Which rock stars will die next? And what their deaths mean for the world

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With the recent deaths of Prince, Glenn Frey and David Bowie, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of rock. Fronted by fresh-faced baby boomers, the genre exploded in the ’60s and ’70s. Now, those same musicians hobble to the bank to deposit social security checks.

Actuarial tables might show they have another 15 years, but you’ve got to factor in rampant drug and alcohol abuse, social diseases and addictive personalities. Give them knee surgery and a prescription for Percocet, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster (just ask Prince and Steven Tyler).

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Here’s what gets missed in discussions about rock, though: we can’t divorce it from the era that birthed it. Hippies bought beat-up vans and drove west to California. Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary introduced the country to LSD. Young men got conscripted and killed in Vietnam. The soldiers who made it home alive changed out their uniforms so they didn’t get spit on. Feminism exploded. The Ohio National Guard opened fire on students at Kent State.

Young men and women rejected mainstream culture. They did it loudly and vocally. And they changed music forever. Where’s the new counter-culture? Can it even exist in a world with Netflix Originals?

Every time we lose a rocker, we lose a worldview that most millennials can’t comprehend. We’re so health conscious, so law-abiding, so utterly devoid of privacy that the ’60s feel like a faded dream.

Curious, I ran through the more than 600 celebrity death predictions for 2016 over at Ranker.com. Here’s where the biggest names in music landed:

No. 36: Yoko Ono
No. 37: Little Richard
No. 78: Ozzy Osbourne
No. 82: Keith Richards
No. 125: Loretta Lynn
No. 127: Jerry Lee Lewis
No. 129: Chuck Berry
No. 234: Malcolm Young
No. 247: Paul Simon
No. 251: George Michael
No. 306: Willie Nelson
No. 308: Ronnie Wood
No. 320: Eric Clapton
No. 321: Bob Dylan
No. 325: Robert Plant
No. 330: Randy Meisner
No. 387: Gordon Lightfoot
No. 403: Paul McCartney
No. 428: Aretha Franklin
No. 451: Ace Frehley
No. 469: Axl Rose
No. 482: Gene Simmons
No. 497: Morrissey
No. 508: Elton John
No. 516: Steven Tyler
No. 517: Bonnie Tyler
No. 518: Diana Ross
No. 525: Tonny Bennett
No. 535: Al Green
No. 599: Vivian Campbell
No. 603: Leonard Cohen
No. 608: Phil Collins
No. 612: Mick Jagger
No. 620: Rod Stewart

It’s hard to overstate the impact these musicians have had on our lives. We can’t stop them from dying, but we can appreciate the good stuff while we’ve got it. Whatever happens to society, their art lives on. As Dylan sings:

When you’re standing on the cross-roads
That you cannot comprehend
Just remember that death is not the end
And all your dreams have vanished
And you don’t know what’s up the bend
Just remember that death is not the end.

And yet, I can’t help feeling that we’re losing something deeper than musicians. We’re losing an attitude. We’re losing a culture that fought for freedom – not just external freedom, but the sort of personal freedom that burns deep down inside your guts.

As we lose our cultural heroes, it’s our charge to carry on their flames.

Photo credit: Department of Defense.

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3 comments on “Which rock stars will die next? And what their deaths mean for the world
  1. I think today’s artists fight just as hard for personal freedoms as they did in 1968, but it’s a different world. The counter-culture and the Establishment are both much more sophisticated and complex then they were in 1968. Today’s counter-culture is fragmented — counter-cultureS — and not a widely shared experience anymore, but I think the Rock & Roll “attitude” you speak of is as vital and relevant as it’s ever been.

    We’ve had variations of this discussion before, Fred, I think it’s worth nattering on about!

  2. Pingback: The Desert Trip Festival: Bad Timing For A Good Idea? | Rocknuts

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