Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Another Three Bite the Dust...

It is often said that bad things come in threes and so it has occurred. There I was, sat down to write about the passing of a relatively minor star, in global terms, from my childhood when suddenly, two more slightly better known personages also leave this mortal coil. You know who I mean, but more of them later.

My original post was to be about Duke D’Mond (b. Richard Palmer), singer with one of those rarest of bands, the comedy group. In their heyday in the 1960s, The Barron Knights – for it was they – produced a string of hit singles with the same formula. They would take a theme and then impersonate groups of the day rendering a verse or two of their current hit with words suitably altered to raise a laugh or two. This required several skills; vocal impersonation, visual impersonation and comic lyric writing as well as being a competent band in their own right.

The Searchers, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Bachelors, The Rolling Stones and even The Beatles were parodied mercilessly. The Dukes’ vocal ability and uncannily hilarious impersonation of Mick Jagger will remain with me always. Duke died in April this year aged 66.

The second death was that of Farrah Fawcett and to anyone who remembers Charlie’s Angels (no, not the dreadful film) she will forever be the blonde one in an enjoyable yet highly improbable TV series. To die of cancer is most people’s nightmare and it is so sad to see a once vivacious person struck down and reduced to a shadow of her former self. Certainly for me, she will live on as the iconic 1976 poster, bedecked in red swimsuit, head tilted back to allow her mane of unruly curls to cascade around that million watt smile.

And so to Michael Jackson. In truth, the real Michael Jackson died about twenty years ago, but that doesn’t lessen the shock that such a talent should be cut down at age 50. I’m probably of the wrong generation but Michael was never really part of my growing up and although I own ‘Thriller’ along with most of the planet, I was only really aware of him from the sidelines. Nevertheless, I hope that his work from the 70s and 80s will be his epitaph and not the ‘wacko’ exploits of his later years.

Two thoughts spring to mind on his passing. First, what will happen to his children (although whether they are really ‘his’ remains to be seen – I see no evidence of black genes in their appearance)? I feel dreadfully for them, now at the centre of a global media circus yet again. Second, will Paul McCartney see the remaining rights to the Beatles songs returned to him?

Whatever the outcome, what unites all three of these people is age. None of them reached the biblical 70 and this seems to be happening more and more, yet we are told that life expectancy is increasing. Perhaps it is - but not for the famous.


Jennifer K said...

MO, I got together with some friends last week-end, and naturally the conversation turned to Michael Jackson's death. All of us are Generation X-ers, and all of us had "Thriller." This prompted us to discuss other albums that are Gen X cultural touchstones. Other albums we came up with were "Purple Rain" by Prince, "The Joshua Tree" by U2, and "Nevermind" by Nirvana. And I know you Baby Boomers also have musical cultural touchstones. But what about today's kids? Will they remember Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers so fondly? Music seems way too segmented and niche-like to truly be a cultural touchstone.

Then again, maybe I'm getting old.

musicobsessive said...

Jen - yes you are getting old, but as a direct consequence you hail from one of the lucky generations that have grown up with the explosion of popular music - be thankful. See my post 'For the love of Pop' for more rantings on this subject.

As to touchstones, I'll have to think about that and perhaps use it for a future post. At the moment I am too dazzled by this year's Glastonbury Festival. More on that later!

Alan said...

Did you ever do statistics at school? Surely you know that a sample of three is not going to give much evidence of anything? :-)

If you worry about longevity, just look at some of the headlining acts at this year's Glastonbury: Neil Young (age 67), Bruce Springsteen (59). Also featured were Crosby, Stills & Nash with an average age of 66 and more grey hair than even I have.

Having looked at the BBC footage, I thought that Clarence Clemens was really showing his age (67) and looking very immobile. I can remember seeing the E Street Band when all the band moved around rather than leaving it to Springsteen. Great set all the same.

musicobsessive said...

Yes, I seem to remember getting an 'O' level in Stats and terribly boring it was too (I subsequently boycotted the school exam which didn't go down very well as I recall...)

Anyway, whilst you are right about the Glasto acts, there are many more in the music sphere who have failed to last the allotted time in addition to the three I have mentioned. From a bystanders viewpoint, there does appear to be a skew towards short life spans but as I know you are in the business of life expectancy I may need to bow to your knowledge on this one!

Cilicious said...

MJ's children will probably be all right.
They will not have an ordinary upbringing, but that was never in the cards for them in the first place. Despite Joe, there is still a lot of love in that circle of family/friends.
I was beginning to get MJ fatigue (I'm here in the States) but the memorial was not only touching; it was impressive to see what they pulled together on such short notice.
My younger son (Gen Y) had pretty much thought of MJ as that bizarre plastic surgery guy who dangled Blanket over a balcony. Since then, he has been listening to the music and watching the videos. He recognizes the talent.

musicobsessive said...

Hi Cilicious (good name!) Like they say, death is a good career move and it seems to be proven yet again by your son's renewed interest in him. Let's hope it really is the music that inspires people and not the less savoury aspects of his personality.

Sha-Sha said...

I was 13 when Thriller came out, so Michael Jackson was a HUGE musical influence on me. I have been shocked, saddened, and angered by the circumstances of his death.

musicobsessive said...

Hi Sha. I had a look at your MySpace page and you are clearly very talented. It seems that for most people who love music 13/14 was the age when the magic began to take a firm grip. I remember that time and my heros of the period with much fondness and it is good that you had someone of such stature to inspire you at that time in your life.

Good luck with your music.