The recently-departed Jack Bruce could have had no complaints. He made history, he made records that made people happy, and he made some money along the way. Still, as one-third of the first ever “super group”, Cream, he was never a true superstar—not that he had designs on being one. Ultimately, he was bass player’s bass player, a singer’s singer, a songwriter’s songwriter and, above all, a music aficionado’s musician. Jack Bruce was, to invoke an inevitable cliché, the consummate professional: curious, seldom satisfied, always striving, ever-developing. Decades after he secured his legend, he kept on going, because that’s what the real legends do.
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Around 8:30 in the morning, nursing a cup of coffee, I received the following text from a co-worker: “My iPod died.”
Like me, he’s one of those who have 20,000-plus songs loaded on his device. So, my heart couldn’t help but sink a bit when I read his message. I know the hours it takes to put all that material back on the iPod. But until last week, we could at least take comfort in the fact we could always buy a brand new iPod Classic.
Twenty years ago today, the world learned of the death of Kurt Cobain. Postmortem examination has placed his final moments a few days prior, but it was on April 8th, 1994, that everyone fully grasped the extent of the Nirvana frontman’s inner struggles. Instantly, Cobain was anointed a musical martyr, a voice of a generation whose choice to take his own life meant that he exited this mortal coil in his creative prime, and therefore would be preserved as an idealized memory instead of sullying his reputation with erratic latter-day artistic detours or crass cash-in reunions. Even as the tragic news was first being digested, the sentiment that Cobain should be counted as one of the great icons of rock ‘n’ roll was in the air. Today it is accepted fact—he is one of those names and faces that a person charged with distilling the genre’s vast history into a ruthlessly abridged version would scan over and conclude, “This one, this one is worth remembering.”
I first came into contact with GWAR when I was about 13 years old. This would have been about 1993 when my friends and I somehow came across a copy of GWAR’s album America Must Be Destroyed in the only record store in the small town in Northern California where I grew up. This was the high era of grunge, and the music that we were listening to took itself very seriously. Like so many young kids, we looked to popular music for examples of the kinds of people we wanted to be. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Smashing Pumpkins suggested the possibility of channeling our feelings of awkward pre-teen alienation into something cool, or at least fashionable.
Lou Reed was one of those stranger-artists whose life, health, and death interested and affected me greatly. As I spent several years listening to pretty much nothing else but the Velvet Underground and, even more, Reed’s solo work (a duration of which a friend said to me, “God, that must’ve been depressing”), I’ve felt closer to Reed than perhaps any other artist, musical or otherwise. He just seemed to speak a language I wanted hear, simply and effectively.