The Unfettered Critic – March 2016

We first noticed it in October of 2014. Singer Paul Revere, of Paul Revere and the Raiders, died at age 76. The band was internationally known, but he’d been born in Idaho, and shared the stage with Eugene, Oregon native Mark Lindsay, so to us it was a local story.

Three weeks later, Jack Bruce, bassist in the band Cream, died at age 71. “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” stand among our favorite songs, so Bruce’s passing held our attention, until…

Two weeks later, Bobby Keys, saxophonist with The Rolling Stones (remember his solo on “Brown Sugar”), who’d recorded with artists from Joe Cocker to Barbara Streisand, slipped away at 70. We’d once enjoyed a conversation with Keys, so his death touched us as more than just a musical loss. Then…

Twenty days after Keys was laid to rest, singer Joe Cocker slid off this mortal coil. His songs, “You Are So Beautiful,” and “Up Where We Belong,” won Grammy Awards, an Oscar, and a permanent place on our playlist. He was 70 years old.

Then 2015 hit. And hit hard. Cilla Black, the British singer who’d worked with The Beatles, said goodbye at age 72. Billy Joe Royal of “Down in the Boondocks” fame left us at 73. The year kept moving, but without singer Ben E. King (“Stand By Me,” “Save the Last Dance for Me)” who stopped at age 76. The list grew: Oregon’s own Jack Ely, who rocked the world when he sang “Louie, Louie” with his band The Kingsmen, left at 71; Percy Sledge, who sang “When a Man Loves a Woman,” passed at 74.

We sensed a trend here, and what seemed to be driving it is a “7.” As in: 71; 74; 70; 72… You get the picture. Sure, behind all of these obituaries are medical records, and euphemisms like “long illness.” Yet it’s the “7” that stands out. We’ve heard that’s the luckiest of numbers—but not, apparently, when the calendar puts a “0” behind it and continues counting.

Enter 2016. Just ten days into the new year, we were hit hardest by the death of a man who was only 69—David Bowie. He’d lived many lives in those few years—as Ziggy Stardust, as The Thin White Duke, as Jareth the Goblin King, as The Man Who Fell to Earth.

He was born David Robert Jones in South London. When a fellow Brit gained fame as Davy Jones (of The Monkees), he borrowed the last name of an American legend.

Bowie hadn’t planned on being a singer. His teachers called him “vividly artistic.” “I want to act,” he told his friends. “I’d like to do character parts. I think it takes a lot to become somebody else.” An early manager tried turning him into somebody else, encouraging him to perform like British actor Anthony Newley. It simultaneously worked—and failed. Melody Maker magazine reviewed Bowie’s first (quickly forgotten) album with “Sounding like a young, good-looking Anthony Newley with the writing ability of Cat Stevens, it’s surprising the talented Mr. Bowie hasn’t made a bigger impact on the pop scene.”

No one could have predicted how much “bigger” that impact would be. With hits like “Space Oddity,” “Let’s Dance,” “Life on Mars?” and “Changes,” David Bowie won our hearts. His was the last musician’s obituary we ever wanted to read.

But… eight days later we heard about Glenn Frey of the Eagles. He’d been 67. Three weeks after that the news came about Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire. He’d been 74.

And the beat goes on.

Paula and Terry each have long impressive-sounding resumes implying that they are battle-scarred veterans of life within the Hollywood studios. They’re now happily relaxed into Jacksonville.