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Rock Death in the ’70s: A Sweepstakes

Rock Death in the ’70s: A Sweepstakes

Fred W. McDarrah

Rock Demise in the ’70s: A Sweepstakes
December 17, 1979

I feel it was about five years ago that I observed the term “survivor” had develop into the cant word of the seventies. The word used to denote one who lived via a concrete menace to life — a fireplace, a pure disaster, a aircraft crash. (You already know the previous joke: A aircraft from Texas crashed in Mexico. The place do they bury the survivors? Ha, ha, ha. They don’t bury survivors!) As a description of 1’s id, the word match only one who had undergone circumstances directly so harrowing and so exceptional that it could possibly be stated with some certainty that the experience had marked — certainly shaped, or reshaped — the person’s character irrevocably, to the purpose the place every little thing else — parentage, intelligence, vocation, and so forth. — turned secondary. Thus the phrase might be utilized pretty to many victims of focus camps (although not, say, to the Japanese victims of internment within the U.S. through the Second World Warfare, since the specter of violent dying was not present, and hunger circumstances did not exist), to certain political prisoners, victims of torture, and to some who had escaped famine, epidemics, or wars (although the phrase wouldn’t mechanically apply to troopers: One may say, “He survived the Battle of the Bulge,” but one wouldn’t , when asked to sum up such an individual, respond, “Oh, he’s a survivor”). The time period implied no specific approbation, let alone celebration. It was a press release of reality, suggesting not ethical neutrality but an ethical limbo.

At present all of this has modified. “Survivor,” maybe first corrupted as a reference to those that had taken half in a number of the willful adventures of the 1960s, now applies to anyone who has persevered, or slightly continued, any type of activity, together with respiration, for almost any period of time. One who retains his or her job for a couple of years is “a survivor.” A couple who have celebrated a fifth anniversary are “survivors.” An actor or actress who, though and not using a position, can nonetheless get booked onto the Carson present annually is “a survivor,” and will probably be identified as such inside 5 minutes of conversation (“You’re a real survivor, Elizabeth Ashley!” “You’re a survivor your self, Johnny!”) Anybody, the truth is, who just isn’t legally lifeless is a “survivor” — and people who are legally lifeless, but later turn up among the many dwelling, are preeminent survivors.

It have to be emphasized that the word now undoubtedly does suggest reward, and that (paradoxically, one would assume) it has been severed from authentic contexts of will and endurance altogether. Indeed, the world has acquired certain class-bound, Social-Darwinist, and racist tones. It is applied to nearly any white, middle-class individual, regardless of lack of accomplishment or lack of hardship, but is nearly never used anymore to designate one who has suffered actual adversity, and surmounted it. To make use of the phrase in such an old style method would recall its unique ethical connotations — the suggestion that the word “survivor” bespoke a world by which morality had been defeated, suspended, or destroyed — and the ’70s use of the word has subverted the truth of morality: the sense that one’s life is a product of decisions made within a hard context of circumstances that one does not choose and doubtless can’t change, and that the right response to such a reality is wrestle.

The ’70s version of “survival” trivializes wrestle, mocks it. As Bruno Bettelheim wrote in 1976, in an attack on Lina Wertmuller’s Seven Beauties and Terrence Des Pres’s much-touted The Survivor (a research of Nazi focus camps), the present-day celebration of “survival” is a self-justification for many who in the present day don’t want to think about the issues [the camps] posed, and as an alternative settle for a totally empty “survivorship.” Survival is elevated above all different values: “Survival is all, it does not matter how, why, what for.” Bettelheim may need been writing in a lifeless language; use of the time period multiplied exponentially after his article appeared.

I turned particularly within the new software of the phrase in rock and roll, because it appeared in all places: as a justification for empty characters, washed-up careers, third-rate LPs, pretend comebacks, burnt-out brain-pans. (This isn’t even to say using the word in present fiction, where it turned a surefire solution to make vaguely neurotic, white, middle-class protagonists seem heroic of their melancholy, inadequacy, and cowardice.) I grew obsessed with the phenomenon — it seemed to me to talk for every part empty, tawdry, and silly concerning the decade, for every cheat, for every failure of nerve. I couldn’t get away from the word; week after week, it arrived within the mail. Grank Funk’s Survival. The Rolling Stones’ “Soul Survivor.” Barry Mann’s Survivor. Cindy Bullens’s “Sur­vivor” (a terrific recording, and ruined!). Eric Burdon’s Survivor. Gloria Gaynor’s cheesy “I Will Survive.” Adam Religion’s I Survive. Randy Bachman’s Survivor. Georgie Fame’s Survival. Lynyrd Sky­nyrd’s Road Survivors (the one band made to pay for the self-esteem). Simply a couple of weeks ago, the Wailers’ Survival. Each time, an artist masking him or herself with glory (simply as novelists continued to cele­brate their hapless autobiographical char­acters and their lack of anything value saying). So I railed towards it all; I wrote concerning the phrase each time I came across it, tried to kill it.

Like Bettelheim, whose efforts have been much more prescient and extra probing than mine, I received nowhere. The phrase, or its perversion, gathered momentum, and it gathers momentum nonetheless. Look by means of this challenge of The Village Voice, and you will see it; look by way of subsequent week’s, and you will see it once more.

And so, as an envoi to the ’70s, I decided there was only one applicable gesture: a bit about those who weren’t survivors. If the idea cannot be discredited per­haps it may be turned back on itself.

So allow us to get right down to bones and tooth.

One may assume the big toll the rock and roll life has taken in the last decade provides the rock use of “survivor” some credence: when so many have fallen, to proceed have to be a real accomplish­ment. But this isn’t true — what we’re confronted with continues to be a alternative of values and standards by a fraud on each. To perform within the context of the dying of 1’s fellows may be an act of nerve or per­severance, worthy qualities both, though it’s more doubtless a refusal to surrender pos­sibilities of monetary reward and private adulation. But in any case such a per­formance accomplishes nothing and says nothing by itself. The word “survivor” is used to cover these truths, and to hide the banality, falsity, stupidity, and enervation of what a performer’s perseverance may actually produce. When Brian Wilson made his famous “return” in 1976, he acquired unanimous acclaim as a survivor (of, it turned out, himself); that made it virtually incumbent upon fans and writers not to look at what he had returned with too intently: survival, dayenu. At the moment, when writers and fans name Neil Younger “a sur­vivor” they didn’t even know they’re insult­ing him, because Neil Younger, so obsessed with rock dying, is performing to tell us that survival isn’t sufficient.

When rock and rollers name themselves “survivors,” it is because they need the eye and approval the term now brings, or because they need to distract us from the query of whether or not their work is worthy of attention or approval. It’s no homage: anybody can put on the crown of survivor, and by so doing mock those who usually are not round to put on it, and tacitly devalue whatever they could have left behind.

If this were not cause sufficient for an anomalous gesture — a research of rock dying — the evidence is piling up that such a gesture won’t be with out its com­mercial prospects. It was just a few months ago, in any case, that a promoter­ — in all probability the same one who appears within the final verse of “Highway 61 Revisited” — ­recommended that he and I collaborate on a e-book about “all the individuals in rock and roll who had ever died.” It was just weeks after that that I acquired a brand new guide referred to as These Who Died Younger, which grants virtually the identical status to the likes of James Dean and Brian Jones as your aver­age survivorship journalist may bestow on James Taylor. Given the obscenity of the survivorship cult, then, why not an equal, no, an extra obscenity: why merely make a research of rock deaths when one might rank them? If, as the just-issued Jimi Hendrix Christmas EP (heard “Little Drummer Boy” yet?) signifies, necrophagy in rock is a practice a minimum of as honorable as that of the survivor’s biggest hits album, do not the lifeless deserve an accounting at the least as irreproachable as the survivors receive with every week’s edi­tion of Billboard?

Rock deaths, subsequently, have been rated on a tripartite scale: Nonsurvivor’s con­tribution to rock and roll as much as time of demise; contribution nonsurvivor would have made within the time after dying had demise not occurred before the allotted three-­rating and ten; and manner of dying. Up to 10 factors could possibly be scored in each category. Factors have been awarded generously in the first class; strictly within the second. Cal­culations within the third category have been by their very nature somewhat subjective. Info, virtually all of it taken from information clippings, was all the time sketchy; cor­oners are susceptible to attribute the mysterious demise of any long-haired individual to “medicine.” Elements taken under consideration in­cluded respect for custom, degree of selection, imagination, diploma of violence, drama, uniqueness, appropriateness, and divine intervention. Dying by journey, a real danger of rock life, rated pretty excessive. Demise by heroin, however, rated low — it has been referred to as “the widespread chilly of rock demise” — save when special circum­stances have been concerned, corresponding to murder. Dying by heroin onstage (see Stephen Holden’s rock demise novel, Triple Plati­num), versus dying by heroin in an affordable room with a chenille bedspread and, outdoors the window, a neon sign flashing “HOTEL,” would have scored properly, however no such incident has been recorded.

Blues, gospel, country, and authentic people performers weren’t included in these calculations until that they had some direct connection to rock and roll, like successful. Mere affect on rock and roll was not enough to deliver these individuals the finan­cial rewards usually out there to (if not all the time secured by) rock and roll performers, and thus it has been decided to withhold the concomitant lack of respect. As for the symbols, RD stands for Rock Dying; PC, Previous Contribution; FC, Future Contribution; M, Manner of Rock Dying; and T, Complete Score. Rock Deaths are rated in ascending order — but just for suspense.

Have a pleasant day.

RD PC FC M T
Miss Chrissie, age unknown, 1972, previously of the GTOs, Frank Zappa–backed “groupie-rock” band, hero­in. 1 zero 1 2
Vinnie Taylor, 25, 1974, Sha Na Na guitarist, medicine. 1 1 1 three
Tommy Bolin, 25, 1977, former Deep Purple and James Gang guitarist, medicine. 3 0 1 4
Brian Cole, 28, 1972, former Affiliation vocalist, heroin o.d. 3 0 1 4
Rich Evers, 31, 1978, Carole King songwriter, cocaine o.d. a 2 1 2 5
Scott Fast, 26, 1976, Sammy Hagar band guitarist, “drug seizure.” 2 2 1 5
Tim Buckley, 28, 1975, singer-songwriter, unintentional heroin o.d. b 1 zero 4 5
Jimmy McCulloch, 26, 1979, former Wings guitarist, medicine 3 2 1 6
Ross Bagdasarian, 52, 1972, Chipmunks creator and multivocalist, natural causes. three zero four 7
Billy Murcia, New York Dolls drummer, age unknown, 1972, medicine three three 1 7
Lowell George, 34, former chief of Little Feat, medicine. four 2 1 7
Mike Patto, 36, 1979, former Spooky Tooth, Boxer, and Patto vocalist, throat most cancers. 2 1 4 7
Gene Davis, 58, 1970, Fat Domino band member, automotive crash. 1 1 6 Eight
Terry Kath, 31, 1978, Chicago guitarist, Russian roulette. c 1 1 6 Eight
Bill Chase, 39, 1974, chief of Chase, “jazz-rock” band the members of which wore long-hair wigs, aircraft crash. d zero zero Eight 8
Van McCoy, producer, songwriter, and solo artist (“The Hustle”),
age unknown, 1979, natural causes.
three 1 four 8
Phil Reed, age unknown, 1976, Flo and Eddie guitarist, possible suicide in leap from lodge window. e 1 1 7 9
Don Robey, 71, 1974, head of r&b and gospel labels Duke and Peacock, natural causes. f Eight 0 1 9
Ron “Pig Pen” McKernan, 27, 1973, Grateful Lifeless organist and vocalist, cirrhosis. three 1 5 9
Cass Elliott, 32, 1974, former Mamas and the Papas vocalist, choked to dying on sandwich, inhaled vomit. three 1 5 9
Stacy Sutherland, 31, 1978, former 13th Flooring Elevators guitarist, shot to dying. three zero 7 10
Charlie “The Redman” Freeman, 31, 1973, legendary Memphis rocker (see Stanley Sales space’s “Blues for the Redman”) and Dixie Flyers guitarist, drug and alcohol abuse. 5 3 2 10
Individuals’s Temple Band, 1978, suicide/murder, in live performance, with audience, by cyanide. 1 1 Eight 10
Pete Ham, 28, 1975, former Badfinger singer, suicide by hanging. 2 zero Eight 10
Donny Hathaway, 39, 1979, songwriter, singer and piano player, defenestration. 2 2 7 11
John Rostill, age unknown, 1974, former Shadows guitarist (not an unique member), electrocuted in studio by guitar. 1 1 9 11
Bobby Darin, 37, 1974, heart failure during surgery. 5 1 5 11
Mal Evans, 40, 1976, “Sixth Beatle” (street supervisor), shot to demise by Los Angeles police (“justifiable homicide”) while getting ready memoirs. g three 1 7 11
Billy Stewart, 32, 1970; vocalist (“Summertime”), automotive crash. three 2 6 11
Tom Wilson, 47, 1978, former CBS producer (“Like a Rolling Stone,” “rock” version of “Sounds of Silence,” and so on.), heart attack. h 6 1 four 11
Chris Bell, 27, 1979, of Huge Star, automotive crash. 3 2 6 11
Rick Garberson, age unknown, 1979, Bizzaros drummer, carbon monoxide poisoning. 3 3 5 11
Clarence White, 29, 1973, former Byrds and Burrito Brothers guitarist, automotive crash. 3 three 6 12
Graham Bond, 37, 1974, legendary British bandleader, later with Ginger Baker’s Air Pressure, fell or threw self beneath subway practice. 4 1 7 12
Pete Meader, 35, 1978, first manager of the Who, Mod crusader and thinker, capsule o.d. possible suicide. i 4 0 Eight 12
Paul Kossoff, 25, 1976, former Free and Back Road Crawler guitarist, heart and kidney failure. j 3 2 Eight 13
Nick Drake, 26, 1974 singer-songwriter, unintentional overdose of Elavil. (PC and FC scores by Ed Ward.) 4 5 4 13
Peter Laughner, 24, 1977, Pere Ubu founder, alcoholism. 5 5 three 13
Florence Ballard, 32, 1972, former member of the Supremes, coronary thrombosis whereas on welfare. 6 zero 7 13
Danny Whitten, 29, 1972, Crazy Horse guitarist, heroin. 7 5 4 13
Junior Parker, 44, 1971, r&b pioneer (“Thriller Practice,” “Feelin’ Good,” “Driving Wheel”) coronary heart. 7 2 four 13
Rory Storm, 32, 1972, former leader of the Hurricanes, Ringo Starr’s pre-Beatles band, double suicide with mom. okay three zero 10 13
Jim Croce, 30, 1973, aircraft crash. three three Eight 14
Robbie McIntosh, 24, 1974, Common White Band drummer, heroin o.d. by the hands of one other, manslaughter conviction obtained. l 3 3 Eight 14
Freddy King, 42, 1976, bluesman (“Hideaway”), heart and ulcers. 6 4 four 14
Jimmy Reed, 50, 1976, r&b legend, pure causes with alcohol abuse. 8 1 5 14
Ray Jackson, 31, 1972, Stax songwriter (writer of “If Loving You Is Incorrect”), producer, and piano player. 5 4 5 14
Berry Oakley, 24, 1972, Allman Brothers Band bassist, motorbike crash. m four three 7 14
Bobby Ramirez, 23, 1970, White Trash drummer, crushed to dying in Chicago bar due to his lengthy hair. 2 2 10 14
Slim Harpo, 45, 1979, r&b singer (“Baby, Scratch My Back”), heart attack. 6 four 4 14
Lowman Pauling, age unknown, 1973, former chief, guitarist, and author (“Devoted to the One I Love”) of the “5” Royales, natural causes presumed. 8 2 4 14
Marc Bolan, 29, 1977, former chief of Tyrannosaurus Rex, later T. Rex, automotive crash. 5 three 6 14
Les Harvey, 23 or 25, 1972, Stone the Crows guitarist, electrocuted onstage by microphone. 2 three 10 15
Al Wilson, 27, 1970, Canned Heat singer and author (“On the Street Once more,” “Going Up the Nation”), probable suicide by sleeping drugs. 7 three 5 15
Keith Relf, 33, 1976, former Yardbirds lead singer, electrocuted by guitar at house. 7 zero 9 16
Phil Ochs, 35, 1976, suicide by hanging. 5 3 8 16
Cassie Gaines, 29, 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd backing vocalist, aircraft crash. three 5 8 16
George Goldner, 52, 1970, founding rock producer (Crows, Frankie Lymon, Chantels, Purple Hen label), coronary heart. 10 2 4 16
Tammi Terrell, 24, 1970, Motown vocalist solo and with Marvin Gaye, demise formally attributed to mind tumor. n 6 zero four/10 10/16
John Ritchie (Sid Vicious), 21, 1979, former Sex Pistols bassist, dying attributed to heroin o.d. o 5 1 1/10 7/16
Keith Moon, 31, 1978, Who drummer, unintentional overdose of sedatives. 10 3 4 17
Jim Morrison, 27, 1971, Doorways lead singer, “drowned in bathtub in Paris.” p 7 4 6 17
King Curtis, 37, 1971, stabbed to demise. 6 four 7 17
Clyde McPhatter, 38, 1972, former lead vocalist of the Dominoes and Drifters, solo performer, liver, kidney, and heart disease with alcoholism. 10 2 5 17
Steve Gaines, 28, 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist, aircraft crash. 4 6 8 18
Janis Joplin, 27, 1970, heroin o.d. 10 7 1 18
Sandy Denny, 31, 1978, former Fairport Conference and Fotheringay lead vocalist (additionally guitar and drums), cerebral hemorrhage after fall downstairs. q 9 5 6 20
Al Jackson, Jr., 39, Hi and former Stax drummer, shot to demise 8 6 7 21
Gram Parsons, 27, 1973, country-rock pioneer (International Submarine Band, Flying Burrito Brothers), medicine. r 7 7 7 21
Paul Williams, 34, 1973, former Temptations vocalist, shot to dying. s 8 3 Eight/10 19/21
Elvis Presley, 42, 1977, multiple drug abuse after lifetime of professed clean dwelling. t 10 7 5 22
Duane Allman, 24, 1971, sessionman and Allman Brothers Band guitarist, motorbike crash. 9 8 6 23
Ronnie Van Zant, 28, 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd lead vocalist and writer, aircraft crash. 6 9 8 25
Jimi Hendrix, 24, 1970, inhalation of vomit after use of sedatives, problems as a result of poor emergency remedy. 10 10 5 25

Thus, rock dying in the ’70s. If nobody matched the all-time scores of Buddy Holly (10-Eight-Eight) or Sam Cooke (10-9-Eight), there was at the very least no dearth of makes an attempt. Rock dying made the last decade what it was: with out plenty of nonsurvivors as a yardstick, survivors and their chroniclers (for, in any case, when one praises another as “a survivor,” the praise rebounds upon oneself) would haven’t any normal towards which to measure themselves. It exhibits no disrespect to those that are gone, then, to offer ourselves a bit of pat on the back for having outlasted them; by so doing, we help hold them lifeless.

a. One M point added for oddity.

b. Involuntary manslaughter conviction obtained; three M factors added.

c. Because the means to the very first rock demise, that of Johnny Ace in 1954 (see Don Robey), Russian roulette is value eight M points. As Kath’s questionable rock standing had the effect of demythicizing the act, nevertheless, he’s docked two factors.

d. Though, as with Terry Kath, Chase’s questionable rock status has the impact of diminishing the overall influence of the aircraft crash rock demise, and would thus warrant a two-point discount within the M score, he has been awarded two M factors for appropriateness, which make up the distinction: the aircraft that did him in was making a Vegas run.

e. First recognized occasion of musician-as-TV-set rock dying.

f. It has long been rumored that fairly than capturing himself whereas enjoying Russian roulette, Johnny Ace was in truth shot by Robey. Have been this provable, it might have an effect on Robey’s score, though it has been unattainable to determine in precisely what manner. It must be famous that whereas demise by natural causes before the age of 70 is value 4 M points, it’s value one M point thereafter.

g. Two PC points added for Beatle association.

h. Two PC points added for Dylan affiliation.

i. Two M factors added for appropriateness, given centrality of tablets to Mod way of life.

j. Died once beforehand: in 1975, however was revived after 35 minutes. Four M points added for necrophilia.

okay. Two PC points added for Beatle affiliation.

l. Two M factors added for Cher involvement.

m. One M. level added for augmentation of minor custom of Allman Brothers rock demise, which began the previous yr.

n. In response to widespread belief, Terrell’s mind injury really resulted from a beating by considered one of any number of well-known entertainment figures. Deduct six M factors for disbelief on this rationalization.

o. Ritchie/Vicious’s demise is rumored to have resulted from a scorching shot, i.e. homicide. Deduct nine M points for disbelief in latter rationalization.

p. Ought to it’s established that, as has long been rumored, Morrison continues to be alive, he would both achieve four or lose six M factors, but because it’s unimaginable to find out which, these elements have not been taken under consideration.

q. Two M points added for uniqueness.

r. Physique stolen and burned in desert. Add six M points for melodrama.

s. Add two M points for belief in Mob involvement.

t. Four M factors added for shock worth.

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