What if they weren't that good?

Amy Winehouse is in the hospital again for collapsing. Odds are, she isn't going to live long. I would say there is a 65% chance she will be dead by the end of 2009. That being said, she has made an amazing soulful album 'Back in Black'. It will be regarded as a great disc in the annals of music. However, if she dies... she will be lionized as this generations Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin. She will be martyred in the public eye as one of the great and tragic tales.

It got me to thinking, other artists have gotten a pass for dying. Let's look at Kurt Cobain, for example. He was great, and Nirvana was great. I was there for the whole ride. I watched "Smells like Teen Spirit" change the pop landscape. I got written up in my dorm for perpetually cranking that album after hours. I saw them perform live on that tour. Indeed, Kurt had an impact on us.

Would his impact be anywhere near what it is now if he were alive? I don't think so. Nirvana put out a lot of mediocre stuff. Thank god they did that Unplugged set, so we did get to see how terrific they were. What a performance, his passionate singing is just troubling, especially in retrospect. But... there is this. It was once pointed our that during Nirvana's heyday, the Smashing Pumpkins had more hits, sold more records, and sold more concert tickets. By every single measurable indicator, Smashing Pumpkins were bigger and better. You might say that is comparing apples and oranges. It is not, they played to the same audience (me). They both came up as independents, and both had really difficult lead singers. Yet, Billy Corgan is alive and Kurt isn't. So, in the history books of influence, Kurt wins.

Now, let's take the opposite scenario. Think back to Guns & Roses heyday, just after Appetite took over the world... and they were cruising with the subtle and powerful 'Lies'. There is no greater rock band than Guns at that time. We knew Axl was erratic, but it seemed just a little rock and roll eccentricity. We like our rock stars like that. Now, imagine if Guns (the classic line up) died in a plane crash touring on 'Lies'. Axl Rose would still be on more t shirts and dorm rooms than Che Guevara. Instead, there is the truth. Dude stole the bands name, fired everyone, and then did nothing for at least fifteen years. Wouldn't it be better if we had spent all this time wondering about the great things Guns and Roses would have done?

I know this is kind of a sick way to look at it, but I think about these things. I mean, could Michael Jackson have done anything worse to his legacy then staying alive?


Jaime said…
Cat Stevens might be the only guy who "disappeared" that I missed. Then, when he came back, he had a new name and it was just too confusing!

I know this is a music ONLY sight, but the greatest career move anyone can ever make is to die young. Look at James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and River Phoenix. Can you imagine if they lived as long as Marlon Brando? YIKES!! I don't want to picture James Dean fat with a comb over. Seriously, it might have helped Elvis' legacy if he died about six years sooner. Before the polly-white-jump-suits and the ALL YOU CAN EAT buffets in Vegas ruined his career!

And YES...it's sad but TRUE...G-n-R and Michael Jackson should have died a long time ago...and that's NOT a metaphor!

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