Ben Rayner wrote earlier this week in the Toronto Star about how 2016’s toll of notable rockers is set to only grow, in 2017 as in the future. The stars of old are aging, and as age approaches death inevitably comes in behind.
If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that even pop’s most seemingly immortal figures are, in fact, quite mortal and destined for the grave just like the rest of us. It was an annus horribilis that began on a low note with the death of David Bowie just three days after the release of his blackly magical 27th albumBlackstar on Jan. 8 — and basically stayed down there in the depths for the next 12 months.
The pop deaths just kept coming: Prince, felled at 57 on April 21 by something as impossibly prosaic as an opiate overdose. The Eagles’ Glenn Frey. Merle Haggard. Prince Buster. Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest. Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire. Suicide’s Alan Vega. Sharon Jones. Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, whose twin departures from this plane rendered Emerson, Lake & Palmer a solo act within the space of just nine months. Canadian icon Leonard Cohen, too, of course, who predicted his own looming demise in Bowie-esque fashion with an album-length goodbye of his own, You Want it Darker, released just a couple of weeks before his very private death on Nov. 7 at 82 years of age. George Michael, announced on Christmas Day.
Scarcely a week would pass without the mention of another drummer here or another guitarist there of a certain age quietly saying goodbye forever — and this after the shock of the sudden death of whiskey-swillin’ metal survivor Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister at 70 just three days before the end of 2015.
The Canada-stunning announcement in May that Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip was fighting to survive against terminal brain cancer didn’t help matters much, either, even if the Hip’s triumphant farewell tour in the summer and the subsequent release of his noble Secret Path solo album in the fall proved inspirational rather than sad.
In any case, 2016 was not the happiest time to be a music fan. As the Georgia Straight put it, “About the only good thing that happened in 2016 was that Keith Richards didn’t die.”
Unfortunately, at some point Keith Richards, who just turned 73, is going to die, along with the rest of the Rolling Stones, who have played the poster boys for rock longevity for 50 years now but simply can’t keep it up forever. Time is on no one’s side, not even the Rolling Stones’.