2017-05-18

Don't Follow My Way

With all the great musicians we’ve lost over the last couple of years, you may have noticed that I haven’t been among those music bloggers who feel inclined to write eulogies or to mourn the loss of our heroes.

One reason for this is because I don’t feel that I have much to say on that level. I did not know any of these great artists personally, so in many ways I feel that a eulogy coming from me would be inappropriate and disingenuous; selfish, even. Let their loved ones write the moving tributes, and let the rest of us consume those tributes as we consumed the music – as spectators and onlookers and fans, not as participants.

Still, there is another reason I don’t like to write about this stuff.

I am an amateur musician. As such, I have the opportunity to play in music clubs regularly. I see the fans, I see the club owners, the promoters, the producers, the other musicians. I’m in touch with the community of people we call musicians. When one of these tragedies occurs, I can’t help but take a step back and examine the community. Many of these people, despite their enormous talent and big hearts, cannot make lives for themselves outside of music. They can’t hold down a regular job, they get deeply mixed up in drugs, they struggle with mental illnesses. They’re a mess. They often can’t pull it together for themselves. Even when some of them do, they often end up selling all their instruments and swearing off music entirely. There’s something pathological, sick, and obsessive about their relationship to music. I can’t always tell whether it’s music that sucks them into a hole or if they were only ever going to end up in a hole in the first place, and music was just part of the process.

It’s startling to me. For me, music and art are wonderful supplements to life. They enhance our experiences and offer us a kind of experiential motif to try on for a while. In my mind, however, it’s always a temporary thing. There is suspension of disbelief involved.

I can belt out the lyrics to “Black Hole Sun” in my car on the way to work as a sort of musical story about the end of the world, not as a true reflection of my own thoughts. I can tear up to the lyrics of the saddest songs in my music collection because they tell sad tales, not because I identify with those lyrics. Music is my TV, my movies, my books. Music is the place I go to experience life for another angle – but just as long as the song is playing. After that, I go back to my own life, a happy life where things have gone right more often than they’ve gone wrong.

When I write music, it’s about exploring what my mind is capable of. Perhaps one could argue that I’m insufficiently passionate about the music I write. Maybe that’s a problem. Even so, the fun and the beauty of music when I write it is about being able to imagine something that doesn’t yet exist, and then bring it into the world exactly as I want it to be. I like to get lost in that moment, in that ability to craft a sonic landscape that reflects my imagination.

But it doesn’t reflect my pain, my struggles, my misery. I am not on my way down, I am not headed toward the bottom of a hole. In music, I have found a way to stimulate my imagination, and explore a set of wonderful motifs.

As a result, it’s sad for me to think of all that positivity and then compare it to the lives and struggles of people who never tapped into that. Instead, they were too troubled to tap into anything so transient and temporary. They made music that reflected their lives, and even if they achieved great success, their mental world has often been dark and troublesome.


I will miss the joy that these many great people could have brought into my life, had they only lived a little longer, but I will not miss their pain. I hope that in their final moments they were able to find peace.