Love will keep us alive

Blogs didn’t exist when Elvis and John Lennon died. There was no Instagram to fill up with selfies of chance encounters with newly dead music celebrities. And there was no Facebook on which to repost eulogies and elegies and bootleg YouTube clips of long lost performances of dubious provenance. Despite the handicap of no internet at the time, I do remember exactly what I was doing when I heard the news (oh boy) in both cases.

I was folding laundry in the late afternoon of August 16, 1977 when word of Elvis’ demise came over the airwaves. I can’t say I was a huge Elvis fan but he wasn’t completely absent from the soundtrack of my youth. Maybe it was his relatively young age combined with his larger than life persona that made it a shocking event. And indeed there were many who were unable to believe a less-than-immortal Elvis (come to think of it, that faction is still alive and well).

With John Lennon it was little more of a momentous event, him being a critical component of the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music (and like Elvis, has made way more money when dead than when alive). He was also young – just turned 40 – but the most unfathomable part was being taken out by a North American ‘fan’. And in the true litmus test of how impactful this event was, his death was announced by Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football. Since I don’t watch football on Monday nights or otherwise, I didn’t find out until the morning of December 9. 1980 when it seemed peculiar that all of the songs on the radio featured John Lennon. Lennon is on record as crediting Elvis for getting him out of Liverpool and he got a chance to meet Elvis when the Beatles were on their 1965 summer tour in the U.S., although apparently he found the meeting less than earth shattering.

Which brings us to David Bowie. I was also not a huge fan, him being more of a guy thing, what with his obsession with spiders and Mars and probably puppy dogs tails. I did warm to him slightly in his disco years, when I am sure his diehard fans just locked themselves in their basements and listened to endless loops of Space Oddity on their reel to reel tape players. But I digress. Although it might seem far-fetched, there are way fewer than six degrees of separation between Elvis and the Thin White Duke. First, Elvis supposedly approached Bowie in 1977 to produce one of his records. Second, ‘Golden Years’ is supposedly about Elvis. Now of course it is impossible to verify either of these ‘facts, being that dead men don’t tell tales, but I like them anyway. But what is true is that both David Bowie (Jones) and Elvis Presley were born on January 8.

And then even more dominos started to keel over:

• Glenn Frey from the Eagles, whose favourite way to sum things up was apparently “Ladies and gentlemen – Elvis has left the building”. Or at least that’s according to Joe Walsh so maybe take that one with a grain of salt.

• Dale Griffin from Mott the Hoople, who I am pretty sure never met Elvis but would not have had any semblance of success without David Bowie because they wouldn’t have had ‘All the Young Dudes’ handed to them on a silver platter, and also because Glam Rock would never have been invented.

• Mic Gillette from Tower of Power, who I am also pretty sure never met Elvis. But in case you are looking for a change of job, Tower of Power is currently searching for a new lead singer (not to replace Mic, he was a brass player guy) if you don’t mind being on the road 200 days a year.

And now it’s not because of too many deep fried bacon sandwiches or assassins wanting more than 15 minutes of fame or falling prey to doctors with unlimited prescription pads. Instead, it’s what takes us all out in the end – bad genes, bad timing and just bad luck.

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