The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Guest Blogger: Once Again, the Clock Stops Briefly

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Herb Ramlose retired in 2007 after 38 years of teaching English, and is now a full-time poet, musician, and traveler. He recently found time to reflect on the death of Michael Jackson and its context in our lives.

The death last week of Michael Jackson permeated all of the news media in Canada where I was vacationing, as I’m sure it probably did here in the States. The loss of icons in the world of music, particularly rock and roll pop performers, touches the musical roots of our souls, both individually and collectively.

Certainly we are touched by the loss of those significant people who have made their mark on the world and with whom we identify, but pop singers reflect the raw emotions in us established at an age in our lives when we are most susceptible and vulnerable.

I was 12 years old when Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper and Buddy Holly died in the 1959 airplane crash. ‘Twas “the day the music died” Don McLean would later immortalize in his song “American Pie,” which spent four weeks as the number one hit on the U.S. charts in 1972. But at 12, I was just coming of age to the world of rock and roll: Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Didley.

When I was 30, the King, Elvis, died. Although he had become a bloated Las Vegas caricature, his early days of “Jail House Rock” and “Blue Suede Shoes” resonated in another part of my rock and roll pop music life. Though more of my sister’s generation – she only two and half years older than I – of leather jackets, sock hops, drive-ins and the culture of Happy Days and the Fonz, I realized the tremendous impact of the loss of another musical icon.

But the jaw dropping “I can’t believe he’s gone” moment that really touched my life was when I was 33 and John Lennon was assassinated, the first of the Beatles to die. George Harrison’s death 21 years later seemed anti-climatic after the fall of the first of the four gods.

The Beatles spoke to me, my age of contemporaries, and to a movement of hope and change in the universe. Whether through flower power or the anti-war movement or free love, the generation of “Give Peace a Chance” and Hair suffered a loss of unbelievable dimension.

And now the loss of the King of Pop. Though Jackson, like Elvis, suffered from a like state of caricature later in his career due to any number of weird behaviors and immoral allegations and Neverland existences, the star of Thriller, the moon walk, the white glove and sox, the black top hat, and Sgt. Pepper-like jackets touched a generation that now mourns him as I did John Lennon.

An unexplained, sudden, and profound loss. A part of one’s self has a hole in it that only memories may help heal. The memory of the music, where we were when it was played, and the tears and the laughter and the essence of our youth all reunited in our mourning.

Many of us will remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard of Jackson’s passing, the same as we did when we heard about JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, and Princess Diana. Likewise for other rock icons whose loss didn’t affect me as much as others: Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain.

So once again, the clock stops briefly, the heart falls to the pit of the stomach, a lump is in the throat, tears swell in the eyes, and it is another day when the music has died.


Written by seeker70

July 6, 2009 at 4:52 pm

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  1. […] follower of The Seeker and former bossman Herb emailed me a few days ago to say congratulations on having “Anthropology” published.  I […]

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