This Day in Death

2.4.16: Earth, Wind & Fire Co-Creator Maurice White – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 1:54 am February 10, 2016

 MAURICE_WHITEGotta hand it to the guy: They told him a suit made out of pure ivory wouldn’t be comfortable, but he wouldn’t budge. Sometimes a man just has to feel like he’s encased inside a giant mastodon tusk.

 

Maurice White, co-founder of legendary funky, souly-type band Earth, Wind & Fire, has died after a protracted battle with Parkinson’s disease. Also dead: usage of the Oxford comma in band names. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t get any more soulful than proper grammar, and I, a white guy who was born in the 80s, would know a few things about soul.

The springy, elastic soul-pop of “Shining Star,” which White co-wrote, earned them their first Number One, and paved the way for hits like the joyful “Sing a Song,” the percussive and brassy “September,” their swinging cover of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life” and the robotic disco of “Let’s Groove.” Rolling Stone included the group’s sweetly smooth 1975 single, “That’s the Way of the World,” on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

It seems to me that after White’s death, coupled with the very recent deaths of musicians Glenn Frey, Jimmy Bain, David Bowie, Dan Hicks, Paul Kantner, and others, it’s officially time to bury (tee hee! Death pun!) the “they always die in 3s” hogwash you people won’t stop clogging up my social media with.

All of those deaths have occurred in just the first five or so weeks of the year. And those are just the musicians you, Joe and Jane Jockstrap of Mooseknuckle, Indiana, have heard about. It doesn’t include musicians who may be extraordinarily famous in genres or parts of the world you don’t think about, or exceptionally-talented yet largely unknown musicians, or the huge contingent of notable non-musician deaths. Do you really think the giant space lizard that decides who lives and dies is catering its decisions to what you specifically know about? Nothing revolves around you, and I’m here to add some Galileo-level perspective to your myopic diet of selfie soufflés and… I don’t know, hashtag hashbrowns, maybe. I’ll come back to this part some other time.

What you’re really experiencing is a phenomenon known as apophenia. Simply put, your brain is forcing you to see nonexistent patterns, even if it requires tossing out evidence that disagrees with said patterns, because accepting the reality that shit just kinda happens without any kind of grand scheme is too existentially terrifying for your brain to process. The human brain: Just pretty much doing whatever for five million years.

So what’s the harm in holding up bullshit statistics if they make you feel more comfortable about the inevitable black sprawl of total inconsequence that is your death? Well, for starters that comfort is dishonest, and therefore evasive. You haven’t made peace with your mortality, and are actually actively denying it by denying how arbitrary death is. Secondly, since notable people die literally every day, deciding which three “count” is a shitty and judgemental thing to do. That kind of distinction should only be left to qualified and astonishingly square-jawed deathbloggers ahem hem.

And that’s how one little change in your life can make you a better, less cynical person. Next time I’ll explain how you can help enforce local parking ordinances by stealing hubcaps from parked ambulances. Hey, that spot is metered, big shot!

 

Source: Rolling Stone

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1.10.16: David Bowie – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 5:00 pm January 13, 2016

DAVID_BOWIE

[via mickjagger.com]

Jesus Christ, just make out already you two, am I right?! Oh wait. Nevermind.

 

Legendary glam rocker David Bowie passed away on Sunday after struggling with cancer for the past year and a half. Bowie had kept his illness secret and, to most of the world, continued to live a normal spaceman-like existence until he finally just up and died in private. You know, like how a damn housecat dies, just keeping everyone in the dark until you come home one day and find a tiny corpse hidden away somewhere lying next to its own lung. It’s why I always immediately check all the closets and behind the couch whenever I go into a stranger’s home.

Perhaps even moreso than his music, Bowie was known for his relentlessly shifting personas, I assume for tax evasion purposes. Look, I don’t know about “cool” things, alright? I own stock in Dell computers, I eat plain celery for lunch like three times a week, and up until a few months ago I thought an “early Bowie” was some kind of morning sex thing. I’m just not equipped to give you any kind of insight that the scarf-mavens at Pitchfork haven’t already.

Normally in ha-ha gridlocks like these I just mock people more successful than me by looking at their insincere grief tweets. But the Twitter response has been surprisingly rational, largely lacking in the characteristic mangled syntax and thinly-veiled self-promotion I’ve come to expect (okay, exploit) ’round those parts. Even Cher toned down her usual nonsensical garblings, and decoding her tweets used to be the intellectual equivalent of trying to drive one of those cars that simulates being drunk. I mean, what the hell happened here? Where’s the self-righteous contrarianism? Where’s the pandering? Where’s the shameless one-upmanship?  I’m kinda strapped for content, and that’s not a good sign for the first post of the year.

Hang on… New year… 2016…. That means that the internet as we commonly think of it is almost 27 years old. Did the internet just become an adult? Is that why it finally took down all of those Chuck Norris posters? Wow. I guess it’s time we all grow up a little, meaning it’s probably time to end this blog. Look, I know it’s sad, but we can’t be afraid to change and grow and embrace new standards of personal behavior and maybe try ethnic food someday as long as it’s not all weird looking. No, guys. I think 2016 is gonna be different. Bold, thoughtful, mature. I can’t hang around doing hacky boner jokes anymore in this new, homeowning internet. Let’s just end things by checking in with the Washington Post for a glimpse of how we’ll be viewing content in this brave new world.

PENN_CHAPO

Oh shit! False alarm, everybody, false alarm! We’re still stupid, see you next time!

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12.28.15: Motörhead Frontman Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 1:11 pm December 30, 2015
Classic Rock Roll Of Honour Awards 2011 In London - Musician Portraits[via Inside Pulse]

That’s right, his actual last name from birth was Kilmister. Sometimes things just happen that way, like when it turned out the guy from Smash Mouth’s last name was Van Douchebro. It’s Dutch. 

 

Lemmy Kilmister, Motörhead frontman and evil version of the cop from the Village People, has died only two days after being diagnosed with cancer. No word on how the cancer is doing, probably because it wasn’t famous. Typical.

Over his 44-year career with Motörhead and precursor Hawkwind, Lemmy endured shifting band lineups, accusations of Nazi affiliation, and three lawsuits from his own liver. Despite mounting health problems, he kept on touring and performing right until his death, with many fans wondering each time they saw Motörhead if it would be his last show. I know the feeling: As a cocksure blogger who lives life a quarter paragraph at a time, people are always worried that each sick gerund I recklessly type may be spelling out the end of this autobio I call life. But the joke’s on them, because you can’t actually die from loneliness. Only from diseases facilitated by loneliness.

Rolling Stone has a nice writeup, but I don’t suggest reading it, as Lemmy’s controversial paraphernalia collection caused the comments section to devolve into accusations of Nazism almost immediately. Just bad form. It’s customary to wait for the coolest commenter to declare that he was “First!,” followed by easing into things with a couple of unsettling posts about Obama, and only then to go screaming full-tilt into the Hitler stuff. It may seem silly to you, but if we don’t respect the proud traditions of the internet we’ll never be able to benefit from its wisdom. Its stupid, dangerously racist wisdom.

Kilmister boasted that he had drank a bottle of Jack Daniel’s every day since he turned 30, although he admittedly gave up booze in 2013 as his health started to catch up to his hard living. “I suddenly realized I was waking up in pools of other people’s vomit, and I had no recollection of them,” Kilmister told Rolling Stone in January 2014. “That’s a bit much. I’m not saying don’t have fun, don’t snort the occasional line – but don’t make it your life.”

If you didn’t do the math yourself (and I know you didn’t do the math because I’m the only one who would, so stop playin’), at an approximate rate of $18.99 per bottle, that’s $6,931.35 a year, adjusted for inflation but before taxes, because I assume Lemmy wrote that shit right the hell off. After 38 years that would come to $263,391.30 blown on a carcinogen whose entire function is to try to murder you to the best of its ability. And it’s not just Lemmy, as the average American spends roughly 1% of their income on alcohol. Good job, dumbasses: You essentially just blew your retirement savings to hire a steady stream of tiny Mel Gibsons to punch you from the inside of your body for the rest of your life.

 

Source: Rolling Stone

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12.3.15: Scott Weiland – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 6:25 pm December 5, 2015

SCOTT_WEILANDWeiland, seen here performing for what I have to assume is a crowd made up of 50% Hell’s Angels and 50% sassy airline stewards. You gotta know your audience, I always say.

 

Musician Scott Weiland, best known as frontman for 90s bar trivia answer Stone Temple Pilots, was found dead in his tour bus on Thursday. No official cause of death has been released, but cocaine was found on the scene and Weiland’s struggles with addiction were widely-known. Of course, there’s nothing funny about addiction, at least not with the current slate of drugs that are available. Maybe if someone invented one that gradually made you look like a circus clown, or made you pass gas super loud during fancy dinner parties. Let the world have a laugh already, black market pharmacology!

The Stone Temple Pilots came on the scene at the height of the grunge movement, releasing its first album, “Core,” in 1992. Critics were unkind, accusing them of being poseurs riding the coattails of Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

But it didn’t matter. “Core” and its 1994 follow-up, “Purple,” sold more than 10 million copies. STP won a Grammy in 1994 for the song “Plush” and had monster hits with “Vasoline” and “Interstate Love Song.”

After being ousted from STP, Weiland joined Velvet Revolver, a rock outfit made up of former members of Guns N’ Roses who were sick of Axl Rose’s bullshit and yearned to get back to focusing on music by signing on with a slightly different flavor of hopelessly abusive frontman. It’d be like divorcing Ike Turner to go marry Chris Brown. Eventually you start to wonder how likely it is that Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum, and Dave Kushner really all fell down a staircase at the same time.

It’s weird seeing the 90s grunge guys like Weiland start dying, though. It seemed like we totally skipped over a huge wave of 80s musician deaths. The only thing that really comes to mind is the time that all the members of Survivor died from asphyxiation while doing their hair in an unventilated building. I know it’s a tragedy, but they were tempting fate with that name to begin with.

 

Source: CNN

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5.14.15: Blues Legend B.B. King – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 5:23 pm May 15, 2015

B_B_KINGI swear, Bono wasn’t even in this picture when I uploaded it. That guy’s just gotta find a way to make it about himself, doesn’t he? Check out that Canadian Tuxedo, though.

 

Legendary bluesman Riley “B.B.” King has reportedly died in hospice care on Thursday. If only there were some form of music the blues community could use to adequately express their feelings of sorrow and lose at a time like this. I vote they try klezmer. Even the goyim have to admit that some of those shofar players can really rock the shtetl!

His death comes only weeks after the passing of “Stand By Me” singe Ben E. King, which can only mean one thing: Death is now alphabetical. Oh sure, you can say this is just another one of those times where I make an aggrandized connection based on the most nebulous data available, but if you think the Burger King’s creepy facial paralysis is the result of anything less than a near-fatal stroke, well, you’re the one with the confirmation bias, not me.

Mr. King went out on the road and never came back after one of his first recordings reached the top of the rhythm-and-blues charts in 1951. He began in juke joints, country dance halls and ghetto nightclubs, playing 342 one-night stands in 1956 and 200 to 300 shows a year for a half-century thereafter, rising to concert halls, casino main stages and international acclaim.

Man, even adjusted for inflation (one year in 2015 would be about 430 days in 1956) that’s a lot of shows for a guitarist to play in a pretty short amount of time. If my calculations are correct, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 hot licks a year. If he was smart, he made sure to get paid by the *squiddily-skwow*.

 

Source: The NY Times

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5.4.15: Ellen Abertini Dow, aka The Rapping Granny – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:38 am May 7, 2015

ELLEN_ALBERTINI_DOWAnd still only slightly less street cred than Snoop has had since Soul Plane.

 

The 90s were great. Wait, sorry, I phrased that wrong. The 90s were awful. But, as I’ve said before, at least back in the day the entertainment industry and our appointed representatives knew that we really didn’t wanna hear about any of that depressing stuff going on in the world and wisely kept it out of our theaters and televisions. Sure, Slick Willy was dropping bombs on the Sudan, but we were able to avoid having to give a tug as long as it didn’t preempt Big Willie dropping weapons-grade laughs on our 900-pound tvs. We bought shitty Mexican food from dogs that spoke for no reason and called it brilliant entertainment. Hell, I bet you still consider The Wedding Singer to be a classic film, don’t you?

Well, you’re wrong. It was stupid, not least of all because one of its most beloved moments featured then-79-year-old Ellen Albertini Dow singing “Rapper’s Delight.” That really was the extent of the joke, that it didn’t make sense for this old woman to be singing this song, and we had zero qualms about rewarding this kind of behavior with untold gobs of currency. You see, for some reason a lot of people find it hilarious when one kind of person does something that is typically associated with a different kind of person. Allow me to illustrate the point using the most intuitive way of communicating information (as well as the most intuitive way of communicating how awesome you are at Halloweening): The Venn diagram:

VENN_DIAGRAM

As the diagram suggests, by appealing to those who enjoys all three major types of shitty comedic juxtaposition, you hit the surprisingly lucrative tender zone of people with impaired cognitive function and endless disposable income. For years an old white woman engaging in an activity typically associated with young black men was the gold standard of lowbrow pandering. But, to be fair, the artistic validity of these things can change with time. Someday when death is cured and we cease to age we’ll look back at footage of the rapping granny via the latest build of Wikipedia Synaptica downloaded onto our Brainstream and, like a fossil preserved in timeless amber, marvel at its beauty, alien yet somehow impossibly relatable all at once. And if none of that sounds believable to you, keep in mind that the Mona Lisa was originally commissioned to be used as toilet paper for the pope. I wouldn’t lie to you people.


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4.14.15: Soul Singer Percy Sledge – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 2:11 pm April 17, 2015

PERCY_SLEDGEOf note: Percy Sledge was the inspiration for my christian death metal band, Mercy Sledge. We’re dropping the Sledgehammer… of piety!

 

It’s a well-documented fact that I can’t feel love. I had most of that part of my brain removed in the mid 90s to make room for more Sega Genesis codes. Then, a 15-year parade of heartaches violently and traumatically removed any lingering concept of tenderness that was still left in my psyche, and the very next day I started this blog. It’s kinda one of those stories Hollywood always likes to turn into movies.

But for those of you who still retain that magical sensation of your eyeballs getting warmer, or whatever love feels like, you may be sad to find out that soul singer and sonic aphrodisiac Percy Sledge has died. Aging women across the country are expected to lower their undergarments to half-mast as a sign of mourning. Sexy, sexy mourning.

Sledge is best known for his 1966 hit, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” a timeless ode to being a complete doormat for any woman who doesn’t make fun of your tooth gap. Maybe you never noticed the meaning tucked away in the verses, since after Michael Bolten covered the song in 1991 it’s been impossible to listen past the opening chorus. Serious aside: the Boltification of music is a real issue. That man could make Slayer sound like Sesame Street before we’d even know it, it’s like a superpower.

But anyway, look at this:

When a man loves a woman, spend his very last dime
Tryin’ to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comforts, sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be

I guess someone must find that kind of sentiment romantic, but I prefer my love songs to be about two people exerting mathematically identical amounts of energies for each other’s benefit within controlled and agreed-upon parameters. Sure, that doesn’t always fit so well into a rhyme scheme, but if I know anything about people it’s that the first thing they listen for is logical executions of pragmatic concepts. If you don’t believe me, just check out what the critics had to say about that musical revue Ayn Rand and Commander Spock put on. Do pull quotes like “A sensible evening of emotion-related entertainment,” and “Ended at a reasonable time” mean anything to you?

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7.25.14: David Lee Roth… ’s Uncle Manny – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 7:05 pm August 8, 2014

MANNY_ROTHThe world mourns for David Lee Roth, aka Diamond Dave, the legendary frontman for hard rock pioneers Van Halen, as he mourns the death of his significantly less famous uncle Manny (lower right inset).

 

Well, you’re here now, so you might as well read the rest of this thing, despite the false pretense of the title. Hey, that’s how they got me to watch eight seasons of Home Improvement before I realized I was still no closer to knowing how to weatherproof my deck. You take your losses.

Anyway, Manny Roth was the owner of “Cafe Wha?,” the famous Greenwich Village nightclub that was home to all manner of 60s counter-culture weirdos from Lenny Bruce to Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix. “Cafe Wha?,” of course, was a shortened version of the club’s original name; “Cafe What the Hell is in Allen Ginsberg’s Beard?” (Shrimp scampi. It was shrimp scampi.)

In 1959, someone told Mr. Roth about a garage that used to be an old horse stable on Macdougal between Bleecker and West Third Streets. You had to go down steep stairs to reach the dark, dank basement, which was bisected by a trough once used as a gutter for horse dung. Mr. Roth immediately recognized it as an excellent site for a coffee house — that legendary genre of cafe where, at least in the haziness of memory, hipsters smoked, sipped espresso and discussed Sartre.

I’m not sure what kind of mental state a person has to be in to see the crusted remains of animal feces and immediately think, “yeah, people should probably be eating here,” but somehow it worked and, despite a temporary change of ownership, continues to operate to this day. So if you were looking for a place to hang out with hipsters so entrenched in their own haughtiness that their chunky glasses only work if they’re looking at an Arcade Fire concert, Cafe Wha? in 2014 is probably a safe bet. Or, if you wanted to get even deeper into the culture, I hear the new place to hang out and pretend to work on your manuscript is a club situated on a single plank of wood protruding from the remains of a tenement fire somewhere on Detroit’s lower east side. The WiFi password is “PuppyPaws87.”


Source: The NY Times

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7.16.14: Johnny Winter – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 5:55 pm July 18, 2014

JOHNNY_WINTERWinter, seen here jamming with Jimi Hendrix. Notice how both look bored while being better at something in their 20s than you’ll ever be at anything for as long as you live? Hey, follow-up question: How’s that bakery you were gonna open coming along? Oh, putting it on the backburner for a while, huh? Well, that’s okay, too. Next year is definitely your year, I can just feel it.


Legendary albino blues guitarist Johnny Winter, brother of similarly-afflicted virtuoso Edgar Winter, was found dead in his hotel room on Wednesday. I’m gonna run down the subtext of that for you again, nice and slow-like, because I don’t think you really caught the weight of what I just wrote: Two albino brothers, with the unbelievably on-the-nose surname ‘Winter,’ both became brilliant musicians and rose to concurrent critical and commercial success in the 70s. I know it sounds like the most laser-focused after school special ever produced, but no, this actually happened in our really real world. Seriously, why do you people even need drugs when crazy shit like this is happening out there? It’s like I tell the troubled teens I speak to at local inner city middle schools: “Information is the real crack!”

His big break came while opening a show for Mike Bloomfield in 1968. Winter’s performance that evening caught the eye of Columbia Records, who quickly signed him to a contract. He was given a $600,000 advance, the largest one ever received at that time.

And after only one show! That just reaffirms my long-held theory that it’s only a matter of time until the Commissioner of Technology stumbles upon one of my ha-ha posts here and asks me to become the official comic laureate of the internet. I’ve already got some pretty solid light-hearted zingers cooked up about cat5 cables and such. Like, isn’t it crazy when people say, “LAN network”? The ‘n’ already stands for network, you idiot! You just said “local-area network network,” you unlovable cretin! It works better if you can see my face.


Source: Consequence of Sound

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7.11.14: Tommy Ramone – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 4:04 am July 14, 2014

TOMMY_RAMONESo cool you can barely tell they were invented by Hot Topic in 2004 to sell t-shirts to idiots. After so many years of Big Dog I think we were all ready for a change, though.


Most people don’t know this about me, but I used to be in a pretty sweet punk rock band. We were called Johnny Quesadilla and the Caramelized Onions, and we could’ve been huge if we’d decided to sell out. Instead, we remained virtual unknowns during our brief but explosive tenure because we didn’t wanna be part of the mainstream corporate bullshit machine, and also because we never wrote any songs. But honestly, our brand of music wasn’t about the songs or the… music. We weren’t about to go down that road like the fucking Carpenters or some shit. No, we were all about three things: Copying VHS tapes for private use without either expressed or implied consent, wearing comfortable shoes even when socially inappropriate, and generally breaking whatever rules we could find as we hung around the hard streets of our gated community, just trying to survive in a world that looked down its nose at our upper-middle class privilege.

Which brings us to the death of Thomas Erdelyi, aka Tommy Ramone, drummer and producer for seminal punk rock outfit the Ramones. Tommy was the last surviving original member of the band, and his passing most likely means the Ramones’ legacy will have to be protected by the alternates the band recruited when interpersonal friction began to make their break-up an inevitablity. So get ready for the acceptable rock power of Curly Joe Ramone, Gallagher 2 Ramone, George Lazenby Ramone, and RC Cola Ramone. They’re okay. They’re not great, but they’re mostly okay.

Right about now is when I’d usually throw in some pithy block quote and try to add some gravitas to whatever the hell it is I think I’m doing around here. This time, though, in the spirit of honoring the Ramones’ contribution to modern music, let’s instead reflect on the time in 1989 when Dee Dee Ramone inexplicably released a hip hop album under the name Dee Dee King. It was called Standing in the Spotlight, and was seemingly recorded in the half-hour span of time between someone explaining to him what “hip hop” was and his actually hearing a hip hop song for the first time. Let’s listen:







I’m the master of hip hop!
-Dee Dee King, Mashed Potato Time

Some claims are just bulletproof, gentle prince.


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