I started writing this post yesterday and didn’t finish it in time. By the time I sat down to finish it, news broke that Merle Haggard had died. So I edited what I wrote yesterday, added the bit about Merle, and added this little introduction.
Kurt Cobain died 22 years ago yesterday. He wasn’t found immediately but that’s when the coroner ruled his death took place. Layne Staley died exactly eight years later. Once again, he wasn’t found until a couple of days later but his death is listed as March 5. Both of these guys made music that touched me and I was affected by the death of each one. I don’t idolize them and I recognize that they were terribly flawed human beings (like most of us) but their songs spoke to me on different levels.
I used to think that being a rock star would be the coolest thing in the world. I could just imagine the money and the fame that came along with it. I believed that rock stars were some of the luckiest people on earth. It didn’t take long for me to realize that in many cases that is the furthest thing from the truth. I have read countless biographies of famous musicians and a large number of them remained unhappy or discontent even after they became rich and famous. Kurt and Layne were no different.
I think part of the reason I related to them more than others was that they were about the same age as me. Both were born in 1967, three years before me. We were part of the same generation. I could relate to a lot of the things they had to say. I liked the music they made. I envisioned myself doing the same thing they did. I looked at them and saw two guys who I thought had made it. However, we know that’s not the case. Both were drug addicts and dealt with depression and anxiety. They both died enslaved to their addictions. Once again, I’m not attempting to make them out saints or martyrs. They were broken individuals who became victims to their own addictions. When I listen to their music now it makes me sad because they were talented and in the world’s eyes, they had it all.
Just as I sat down this afternoon to finish this post, I saw the news that Merle Haggard had died. Once again, I don’t idolize the man but I do recognize the talents that he had. He lived much longer than Kurt or Layne. In fact, today was his 79th birthday. I love Merle Haggard’s music but I also understand that he was a flawed and broken individual. I always seem to have these sorts of thoughts whenever a musician dies. I think part of it is because I fancy myself a musician and feel some sort of bond with these people. I see these individuals reach a level of success that I can only dream about and just as I begin to envy them, I realize that they aren’t any more special than I am. They have to die and leave this world behind just like me. In the end, we’re more alike that I sometimes realize and it’s not because we write songs.
I’m going to close by sharing my favorite song from each one of these men. It’s not in an effort to place them up on a pedestal. I just want to thank them for writing something that spoke to me.
Grace and peace.