I awoke this morning to a reminder that, today, people around the world will “celebrate” the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.
Cause for celebration? Many a high-school student may think so. Yet, surely, when it comes to loss of life, our celebratory spirit should be reserved for, say, the anniversary of the death of Hitler, or Cortés. Maybe Elvis, but that is more of a death-and-resurrection situation.
Yet death is much on our minds these days. The one certainty in life, it continues to shock. Ever more so, it seems.
All the more reason to celebrate life eh? Years from now, we will continue to marvel at the man who was Prince. We will not celebrate the anniversary of his death.
Heck, we may never even understand his death. An intensely private man, he might appreciate that. Certainly, from his other-worldly talent to his out-there view of the world, there was much about the artist that seemed beyond our comprehension. But damn, was he funky.
I will join the chorus of those who stand in disbelief of this latest rock and roll loss. After all, I can vouch for claims that his recent performances were among the finest of his career. I caught the second of two sold-out shows in Montreal last month, at Place des Arts, and let me tell you the man had never been in finer voice. At 57, he played two lengthy sets on one night, alone at the piano and buoyed by boundless energy and a charmingly playful nature.
This was not the behaviour of a man with weeks to live.
Yet, he is gone. As is Phife Dawg. As is Bowie. As is my friend and mentor Nadine Gelineau.
Not for nothing is 2016 being referred to as the year the music died.
Or is it? Rock and roll in all its forms has been with us for well over 60 years. In that sense it should hardly shock to learn some of its brightest lights are being extinguished. Surely, 2015 had its share of catastrophic music fatalities, right?
Well, there was Lemmy. But even he seemingly did his best to hold on ’til 2016, falling but a few days short of that goal. Jazzers mourned a number of greats in 2015, among them Ornette Coleman, Clark Terry and Phil Woods. But Terry, the youngster in that trio, was 83.
Meanwhile, Shakespeare — a man who enjoyed a jolly tune — is well over 400. And now he too is gone. But at least we saw that one coming. Let us hope we have fewer things to ‘celebrate’ as the year goes on.
Music is, after all, the food of love. Let it play on.