In my monthly essay for Standpoint, out now, I look at the way musicians represent milestones in our lives.
Waiting for a prescription in a hospital pharmacy in the dying days of 2016, I saw a young woman stacking shelves with toothpaste and analgesics. “First concert I ever went to,” she announced to me, unprompted.
“Status Quo. I was fifteen.”
“And now he’s dead, Rick Parfitt.”
“I’m writing a novel,” she went on. “Every chapter taken from a George Michael song. He’s gone, too.”
I grasped what she was trying to say. We measure our lives in the musicians we loved, each mortal loss a milestone in our own short term on earth, each death a diminution of our intimate selves. You would know, if I asked, where you were the night John Lennon was shot. You may also have been among the million who jammed the streets of Paris at news of the death of Barbara, bard of solitude, or the several millions who thronged Cairo when word spread that Umm Kalthoum was gone. We shed tears when musicians die, more than we do for a cousin or a neighbour, because theirs is the elixir that elevates humdrum lives, allowing an ill-paid shop assistant to dream of her future Nobel Prize for Literature.
It doesn’t quite work that way with classical musicians….
Read on here.