, everything good you've ever done will be forgotten.
It seems to me the only way to truly be appreciated (in the mainstream) for what you've done and what you've achieved in youre life is to die before that point. Before that point where you're forgotten, or before that point where you get old and do something silly.
In Islam... in martyrdom... a man who dies doing god's work goes to paradise, and finds his place with the lord... Well there's something in that I tell you