Bowie and Prince: On Celebrity Deaths and Crying

What the hell is going on, 2016? It’s only April, only 4 months into the year, and already we’ve lost at least 5 brilliant celebrity artists, and way before their time. In January alone, in the space of 8 DAYS, we lost David Bowie, Alan Rickman (heartbreaking), and Glenn Frey (of the Eagles). I feel like my childhood is dying. What the hell is happening?

And yet, as much as I’m upset and I don’t understand, I haven’t really cried. I hate to say this, but part of me doesn’t really get what all the fuss is about. Well, no, that’s putting it much too simply. I don’t mean it that way. And I’m not sure whether I should even write about this, because I’ll probably come off as a mean, indifferent, unfeeling, terrible person. I’m not. I’m very compassionate. (At least, I think these statements are true. I feel that it’s up to other people to define these things for us.) I just haven’t felt as passionately about these deaths as others have, I guess.

Of course social networks are abuzz about Prince’s death, the most recent one. And it is definitely very shocking and upsetting. I really don’t understand what could have happened, especially with him being so young. I certainly love his music, though I’m not a huge fan, and clearly not as big a fan as others. I’ve heard about people breaking down and crying, completely losing their composure, when they heard the news. Folks did that with David Bowie too. As sad and frustrated as I am, I haven’t felt so much sorrow that I would react that way.

What’s most upsetting to me about Prince’s death is how it happened. Why? I think if we don’t know of a specific reason, like cancer (as with Bowie and Rickman, for example), we all jump to a conclusion of drug overdose. I don’t know if that’s the case with Prince; I doubt it, but they haven’t ruled it out. (If it were, I suspect it was completely accidental, from pain killers or something like that.) But I think an overdose is at least something specific and tangible we can put our fingers on, instead of just random, unexplained death for no apparent reason–which is what we seem to be faced with now.

Maybe I just react to things differently. My husband will often cry, or at least get teary-eyed, while watching certain television shows, but I won’t. I may feel sad, but I rarely cry (except for something amazingly horrifying, like Will’s shocking fate on The Good Wife). Maybe it’s not real enough to me, because I’m not personally related to it. Perhaps I’m just not as big a fan of these artists, which is fairly true. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Bowie and Prince changed and defined music in game-changing ways, and I admire them and their music greatly. But I haven’t really been aware of their latest creations, and their musical oeuvres, that I know of, were many years ago. That doesn’t matter much, I still appreciate what they’ve done for music history, and as I said, I feel like my childhood is dying. But to completely lose my shit over it? I don’t quite feel that.

And I feel a bit guilty for not feeling more. It’s a vicious cycle.

Question is, I’m having trouble thinking of an artist now who I might feel that way about. Which artists shaped my childhood in such a way that I would be so grief-stricken over their deaths? Stephen Sondheim sort of leaps to mind, but his oeuvre is more from past years too, and he’s already in his mid-80s, so it wouldn’t feel quite as shocking for his passing too young. Don’t get me wrong, 80s is still fairly young (and my Dad is the same age and I’m not ready for him to go anywhere), but hopefully you understand what I mean.

Perhaps Madonna or Billy Joel would have more of an impact on me, but it’s hard to know how I would react until the time comes. Right now, while I’d certainly be very, very sad, I’m not sure if I’d completely lose myself like that. I don’t know. And I’d rather not find out.

Doctor Who Cry - No Words - Celebrity Deaths

I think I was slightly more upset about Heath Ledger’s passing. For one, he was so young, only 28 years old. He was also right in the prime of his career; he had done some truly amazing work, and was poised and ready for a lot more. It was totally unforeseen, and the world expected so much more from him. His death was so tragic, and such a waste. It’s completely unfair. That’s part of the problem now too: we all feel that we and the artists deserve so much more that it’s just unfair. But I don’t think I cried even then.

Perhaps I’m just too angry and confused to feel sorrow. Maybe there’s been too much horrible stuff these days (and it’s getting worse) that I’m getting desensitized, forcing myself to shut down. Maybe it’s hard for me to cry. I definitely have trouble with it sometimes, which is why Titanic is so important to me.

Perhaps I’m “just like my father, too bold.” I didn’t set out to quote Prince, so maybe that shows how much more his music meant to me than I realize. But I am serious about maybe being like my father: I remember when 9/11 happened, I was in Washington DC and he was in New York, the two cities directly affected by the tragedy. When I finally got through to them on the phone to make sure they were all right, he said, “Of course we are. That has nothing to do with us.”

While that was true, he and my mother were at their house in Queens, nowhere near the World Trade Center, it still sounded very unfeeling and way too matter of fact for my taste. I was a bit shocked. Again, I feel badly writing this, because he is a very caring person. I think perhaps he’s concerned about going too far the other way, and coming off as “hysterical” or something. (But that gets into a much deeper discussion about gender roles and emotions, blah blah blah. Another time.)

These deaths are terribly, horribly, sad, and I don’t like it one bit. And I don’t mean to diminish anyone else’s feelings. Everyone is entitled to their feelings and their reactions (myself included); they’re all valid, and neither I nor anyone else has any right to comment on what anyone else is feeling. If anything, I wish I could react the way others have. I just don’t quite feel it.

Though I definitely feel like we’re all a bit on eggshells now, wondering when, and who, the next big celebrity death will be. Way to set a precedent, 2016. Stop sucking now, please.

How about you, dear readers? How are you reacting to all these terrible, shocking deaths? Am I a cold, heartless person for saying this, or am I not alone? I hope I’m not alone. My heart is with you all, however you choose to grieve.

2 thoughts on “Bowie and Prince: On Celebrity Deaths and Crying

  1. Well, there’s at least one celebrity in our life that you cried over when he died: our cat Tiger. I think personal connection has everything to do with how/how much we grieve.

    • Yes, I thought about mentioning that too. 🙁 I think even with Tiger, I sort of expected to be sadder. Maybe it’s all the perception.

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