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Jewish World Review July 3, 2002 / 23 Tamuz, 5762

Phil Perrier

Phil Perrier
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Who died? | I love rock and roll. Grew up with it; The Beatles, the Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who. So the recent spate of deaths in the rock world is particularly saddening. Not to mention making me feel old.

It's interesting to see how bands react to the death of a member. Jerry Garcia died and The Grateful Dead immediately disbanded; drummer John Bonham died and Led Zepplin did not even think about carrying on. Meanwhile, bass player and founding member of The Who, John Entwistle, died and the band was rehearsing a roady within five minutes- "Trevor?... you play a little bass, don't you?"

Do not be surprised if you go to a Who concert and the bass player is a mechanical chipmunk on loan from the nearest Chuck E. Cheeses.

Perhaps this explains why the band is called "The Who." With a nice vague name like that when one band member dies they can just replace him with Whoever shows up.

Historically all great bands have had to overcome adversity. It made them stronger, more resolute. The Beatles suffered the death of early member Stu Sutcliffe from a brain hemorrage, then went on to greatness. The Stones lost Brian Jones to a pool drowning; Pink Floyd survived Syd Barrett's nervous breakdown and The Who buried drummer Keith Moon during the late 70s.

Though probably the all-time champion for overcoming hardship was 80s heavy metal band Def Leppard. The band's drummer lost his arm in a car accident. Now, most drummers upon losing such an extremity would assume their career is over, much like an airplane pilot going blind or a chef losing his sense of taste but not this hearty soul; he simply hooked up a foot pedal to replace his missing stick hand and kept on rocking!

"What do they make bunjee cords for anyway?" He likely blurted. The tradition of continuing a musical career in the face of impossible odds goes way back. Beethoven, the greatest composer who ever lived, went totally deaf in mid-career. Did he quit? Heavens no! In fact, his deafness just made him much less self-critical. Once racked with insecurity, after losing his hearing Beethoven simply said "Sounds good to me," after banging out his latest number.

While the rock world has been stunned by the deaths of some of its greatest stars, it has also seen the inexplicable survival of musicians who, for all intents and purposes, should have died decades ago.

Ozzie Osbourne has not enjoyed liveable vital signs since the end of the Vietnam war, yet his career is flourishing as never before. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards is an absolute medical anamoly; for 40 years Richards has injected heroin, guzzled bourbon, run with scissors and gone swimming much less than an hour after eating, and amazingly, he remains healthy as an ox. Centuries from now aliens will come to this planet to find only cockroaches, algae and Keith Richards.

Also puzzling is the seeming inequity of rock deaths. For example two of The Beatles have died, though all of The Monkees still roam the Earth. Where is the justice in that? Couldn't just ONE Monkee have the decency to die? I'm not even implying that one of the cute Monkees should die (Mickey or Davey), I'll settle for Peter Tork. In truth, the rock & roll lifestyle has never been known for longevity. Rock's greatest icons all died young; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Buddy Holly.

And for the rockers who lived fast and failed to die young time and the critics have not been kind. Seeing the likes of David Crosby waddle on stage can be a sad experience.

At least The Beatles understood that never reuniting would solidify their legend. They knew that our only memories of them would be when they were young and perky; we would never have to see them stumbling through a Sgt. Pepper medley accompanied by Britney Spears at the Super Bowl halftime show.

For that we can all be grateful.

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JWR contributor Phil Perrier is a Los Angeles-based writer and stand-up comic. Comment by clicking here.


06/21/02: From death, life
04/09/02: Welcome back, Phil
03/21/02: The Hollywood Curmudgeon's Guide to the Oscars
02/15/02: Another piece of Americana bites the dust
01/18/02: I'M SPARTACUS!
12/31/01: Realistic New Year's resolutions
11/02/01: Return to narcissism with Emmys
10/19/01: White trash exchange program
10/01/01: A few shows that will not be on the fall lineup
09/25/01: What's important
09/20/01: A sleeping giant awakes

© 2002, Phil Perrier