First of all, let me preface my little story by saying this is NOT about the musical rendition by the talented Billy Joel. This on the other hand, is a look into the fifties & sixties decades of music, and the tragic loss of lives that we were made aware of, through the various news media. But first, I should advise you of my reasoning for this subject matter, it is not without purpose in mind. Very soon, in the month of August to be exact, I will be memorializing the sixth anniversary of the loss of my son. The only consolation that we have, is knowing that before he died, he achieved the highest goal that he had established for himself, that of a "Lion Tamer". I kid you not, his job was actually training wild animals. He had worked with the likes of Bears; Russian Wolves; Timber Wolves; Lions; Tigers both Bengal and White varieties; Ligers (cross between a Lion/Tiger, less than ten known to exist world wide). He also worked with Albino Leopards also known "Black Panthers", of which he had his own, and raised it from a four week old kitten until it reached around two-hundred & seventy pounds. It is a sad time of year for us, and it never gets easy because of his age, and especially because parents are supposed to outlive their kids. So, being in a somber mood this week, knowing what is coming on the horizon, my thoughts wandered to all of the fine young musicians that also left us at a very young time of their lives.
One of the first that comes to mind, was that soulful, bluesy songstress with the honey-coated voice, Billie Holiday. I don't know why she comes to mind first, maybe because of the song that reaches out and wrenches my very soul at this time "God Bless The Child". Her anniversary is also on the cusp, July 17, 1959 when she died at the age 44 of heart trouble. Well that's not very young you might say, but in my mind anything younger that me is "young"! She led a difficult life, but captured the hearts of black and white music lovers world wide.
Then my thoughts go to the incomparable Buddy Holly, who along with Bill Haley led all of us into the era of Rock & Roll. An unfortunate choice was made on that cold snowy night, to take a small plane ride instead of driving to the next gig, because of a bad cold he was coming down with and thought he could catch up on some rest before the show. There was room for two more passengers, so Richie Vallens and J.P. Richardson (aka The Big Bopper) jumped at the chance, rather than spend the night travelling in a drafty old car. A fateful decision, that ended in a snowy cornfield shortly after take-off.
Then, came a series of car crashes, that left us with the loss of some wonderful (truly) young artists: first it was Eddie Cochran in April of 1960, while travelling to a an upcoming concert in London. He was a passenger in a taxi that was driving much too fast, and coming out of a train viaduct, skidded directly into a concrete lamp post. He succumbed shortly afterwards, from head injuries. Gene Vincent who was also a passenger, suffered only a broken collar bone. We will remember Eddie for his self penned "Summertime Blues", he was only twenty-two.
Next, came Jesse Belvin, of "Good Night My Love" fame, also known as "Mr. Easy" for his sweet, mellow voice that would usually be the LAST SONG played at any school or church dance on a Friday night. When you heard that song starting, you just knew that if you didn't get a girl to dance quickly, some other guy would beat you to the punch, and you would be left on the sidelines looking at your shoelaces. It was 1960, and Jesse was 27 years young, and being driven to an upcoming show, by a somewhat "questionable character" in a rented Cadillac. And I say "questionable" because Ray Charles had recently fired him for his "Heroin" use, and erratic driving. They were on a stretch of road in Faithope, Arkansas, when all of a sudden their Caddy swerved over the centerline, and crashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle. Keeping with the theme of "car Crashes", there was Johnny Horton, noted for that great little ditty "The Battle of New Orleans" who at the age of 33, was killed in a car crash on November 5, 1960.
In 1961, we were told of the tragic death of the outstanding 25 year old Soul Singer, Mr. Jackie Wilson. how can we forget the long list of wonderful hits he had, especially "Lonely Teardrops". I don't know the circumstances of his loss, only the fact that he had been shot by a woman who was said to be a "friend" of Jackie's. Who is to say just what happened, but my guess is that there may have been "another woman" involved?
With that, I will end my little soliloquy about the tragic waste of our most precious commodity, the lives of our youth. I could go on and on, throughout the 70's and 80's when we lost so many other wonderful people like Roy Orbison, and some great singers, but not so great people like Rick Nelson. So, I will leave it as it is, and please feel free to make comment and maybe add on to my little memorial to some of the greats of the music world. Maybe there is a favorite singer or musician of yours that I neglected to mention, so please take a moment and let me know who you think of when you hear the term: "He/she died way too young"