Death has been working overtime this summer! Every day it feels like a new celebrity or person of note has been shuffled loose the mortal coil. It's probably crass to do a GitW style ranking of these deaths (e.g., Top 5: Deaths of ’09!) so instead I’ll catalogue the ones that have meant the most to my life, personally. Yeah, that’s much more respectful.
Most Shocking: Michael Jackson. It wasn’t even so much Jackson’s death that shocked me, but the reaction. People who’d I’d never heard mention him were suddenly talking about how he was their favorite artist of all time, the biggest influence on their life ever, etc. Even I found myself wanting to listen to Thriller for the first time in years. We all kind of gave him a pass on the last 15 years, which I wasn’t expecting.
Saddest: To me, John Hughes. Molly Ringwald wrote a nice piece about him in the New York Times that said he was kind of a Peter Pan like figure, but not in a creepy Michael Jackson kind of way. Maybe when you grow up, your heart really does die.
Most Bizarre: Last I heard, David Carradine’s death might have involved Taiwanese transvestites. Yikes, Grasshopper. Still loved him in Kill Bill though.
Most Important to my Mother: Farrah Fawcett. Mom still hasn’t forgiven Jacko for stealing Farrah’s thunder.
Most Important to my Father: Koko Taylor. My Dad’s a huge blues fan who plays this Alligator Records Christmas album every year, featuring such classics as “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’” and “One Parent Christmas.” Koko kicks the CD off with “Merry, Merry Christmas” and it always starts Dad talking about that one time he met her in the ‘70s. Or something. ... And now I have “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’” in my head. Great. It’s shockingly catchy.
Most Personal: I never actually met Frank McCourt, but having read Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis, I felt like I had. I was surprised at how sad I was when he died.
Most Influential: I’ve played the guitar for years, and while I never owned a Les Paul model, because I’m part of the proletariat, Les Paul himself pretty much invented the electric version of the instrument. I owe him many happy hours and many lost decibels of hearing.
Most Historic: Ted Kennedy. As I’ve said before, growing up in an Irish Catholic family in Massachusetts, the Kennedys were part of the fabric of my life. Teddy was flawed to say the least, but he was an icon who did a lot for Massachusetts and the rest of the country. It’s hard to imagine the world without him.