“Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes…Time may change me, but I can’t change Time”
– David Bowie
This is not the column I intended to submit this week; in fact, it isn’t even close. Christmas had inspired me to write a light-hearted little thing about how radically the world had changed in the four decades since I was a kid. And maybe next week I’ll submit that.
But today my heart’s not in it and my head’s in a far different place as I, and many of my contemporaries, are being forced to come to terms with the loss of the icons of our youth at what seems to be a far too rapid – and much unexpected – pace.
Over the course of the past three weeks, I’ve turned on the TV or logged onto the Internet to learn of the sudden passing of four notable figures from my formative years.
First, the loss of Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister on December 28 rattled a bunch of us. And while he wasn’t a member of a personal favorite band, you’d have had to live in a cave to be from my generation and not been fully aware of his impact on the music scene and recognize the significance of his passing. If you don’t think he was important, just note that 230,000 people tuned in to watch a live-stream of his funeral on YouTube. A quarter-million people electronically “sat in” on his service. That says a lot.
Then, a couple weeks later, we learned that iconic rock start David Bowie had quietly passed away in New York from cancer. Talk about an influential artist, Bowie was the ultimate musical “act”. From his beginnings as a relatively-normal pop star, to his transition into the ambiguously sexy Ziggy Stardust persona, to his return to rock superstar status later in his career, Bowie influenced the music scene in ways that still have impact. And while I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard his hit single “Young Americans” as a teen walking around the old Myrtle Beach Pavilion and Magic Attic, or along Ocean Boulevard, I’d give all that back three-fold to see Lee Northam light up and start looking for a partner when “Let’s Dance” came on at Clyde’s, the Charlotte nightclub he so thoroughly enjoyed. A sport model, that boy was, to say the least.
And the chips kept falling last Friday when I heard that Dan Haggerty, aka “Grizzly Adams,” had died of spinal cancer. Man, that dude was a hero when I was a kid. He lived with a BEAR! And after I saw the movie “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” I was ready to go find one myself and move him in. And when NBC adapted that film into a TV show, I was hooked for life. I still smile at how happy he always seemed, and how much I enjoyed that show. And that bear.
But I’m not smiling today after hearing yesterday evening that Glenn Frey, a founding member of the Eagles band, and a favorite solo artist of mine, had died. An Eagle is gone. And that shocks me. From albums, to eight-tracks, to cassettes, and CDs, and VHS tapes to DVDs that I still watch regularly, those guys seemingly wrote the soundtrack to my life, as well as that of many others. There is not a single aspect of my years that they haven’t been a part of, not a single life event, good or bad – loss of friends, broken relationships, lonely and seemingly lost times or the best of times – that I can’t associate with an Eagles tune. They just always seemed to be there, in the background, from “Lyin’ Eyes” to “Life in the Fast Lane” to “New Kid In Town” to “The One You Love” to “No More Cloudy Days”, Frey and his band mates, and particularly his solo work, created the music to which I found myself consistently drawn.
We really lost a musical giant of my generation yesterday. And I suddenly feel much older and more vulnerable today. This getting old is getting old. And even more losses lie ahead, just as, most assuredly, are future somber sessions of listening to “Hole in the World Tonight”, the Eagles a capella anthem to 9/11.
Folks, we live in an ever-faster changing world. That’s a simple given and the nature of the beast that “progress” can sometimes seem to be. And even if it’s often the case these days that if it’s not one thing, it’s the other – or maybe even something else, some new problem or concern that is the crisis of the moment, the stump in the middle of our personal creek – we have learned to cope and move forward the best we can. We don’t have much choice, actually.
But we do have a choice to live our lives relatively as we wish, and the key, it seems, is to be certain to live TODAY, for tomorrow is promised to no one. Treasure your memories and dream big of the future, but slow down when you can and appreciate the present. Today could be your last day.
As Mr. Frey wrote and sang in “It’s Your World Now”: “Be part of something good; leave something good behind.”