People who are "gutted" when an elderly celebrity dies

I frequent a music forum and read the threads when a musician dies. There are a variety of reactions.

David Crosby died recently. He was 81, not in the best of health (this was known) and had intentionally lived a fairly hard life. Most people were fairly measured in their reactions, missing him, remembering him well, yet there were still a few who were reporting they were “gutted” by his death.

I always find this sort of false and lacking perspective. For one, it’s a celebrity, you don’t know them personally and should have long moved on from this sort of worship.

Secondly, I don’t hear this sort of comment from actual celebrities themselves, the peers. They seem to be appropriately measured on the fact of death and a proper remembrance.

I just find this sort of post over the top and somewhat irritating. What do others think?

Well, when Werner Herzog and David Attenborough die, I’ll be very sad. Possibly gutted, though I’m not sure if it will be that extreme.

They’ve shared their works with us for so long and, in a small way, it felt like we got to know them a bit. We didn’t, but they did contribute their art and insight to so many things.

I’ll miss them and be really sad.


I think people don’t need your approval to feel what they feel, or share those feelings in public.

Right, exactly. A fan of David Crosby’s music remembers him, as he was when he was making the music they love. Their mental image of him wasn’t of an 81-year-old; it was of a 30-year-old. And when a 30-year-old dies, it is gut-wrenching.

By contrast, his peers knew him as he actually is. They might remember the 30-year-old he once was, but they were seeing the 81-year-old every day. They knew just how old he was getting.

I suppose it depends on how active the celebrity is. For instance, I’ll be quite sad when Sir Patrick Stewart passes away, because he’s still an active artist and all-around swell person. Meanwhile, when Sir Sean Connery passed away in 2020 it was less of a blow to me, since he had both been retired from some time and also was a pretty shitty person.

Obviously the impact would not be so strong as when a personal friend or acquaintance passes away but the beauty of the human condition is we can appreciate and sympathize with people we don’t know personally and we can still feel their loss when they’re gone.

Yes, if the death is sudden it’s one thing. But I’m referring to elderly celebrities. The family members have witnessed some level of decline in most cases.

So the fan, farther from the real life of the celeb, to be “gutted” isn’t real because they aren’t reacting to the real person, just the image.

I’ve never felt “gutted” when a celebrity has died. However, I’ll probably be sad when Joni Mitchell dies.

This thread was on somewhat the same subject, although it doesn’t focus on specifically elderly celebrities:

For example, Pete Townshend said this when Jeff Beck passed away:

"His circle of friends in the music business is vast, we are all partly in shock…we thought he would go on forever.”

Why are we only “partly” in shock? All of us from the first wave of UK rock and pop that followed in the wake of The Beatles back in the early ‘60s are all getting older of course, and when our time comes it comes.”

Dude, plenty of fans are sincerely gutted when people who are merely fictional characters die onscreen or in books. Let alone actual human artists whose works and stage personae the fans may have affectionately treasured for decades.

People are allowed to grieve over whatever deaths they personally feel affected by, irrespective of whether or not they personally knew the deceased (or whether the deceased was even a real human being). Since you asked for reactions, I find your grouching about this issue more “over the top and somewhat irritating” than the behavior you’re complaining about.

The celebrity deaths that made me saddest were Colonel Bruce Hampton and Terry Pratchett.

Their respective works have given me some of the best parts of my life.

True, but I’ve known a few people who generally in my judgemental opinion overreact to celebrity deaths, and it seems to be more about a need to tie oneself to the centre of attention than to express a deeply personal grief.

YMMV, of course.

I’ve been quite sad about the deaths of various celebrities. I don’t think I’ve been, “gutted,” but maybe other people define, “gutted,” differently than I do. Mr. Spock was the crush of my 12 year old self (don’t judge me) I was really sad when Leonard Nimoy died, not, however, gutted by my definition.

I was more upset by Linda Ronstadt’s illness. I find it tragic that such a voice was silenced long before it was time. And I find it tragic that something that was probably the center of her life and identity was taken from her so arbitrarily. I still wouldn’t say I was, “gutted,” but the “Sound of My Voice” almost made me cry, and I’m not a weeper.

Not when a celebrity dies, and certainly not when a celebrity dies with a decent life, and especially not when they’ve survived past a period when there was a decent chance of dying. Suicide, excepted though.

I was baffled at the ones crying nooooo when Bowie went at a ripe old age of 69, especially the people probably hadn’t listened to his music for at least 30 years, so to all intents and purpose he’d died for them around the age of 39. However, Bowie had lived through the period when he and everyone around him were chugging down heroin and coke and he lived, and some died. So count yourself lucky you got the late 1970s work out of the man.

Someone in the pub asked the question: “if you had a time machine, where would you go back to” and my answer was “to go back and drive Hendrix to the hospital”.

In many cases, I don’t think it’s about the death of the person so much as it is about what memories you might have associated with that person and a reminder of your own mortality. While I’ve never been “gutted” by a celebrities death, the first such death I can remember feeling personally sad for beyond a “that’s too bad” was Phil Hartman back in 1998. I had watched him on SNL for years, then NewsRadio, and as a fan his sudden death saddened me. I was genuinely saddened by the death of Terry Prachett, I have a single Discword novel that remains unread just so I can look forward to reading something “new” one of these days.

I do notice this sort of reaction seems a bit, well, much when it’s someone deep into their 80’s or 90’s.

Seeing someone go out when their best work is behind them, and few (if any) enjoyable years in front of them? Sure it’s sad, but also IMO more cause for celebration of their life and work. I always wonder in such cases whether the person really feels “gutted”, or that’s just social-media hyperbole to signal that we lost a giant.

Not that I’m bothered by it, but it just seems a bit over-the-top for the situation.

It seems to me that the artists, musicians, sports figures, etc that people are most attached to are the ones with whom, basically, they grew up with. When one of those people dies followed by another and another and another with ever increasing frequency, it’s like losing an extended family member, and it also reminds us of our own mortality.

Some people, beyond any reasonable hope, may on an emotional level feel that the departed had more to offer. When I learned that Stan Lee died at the ripe old age of, what? 160 something? years old, my immediate emotional response was “Oh shit! No more Spider-Man?”. My brain caught up in about a microsecond but, frankly, that’s slightly longer than it takes some people to post a response on the Internet.

Our monkey brains don’t require physical proximity with a human being to form empathetic connections. We can develop those connections with celebrities. Hell, we can even develop them with inanimate things like sports teams or video games.

Out of the huge pile of flotsam that humans grow attached to, artists make the most sense to me. The whole point of artistic endeavor is, often, to elicit emotional response. And sometimes those emotional responses are strong enough and consistent enough and long-lasting enough that your monkey brain says “hey! this person is part of who we are!” It doesn’t care that you’ve never met that person physically. They’ve spent years talking to you and understanding you and being there for you.

So when they die, you feel sad. And if you’re a very empathetic person, you might feel gutted.

I have a very small monkeysphere, but every now and then a celebrity dies and I feel a sense of loss. I can think of a few elderly celebrities off the top of my head whose work has played a definitive role in the person I became. When they pass, I’ll be sad. If I was a different version of myself, I’d be gutted. Nothing wrong or weird about that.

I think I’m missing the gene that would cause me to be sad when a celebrity dies (shock or surprise maybe, but not sadness). Maybe it’s the same gene that would cause me to be sad when a sports team loses.

On the other hand, if I read about someone (even a fictional character!) who sacrificed themselves so that others could live, I start tearing up in a heartbeat. So go figure.