Posts Tagged ‘The Gear Page’

I debated changing this post to reflect a more upbeat topic, something more in keeping with the  fine weather we are having in Vancouver (the keen observer will note that I am now following two used bike blogs).  But it has been on my mind for awhile, partly because I have been on an Emmylou Harris kick-more in the Gram Parsons bit down the page-and partly because Ben, one of the folks I met at the Chuck Berry Show, suggested it.

Like all other Top Five lists this one has to be viewed as a sampling.  Young death is so prevalent Wiki will spit you out a list of I think fifteen rock artists who belong to the so called “27 club”, artists who died at 27. Perhaps, like acrimonious breakups, it is a hazard of the job. Or perhaps a hazard of the personality type.  Regardless, it was impossible for me write this piece without a lot of reflection on what might have been had any of these artists lived and continued to flourish.

So here is my list.  I can already hear any number of “But where is_______?”  No mind, he or she belongs too.

Next week:  Top Five Live at the Fillmore Albums

1. Kurt Cobain

Kurt died by his own hand in April, 1994 at the age of 27. His death is to his generation is what John Lennon’s was to mine.  Nirvana’s success brought him fame and the “spokesman for a generation” label that he did not ask for and certainly did not want. Shades of Bob Dylan really.

2. Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash in 1959 at the age of 22.  It is not possible to overstate his influence on rock and roll, from establishing with the Crickets the two guitars, bass and drums lineup that is still the template for a rock band today, to the creation of the first guitar wielding rockstar, through the use of the riff to hook the listener in. All in 16 months.

Here is Buddy on the Arthur Murray Dance Party show in 1957, before Niki Sullivan joined on rhythm guitar.

3. Gram Parsons

Gram Parsons died of a drug overdose at the age of 26 in a motel in Joshua Tree, California.  Although enjoying success as a solo artist and with The Byrds (“Sweethearts of the Rodeo” is the seminal work), The Flying Burrito Brothers and the International Submarine Band, it was really only posthumously that his contribution to the creation of the country rock genre was recognised.  I also think it is fair to say that his friendship and exploits, musical and otherwise, with Keith Richards are what assisted in the creation of that string of Stones’ country flavoured songs such as “Wild Horses” and “Sweet Virginia”.

The clip here is Gram singing with Emmylou Harris, who he “discovered” in 1972 and enlisted to sing on his first solo album “GP”.  There has not been a finer pairing of  voices before or since.

4. Jimi Hendrix

My cousin Gordon had Jimi Hendrix albums in around 1967 when I was 10.  Defined cool.  Still does, 45 years later.

It is tough to write anything about Hendrix that has not already been written.  Really tough not to speculate on what might have been had he lived beyond the mere 27 years he did.  I post regularly on a fine moderated musician’s forum called “The Gear Page” where there was recently a thread posing the question as to whether if Hendrix was alive he would be recording and gigging with the hip hop crowd.  It garnered 396 responses and 10,404 views, which are big numbers at that site.  Lots of people have views on what might have become of Jimi.

5. Janis Joplin

Another drug overdose at 27, with a truly unique legacy.  Blues driven, with an assault on gender norms. Not much more for me to say, with so much unsaid.