On December 8th, 1980, Beatle John Lennon was shot and killed outside the entrance of the Dakota apartment, in New York City. His influence and significances don’t require any explanation.
On December 8th, 2004, Pantera/ Damageplan guitarist Dimebag Darrell was shot on stage during a live performance; a most grisly scene. Dime was one of the most influential metal guitarists of the last thirty years. His significance was even greater during the 1990’s because he continued to play lengthy guitar solos, even when they weren’t in style. He carried the torch for the current generation of shredders.
When I realized that both of these men were murdered on the same day 24 years apart, I felt it was fitting to write a piece on fallen musicians in their honor. I have been planning on writing this for some time, but I didn’t know what I was going to say until I sat down to write.
So many exceptional musicians have died far too young.
Duane Allman lead guitarist for the Allman Brothers (1971), John Bonham drummer for Led Zeppelin (1980), Jeff Buckley (1997), Cliff Burton bassist for Metallica (1987), Kurt Cobain vocalist & guitarist for Nirvana (1994), Jim Croce (1973), Bobby Darin (1973), Jimi Hendrix (1970), Buddy Holly (1959), Robert Johnson (1938), Janis Joplin (1970), Phil Lynott bassist and vocalist for Thin Lizzy (1986), Freddie Mercury vocalist for Queen (1991), Keith Moon drummer for The Who (1978), Jim Morrison vocalist for The Doors (1971), Berry Oakley bassist for the Allman Brothers (1972), Randy Rhodes guitarist of Quiet Riot & Ozzy Osbourne (1982), Stevie Ray Vaughan (1990), Allen Woody bassist for Gov’t Mule & the Allman Brothers, and most of the original members of Lynyrd Skynyrd come to mind, but there are many many more.
These people died young, many of them before they hit the peak of their career. Guys like Duane Allman, Cliff Burton, Jimi Hendrix, SRV, and Randy Rhodes were so ahead of their time. Their innovations still impact music today. Nevertheless, I can’t help but imagine what they would have done with the rest of their lives. The bright side is that they will forever live on through their recordings, and in the hearts and minds of those who have been touched by their music.
The more I think about it, as sad as it is that so many talented musicians died prematurely, it’s amazing how many have lived and continue to live long lives… many in spite of their lifestyles.
I read Eric Clapton’s autobiography when it came out two years ago, and the book read like a combination music history/ twelve step program pitch pamphlet. With all of the shit that Clapton did to his body, the man is still alive and on stage; and he’s not alone.
BB King is well touring well into his 80’s, and Buddy Guy is 73 (going on 50). Greg Allman managed to escape what seemed like certain death. He was a partial influence for the song “That Smell,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd; the chorus was written about him:
Ooh, ooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell?
Ooh, ooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you.
I’m shocked that all of the guys from Aerosmith are alive (although I wish Steven Tyler was in better shape). And all of the longtime members of Pink Floyd have lived long lives (Pianist Richard Wright passed away last year at age 65).
I could go on forever with this. So many more incredible musicians have continued to live, create, and entertain than those who have died.
In honor of Lennon and Dime, I am choosing to focus on those who have survived them.
It’s easy to fixate on tragedy.
Death is a story, life isn’t.