We baby boomers grew up deeming ourselves a very special generation – rebellious, invincible and very different from those that had come before us. But if the first month of the new year was any indication of things to come, we’re far from invincible!
From David Bowie to Alan Rickman to Brian Bedford to Glenn Frey, news of the passing of these boomer icons shocked and saddened our generation. I was never a fan of Bowie’s music when he was alive, but nobody could deny the influence he had on pop culture, music, fashion, theatre, sexuality, and even visual arts! He was so avant-garde in everything he did that even The Rolling Stones appeared tame when compared to him. Bowie’s legacy remains huge with the recent world tour of David Bowie Is and the current Broadway production of Lazarus. Of course, every great artist becomes even more glorious posthumously. I recall that The New York Times music critic gave a mediocre rating to Bowie’s final album Blackstar, launched just two days before he died. But, lo and behold, the minute he passed away, his final album shot up the charts and ironically gave him his first number-one album on the Billboard 200 chart. I’ve never bought any of his music when he was alive, but could not resist downloading three of his songs on iTunes – China Girl, Dancing In The Street (with Mick Jagger) and Lazarus. Music fans from around the world were moved by the news of his death, and we all want to hold on to a piece of him!
Then went Glenn Frey, one of the founders of the Eagles and a legendary rock songwriter who gave us some of the best songs in the ’70s. Fewer people lauded Frey posthumously than they did to Bowie. But, make no mistake, the Eagles were a very important part of the boomers’ lives some three decades ago! I haven’t downloaded any of their songs yet, but I watched the documentary, The History of The Eagles, on Netflix and was fascinated by their success story. After the breakup of the Eagles in 1980, both Glenn Frey and Don Henley went on to have reasonably successful solo careers, but they’ve never achieved what the Eagles collectively have done as a group – Eagles’ Greatest Hits still holds the record for the second-bestselling album of all time behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Alan Rickman has been a renowned character actor for a long time. Even the younger generations remember him as the villain in the Harry Potter movies. His death from pancreas cancer made us lament the loss of a classically-trained Shakespearean actor. Similarly, we miss Brian Bedford, another British actor and a veteran director and actor on the stages of The Stratford Festival, who also passed away last month after battling cancer for a long time.
Apart from Bedford who was 80, the other three fallen stars did not even make it to the age of 70. Drugs, alcohol and lifestyle probably had a lot to do with these premature deaths. Bowie, according to The Economist’s obituary, lived for a long time only on a diet of “red pepper, cocaine and milk.” Although the Eagles never managed to become a bad-ass rock and roll band, they also led a life of “women, drugs, drink and tunes” when the group was in its prime.
The truth of the matter is – generations come and go. While it is not exactly uplifting to lose boomer icons, it is also encouraging to see the younger generation carrying the torch. The Danish soul-pop group, Lukas Graham, which was an Internet sensation before being signed up by Warner Brothers Records, wrote in their beautiful song Funeral:
“Everyone welcome to my funeral; Everyone I know, better be wasted; You know I would pour one up ’cause the way I lived; It was amazing…All of my friends are in the room…Party for me – I’d party too.”
As a band whose members’ average age is only 27, Lukas Graham is staring at death and looking at life from a different perspective. Boomers should, perhaps, learn from this millennial group – let’s try to celebrate life when we are alive, not only at memorial services! Or if funerals start to depress you, try to mimic what Robert De Niro’s character, Ben, did in the movie The Intern – bring a date and look on the brighter side of life!