Passing of creative legends: greatest impact on you?

I have a great deal of respect for David Bowie and his music, and I was shocked and very saddened this morning to hear about him dying. But I also know that I didn’t really grow up listening to his music, and I don’t have nearly the same connection and memories that a lot of others have with his impact in their lives. It got me to thinking about whose death has already or might later have that same sort of impact on me. Three names come to mind:

Isaac Asimov: I was still a teenager when he died, but I had spent so much of my teenage years reading his novels and short stories that I can recall being tremendously sad about it.

Chuck D.: Public Enemy was really the soundtrack of my youth. I wore out cassettes and CDs listening to their albums over and over and over again, memorizing lyrics, feeling like some of my views on society evolved over time along with theirs. I imagine that’s a loss I’ll really feel if the man behind that group goes before I do.

Gordon Sumner: My “big brother” (of the Big Brothers organization) introduced me to “…Nothing Like The Sun” not too long after it had come out, and I fell in love with it. Something about the combination of jazz and Sting’s vocals really hooked me. From there, I spent a lot of years working my way backward into and through The Police’s catalog, and followed him as he continued to make more music. Probably my all-time favorite musician. As with Chuck D., I’m sure I’d feel that loss severely.

At any rate, who falls into this category for you, and why?

George Harrison’s death brought tears to my eyes. Then a few years later, Ringo Starr’s song “Never Without You” brought them back.

Douglas Adams. He had a sense of humor and frame of mind that spoke to me in ways that even others in the general field (Monty Python, Pratchett) failed to do. I still haven’t found an equal to my first times reading through the original Hitchhiker’s Guide trilogy or Dirk Gentley books.

Walt Kelly. The man was an utter genius of the comic strip; Pogo is still one of the top strips of all time. He was the first to introduce topical humor into a non-editorial comic and I grew up amazed had how great it was.

Jim Henson. I was born in 1970 and Sesame Street and the Muppets were an integral part of my childhood. When he passed, I truly felt like I’d lost someone very close to me. The depth of it shocked me, and still does.

Charles Schulz. How sad that the same morning we opened the Sunday paper to see the last Peanuts comic, we also learned of his death. Simply drawn lovable characters- you don’t see that anymore.

Jim Henson - This is the last time I was really upset by a celebrity death, and I was only 19.

George Lucas - Star Wars has impacted just about every part of my life.

Steven Spielberg - Greatest filmmaker of the last 40 years. Huge impact on me.

Any member of Rush - Been listening to their music since high school. Still my favorite band.

For me, no one more than Jerry Garcia. Though the Dead (and all its offshoots) have continued, Jerry’s death was certainly the end of wonderful chapter of my life.

Lou Reed, David Bowie and Lux Interior have all been particularly hard to take.

For ones that have happened recently, Robin Williams, Christopher Lee, and most recently Lemmy Kilmster.

Robin Williams was probably the hardest because of how he died and his relative youth. It’s hard to really take a celebrity death too strongly, since I only know a small part of what the public sees, but it was odd seeing just how much of my youth he impacted, and then learning that, despite the face he put forward, just how much suffering he was going through… it was heartbreaking.

Christopher Lee, well, he was just awesome. He was an iconic actor, a brilliant musician, and just an all around bad ass. I didn’t cry when I learned about his death, as I know he lived probably 5x more than most of us ever will, but it was an inevitable great loss nonetheless.

Lemmy, despite his age, came out of nowhere. I’m very much in the metal scene, and he’s a big reason why. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform live, at least, but his impact on music, and especially the metal scene, is difficult to overstate.

As for other ones that would hit me like that, really, it mostly comes down to musicians. A lot of the old guard is really getting up there in age, and given how hard so many of them lived, I fully expect them to start dropping fast. I’m more saddened by Lemmy than I will be when Ozzy dies, but I know he’ll probably get a whole lot of attention, especially after having that reality show. Of all of the big names in metal, I think the one that will probably crush me the most will be Rob Halford, as Judas Priest was the first metal band I loved. The next band I loved was Metallica, and I’m largely out of love with them now, so I’m unsure how strongly I’d respond if say Hettfield or Hammett died (fuck Lars, couldn’t care less if he died).

But I think the ones that will crush me most will be when some of the bands I’ve loved for years now that never broke through and so won’t get the mainstream attention. I think I may actually cry if I were to hear word that Mikael Akerfeldt, Devin Townsend, Steve Wilson, Danny Cavanagh, Dan Swano, Jonas Renske, Warrel Dane, Jeff Loomis, anyone from Dream Theater, etc. had died, especially if it were sudden.

None of them. Life goes on, like it or not.

Isaac Asimov for me, too. I was 30 when he died, and it was a shock. He was tremendously influential on my life, particularly his nonfiction.

Joe Strummer. Much as I loved people like Robin Williams or David Bowie, they (and a lot of other people mentioned here already) had long since stopped producing work that I was actively searching out. Strummer was someone I was still an active fan of when he died, and I’m still bummed that I won’t ever hear new music from him again.

It’s not at all an exaggeration to say that Robert Heinlein showed me what it meant to be a man. Far more than my father ever did his books led me to value work, ingenuity and integrity. That was a black, black year for me.

It seems to me that some celebrity deaths are extra sad because the person had their career cut short. So a person who did all their major creative work 30 years ago and has been mostly retired since then is kind of sad, just like it is when anyone dies. But then you have people like Jim Henson or Robin Williams who still had so much more they could have done. I mean, what’s the point about being sad about the passing of a creative legend, as opposed to a random neighbor? Because the creative legend influenced you by what they created. And now that influence is gone. So what you really miss is the future that will never be.

John Lennon. Always my favorite Beatle since childhood, I was horrified and shocked to hear that he’d been shot and killed by a fan. I was pregnant at the time and emotional anyway, but I can still remember sinking to the bathroom floor (I heard the news on a small radio we had in the bathroom) and just sobbing.

I’d also say John Lennon. There was the factor of the suddenness of his death. And there was the combination of the great work he had done in the past and the career revival he appeared to be on the verge of.

I’m going to say that for me, when Bob Dylan dies… that will be it… total shock and sadness.

I guess, being 43 years old, the biggest death to me thus far has been Kurt Cobain.

John Lennon and George Harrison. And Stevie Ray Vaughn. I was only in third grade, but Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix dying about two weeks apart was pretty stunning.

He certainly looms large in his particular realm but not to a broad audience-- Spalding Gray’s suicide devastated me.