thinking a bit today about why so many of us are so profoundly affected when we lose iconic musicians, perhaps more than any other category of ‘celebrity’. And I think it has a lot to do with the power of music itself – the way in which a song hits us emotionally. Music isn’t the only medium that does this, of course (the number of books which have had a profound emotional effect on me is testament to the contrary) but I think songs have a unique method, almost – there are a hundred ways a song can become meaningful to a person.
Perhaps you fell in love while a particular song was playing in the background. Perhaps the song served as the score to a moment in a film you’ll never be able to forget. Perhaps a song punctuated the best moment of your life, the worst moment, the most unforgettable moment. Maybe it was the first song your child ever sang along to (in that funny made-up language children have – taking the vowels and consonants and approximating nonsense lyrics to fit)
Perhaps you heard the song for the first time and felt it seize your heart, in the best way – that feeling you get when you know something incredibly special has happened. None of us can predict what will resonate with us on an emotional level, and I think that’s the power of a song – you can hear it anywhere, at any time – on the radio, on a mixtape your best friend gave you, in a shop or at a festival – and you’ll be caught completely off guard. Suddenly, that song – which you may never have heard before in your life – will have annexed a part of you, become meaningful in a way you never intended and cannot erase. This can be be good and bad; a song might remind you of a bad time, of someone you miss very much, of a moment in time you can never change, for better or worse.
So when we lose a musician, we’re not just losing an individual – we’re losing something much bigger than that. We’re losing the person who soundtracked our first loves, our worst breakups, the funerals of loved ones. And the beautiful thing is that no matter how many years pass, that legacy will never die – we will always have the music, and the moments, and everything that made them special.