JAIMIE VERNON – ALL THINGS MUST PASS
I was hoping to go a full week without reporting another celebrity death. But we’ve had half-a-dozen since the passing of The Eagles’ Glenn Frey including actor Abe Vigoda (‘Barney Miller’, ‘The Godfather’) whose website has finally been changed to no longer read the whimsical “still alive” message.
We also lost 1980s British pop singer Colin Vearncombe (aka BLACK); Rainbow and Dio bassist Jimmy Bain; and Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner who passed on Thursday and did not build a city; you’re thinking of Mickey Thomas, Grace Slick and Starship – mortal enemies of Kantner and his more organic rock roots.
Baby Boomers are beginning to panic. The deaths are coming fast and frequent. Like some musical typhoid, sex & drugs & rock’n’roll is the new SARS. It’s almost too much to keep track of who has died and who is still living.
On social media the confusion is so wide spread that death notices are re-circulating from years ago – many from click-bait trolls, but mostly from people who are in need of a score card. Re-dying on Facebook is the new black. It’s also become a mocking game – witness recent re-posts of death notices about Jesus, Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln and the Lindbergh Baby (whose name was Charles Augustus Lindergh, Jr. I discovered).
Humour, as usual, is a defence mechanism in dealing with the unpleasantness of life. This particular unpleasantness, the death of people who created the bulk of our coming-of-age pop culture, is inseparable from the art itself. What are we going to do when all the heroes are gone? We get to stick them in museums and espouse tales of epic grandiosity and daring do. Martyrs from mortal men. I know, it’s only Rock and Roll but we really, really like it. Thank god we still have the art. It’s why we know the names of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Beethoven and the other we have deemed ‘The Masters’ from generations past.
Suddenly, we have a new kingdom of Masters. They made impacts in our lifetimes in real time. It’s the reason the world is currently in collective mourning. Olympus is falling and we, the peasant villagers, are looking for someone to take on the mantel. But who? Everyone’s list would be different but one thing is for sure, the new inductees would be hard pressed to carry the same weight as the previous Rock Gods. How could they? The innovation belonged to those that came before. Part of standing on the shoulders of giants is looking at the broken ideas strewn around their feet. Our heroes didn’t have much of that – well, save for the proclivities that ultimately killed each and every one of them. The new breed of music hero is less tempted or even influenced by the clichés that hardened the original Masters. They’re business savvy, cynical and let’s face, take way better care of their health. Have you seen Adam Levine? I’d have his children.
The obvious come to mind. Dave Grohl’s been waving the rock flag for years, encouraging a return of Rock for Rock’s sake. The Foo Fighters have put in their 10,000 hours – most probably in an attempt to wipe the taste of Kurt Cobain’s corpse from everyone’s lips. But it’s all so earnest, isn’t it? Grohl is McCartney to Cobain’s Lennon. He just wants to be FUCKING loved and wants everyone to FUCKING GET ALONG!
What about Jack White? Savante spirited and on a mission to do for the blues oeuvre what Jeff Healey was doing for jazz – saving it from obscurity for future generations to enjoy. But White’s a mad scientist. He toils in his little boutique record shop, pressing up rare vinyl acetates of shit that tickles his fancy (like the 1600 songs he rescued from long defunct Paramount Records). There’s little populist appeal for a guy who has dedicated his life to being the restoration audio archivist in the basement of the Smithsonian.
Adele perhaps? That would be premature. She’s too young and still in the pupae stage of her career. Maybe she’ll go David Bowie-like and reshape her persona for her next album ‘30’ but that’s five years away. Lady Gaga has beaten her to it already and might actually be the grey hound to bet on in finishing the race alive and with a solid repertoire. I, like so many others, had dismissed her mind-numbing public appearance outrages as publicity without substance. I am eating crow. She’s ditched the gimmick that drove her popularity to shine as a chameleon without peer. She’s currently riding the jazz train. Which makes sense given her Julliard training. She’s more akin to Linda Ronstadt with her breadth of diversity than, say, Madonna who she’d been compared to without justification.
Then there’s Taylor Swift. Wit, charm, grace, good looks and a team of A & R people working up songs that she just so happens to be able to stamp with her own co-writing candor. Mild mannered and Mom approved for consumption by tweens the world over. Down the line she might become the Grand Dame of Pop. Not a bad position to hold on the world stage. I mean, it never harmed Anne Murray. Mind you, Anne didn’t wear PVC bondage gear in her videos. [thank God]
I also believe there’s artists bubbling under that could be more than trend makers down the line. Bruno Mars would be one I’d put good money on. He’s the James Brown to Kanye’s Flavour Flav. Mars has the charismatic presence of Michael Jackson with the pinache of Prince. As long as he doesn’t let it go to his frizzy head, he might make an awesome role model in ten years.
At first blush this isn’t much of a list. It’s downright frightening to think we’re leaving a legacy of vintage pop in the hands of puppies with little to no rebellion in them. But Sinatra thought the Beatles were driving the world to hell in a hand basket too so I think the sinking ship of dead warriors can be saved. There’s a changing of the guard, and like our fallen musical heroes, we probably won’t be here to see it. Stand and deliver and God save QUEEN.
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Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com http://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon