If there was ever a year that culturally just bukkake'd every eye until there wasn't a dry eye in the house, it was 2016. The death of David Bowie I sort of could handle--he was older, you understand. Alan Rickman, too. Glen Frey, life happens. The death of Prince--after the death of Vanity (Denise Katrina Matthews)--was closer to my musical time. But it adds up:
Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen. Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke. Pat Harrington. Abe Vigoda. Maurice White. Harper Lee. George Kennedy. Nancy Reagan. Antonin Scalia. Phyllis Schafley. George Martin. Keith Emerson. Frank Sinatra Jr. Natalie Cole (died Dec. 31 2015, but I'm including her in 2016 because reasons). Controversial Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (who could have been admirably played in a movie by Chris Farley, if he didn't leave us several years ago). Garry Shandling. Tom Whedon (father of Joss Whedon and one-time show-runner for the children's program "The Electric Company", which had Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman in its cast and was my favorite educational program as a little kiddie).
Merle Haggard. Doris Roberts (of Remington Steele and Everyone Loves Raymond). Joanie Laurer, the wrestler also known as Chyna. Michelle McNamara, crime writer and wife of Patton Oswald. Morley Safer. John Berrie of the Beastie Boys. Bert Kwouk known as "Cato" in the Pink Panther movies. Muhammed Ali--the greatest of all time. Fidel Castro. Gordie Howe. Arnold Palmer. Anton Yelchin. Elie Wiesel. Michael Cimino. Garry Marshall. Miss Cleo. John Saunders. Kenny Baker. Gwen Ifill. John McLaughlin. Steven Hill. Alexis Arquette. Kevin Meaney. Janet Reno. Robert Vaughn. Zsa Zsa Gabor.
The announcement that George Michael died on Christmas was exceptionally cruel--typical for this year. Known for a song actually called "Last Christmas" among so many other great tunes, George Michael was a gifted vocalist, song writer, and extremely generous and giving performer.
I loved George Michael as an early gay icon--I never really understood how anyone had ambiguity about it, before he came out at the end of the 90's--to me it was just a thing I knew. But what was unambiguous was that he had an amazing talent. His lyrics and his ability to deliver them were just impeccable. His song, written while so young, "Careless Whisper", stands up against anything in the American songbook.
The increase of venues for popularity outside of politics and cinema and all, the "fifteen minutes of fame" Andy Warhol noted, meant ever so many more people would become famous or semi famous enough to be recalled. And as we all get older, so do our contemporaries. So it happened that in 2016, so many people we knew or at least, knew of, came to pass, and it sucked or at least, sucked so much worse than prior years. But if my calculations are right (I didn't actually do any real math here) this trend will continue. The older you get, the better you will know those people who die, and the closer their ages will be to your own.It makes me a bit morbid to think that this experience of people I remember, not completely antique old B/W movie and tv stars, but people I actually watched, dying, will likely accelerate as I get older.
So expect no comfort from 2017. But I listen to George Michael and know while he lived he made some progress happen. We aren't promised forever--let's just know from so many examples how to make our time count.
*Picture stolen from here.