Much compassion is expressed on Facebook, and that’s a beautiful thing. I find very much less beautiful, and in fact sort of distasteful, how, whenever someone famous dies, many seem to rush to post something along the lines of, “[Famous Person] RIP,” as has just happened with Jack Bruce.
It is difficult for me to imagine that those who post, “[Famous Person] RIP,” picture the object of their beneficence pacing nervously back and forth in some celestial motel office, wondering if they might have to do so for the rest of eternity, and then bursting into tears of relief on discovering that those who enjoyed their music or movies or what have you all those decades ago have wished them eternal serenity instead.
In my darkest moods, all that rushing to post, “[Famous Person] RIP,” seems a form of showing off, and to be more about the poster’s craving for attention and praise (“Look at me! I’ve got information you don’t!”) than anything else. I’m reminded of how sometimes the most hopeless wallflowers at my elementary school (and here, of course, I speak of myself in the third person) would occasionally enjoy a moment of celebrity for having knowledge that the alpha kids did not.
Mr. Bruce was a freakishly talented musician, but I suspect a very large majority of those who rushed to proclaim their bereavedness had heard very little of the music he’s made in the past 30 years. I wonder if it might not have depressed him to discover (or, given his ever-smaller royalty cheques and performance fees, have confirmed the sad fact) that he’d substantially lost his audience by his 30th birthday.
Why, I’ve often wondered, does the typical artist’s audience make clear after only a very few years that all it wants to hear is the old stuff? If I were the Rolling Stones, for instance, I think it would drive me a little bit crazy to know that only a very few people would investigate any new music I recorded, and instead preferred to hear something I’d written and recorded 45 years ago — and become sick to death of playing 44 ago.
John Lennon is said to have observed that no one will ever love any music more than the music he or she loved at 19. Does the disinclination to hear anything new after a certain (very young age) serve a biological purpose? Being thought of 40 years and more after the fact as The Man Who Wrote Those Kinks Liner Notes or The Critic Who Detested Led Zeppelin, when I have in the interim written more novels than I can count, and 100 songs of heartbreaking beauty and poignancy, is more than bad enough.
For the record, I do like very much when one goes to the trouble of expressing what someone newly departed meant to him or her.