Friday, January 15, 2016

On Celebrity Deaths

I hope no one sees this as a critique of their emotional ractions, because it is not meant to be. If anything, maybe it is a critique of my own. Perhaps I'm insensitive...

But, with the passing of David Bowie, I am once again reminded that I really don't get very upset when celebrities die. I hear people talking about being "heartbroken" by the loss of a celebrity -- a lot of this went around with Robin Williams -- and I feel a bit callous.

Sure, I always have a moment of "oh, what a shame..." Then, I continue eating my sandwich. I don't drag through the day.

I had a lot of respect for Bowie. I was never a big fan, but I always respected his artistic integrity and even his sense of humor. He seemed like a good guy. I guess if he were one of my musical heroes, it might have hit me harder...

No sarcasm intended: one of my
favorite acting performances by Bowie.
He voiced the character on the steps.
(Note the different-colored eyes.)
I have to admit that when Arthur Miller died in 2005, I was driving and I felt upset enough to pull over to the side of the road for a minute. I suppose that when John Williams, the composer, dies, I will have a similar reaction. But these people contributed to my growth as a musician and as a writer. They affected me directly and deeply. That feels a bit different than if, say, an actor I really like dies.

Maybe I am underestimating the power of art. Maybe I am being something of an artsy elitist. I am questioning the connection of the artist to the common audience and chalking that connection up to something less than the connection of an artist to an artist. I probably shouldn't do that.

Still, I remain skeptical that there is a lot of hyperbole out there on the social media sites... I'm not saying everyone is overdoing it, because, surely, many people really loved Bowie (and maybe even Alan Rickman) but, there has to be a little over-dramatizing going on out there.

All I know (all any of us really knows) is the world inside my own head, and, in there, the losses of celebrities who haven't profoundly affected me are simply not that deeply felt, no matter how much I liked them.


  1. I'm reminded of Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Spring and Fall." When people mourn for artists and stars whose work they loved, they are, perhaps, among other things, mourning the loss of the person they were and the way they felt when the work left them forever changed.

    1. Wow -- I'd forgotten about that. Yet another testament to the futility of ever trying to say anything original...

  2. I think it depends on the person who died. I remember vividly when Princess Diana was killed and the world wide mass sadness that followed. I thought it was strange, all these people so grief stricken for a women they didn't know.
    When I read the news about Bowie I suddenly understood them. It's such a personal thing. Two days later Alan Rickman's death made me just numb, not in an omg hysterical he's dead way but just numb. We ( my generation Gen X) are losing our childhood and teen age heroes. It's as if, at least for me, tiny parts of my soul are being chipped away and forever gone and, importantly, I don't really get a say in it.

    I was heavily influenced by Bowie's lifestyle, music and films. His death was hard for me but maybe more so because it reminded me of the deaths of other people who were far closer to me than he was dredging up that hidden grief.

    Not being a psychologist I couldn't really explain the reasons for being so unbelievably sad but I was.

    1. Hi, Merlyn -- Great to hear from you again. Yes, it is definitely an individual thing, isn't it. We feel what we feel and I am sure even a psychologist would have a hard time sifting through it.

  3. My mother's reaction to Bowie's death was slightly different to most people's: "They had 13 pages about him in the paper. 13! I can't think of anything he's done".

    1. As my older Italian relatives would have said: "God bless her." I love it.(And I do love when you write about your mom's lovable mom-isms, as in your last.)