First it was singer Natalie Cole who died right before New Year’s. Then David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner. Big-name entertainers all gone within four weeks of one another.
So far, 2016 has been bittersweet.
If you’re a Baby Boomer, most of these names are familiar. They rocked our world at one time or another. Rickman, a famed British actor, is best known for his role in the Harry Potter movies. Glenn Frey was co-founder of the Eagles. Kantner, co-founded Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. Natalie Cole was Nat King Cole’s daughter who created her own star in the recording industry. And Bowie was one of the wealthiest and most influential pop musicians of our time.
We’ve lost some minor players, too. Robert Stigwood, former manager of Cream and The Bee Gees, died Jan. 4. Craig Strickland, front man for the country band Backroad Anthem, was found dead on the same day.
This past Friday I attended “Tuesdays with Morrie” at the Green Room Black Box Theatre. The drama is based on the best-seller by Mitch Albom. It’s a memory play about a student and his former sociology professor who is dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Based on a true story, the drama is particular poignant in the midst of all this recent loss. Death and dying are great equalizers that few do well. The play offers good points about how to live life before the final curtain. “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live,” Morrie tells Mitch, his former student. A Jew who describes himself as agnostic, Morrie eventually steps into New Testament territory when he advises, “Above all, love one another.”
It’s very evocative of 1 Corinthians 13: “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Back in the day, we Baby Boomers thought we’d live forever, but the bitter fruit of 2016 should give us cause for pause. We don’t like our pop icons getting old, and we especially don’t like facing the reality that we, too, are getting old. I suppose we’re no different from any other generation.
“Old” used to be 30 before John Lennon hit 40. Fifty looked old, until the Stones and McCartney and Dylan passed that mark. These days most Sixties icons have passed the 70 mark, that is those who haven’t already succumbed to hard living on the road.
Seventy is the new 50 if we fool ourselves into believing it.
As I write this piece, it’s Jan. 31. We haven’t yet completed a month of the new year and the news is already littered with the passing of pop heavyweights. At this rate, we’re poised to lose sixty major entertainers before the year is out.
What does it matter?
Our culture thrives on entertainment. It’s what’s behind so much of how we spend our time—whether it’s tinkering with a smart phone, watching TV, going to the movies, listening to music in the car. Entertainment has crept into other parts of life as well—politics, journalism, church services.
“Everybody knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently,” Morrie tells Mitch.
In light of this past month, we all need to pay more attention to Morrie.