Posted by: turtlebella | 7 December 2006

They were all my friends and they died

In December 1980 my musical knowledge was limited to children’s songs, classical music, and Mexican folk/mariachi songs.* So, unlike my friend, the Needlewoman, I hadn’t even heard of John Lennon, much less that he died.

But since high school, I’ve dug myself a little niche of music that I like. Singer/songwriters. Folky types. Alt-country groups. Old-fashioned country singers. And some of them have died. Leaving a hole in my heart. Whenever I hear one of their songs on the radio or come across one of their CDs I feel a kind of heaviness. I’ve never met them or even seen them in concert. And yet I feel a kind of grief that they are no longer somewhere, maybe singing that song I love or writing new ones.

And because I essentially like to share all feelings that I have, good and bad, I thought I would share my grief with you, blog-dom. But also share my happiness that these people were here at all and made music that I love.

David Carter – hearing one of his songs, as part of David Carter and Tracey Grammar, is what made me think of writing this post. Sorta folky, definitely in the “singer/songwriter” category – which seems to be that category for people who write and sing their own songs but can’t be otherwise categorized. Great lyrics.  Mystical sometimes.  But also goofy. Some of his tunes were incredibly catchy – you could find me singing along (thank god there were only bees to hear me!) to them, dancing in place in the middle of a field in Portugal, whilst supposedly doing field work.  And the song I link above? About evolution. How much better can it get, really?! He died, at the age of49, on July 19, 2002 from a massive heart attack, just after returning from an early morning run.**

Kirsty MacColl – gigglygirl is probably sick of me talking about Kirsty.  She was a British folk pop singer/songwriter.  She did some wonderful work with one of my all-time favorites (still alive!), Billy Bragg.  One of my favorite of her songs is called “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis” – I mean, c’mon, that’s some kind of poetry. And it’s got a country vibe going, always a plus in my book.  She was devastatingly witty and sometimes depressed.  She recorded the in-my-book classic “Fairytale of New York” with the Pogues (none of clips I could find feature Kirsty’s part even thought the song was written to be a duet with her. grrrr).  A Christmas must for the cynical and bitter and even the relatively happy people.  I’m going to want to sing along to this with my future children.  Near the end of her life she worked with Cuban musicians, sang some in Spanish and Portuguese (Tropical Brainstorm).  She died 18 December 2000, when, as she was surfacing from a scuba dive, a speedboat which had entered a restricted zone ran her over. She saw the boat coming and pushed her son out of its path.

Johnny Cash.  There’s not a whole lot I can say that is a fitting tribute to The Man in Black. He stood up and for the little guy, the marginalized, the convict, the oppressed. He struggled. He loved. He sang songs that will never leave my heart and my head. He staged amazing comebacks, introducing himself to whole new generations of people.  The songs that he performed – even songs written by other people – seemed to be made for him alone.  He said, “Hello. My name is Johnny Cash.” Almost everyone of his songs is “my favorite Johnny Cash song.”  He brought me June Carter Cash, who I mourn almost as much as I morn him.  June died 15 May 2003 from complications after heart surgery. I knew Johnny wasn’t long for this world after that, and, indeed he died four months later 13 Septmeber 2003 of respiratory failure.  But as far as I am concerned he died of a broken heart.

PS- extra points if you catch the allusion in my title.

*In fact, on 8 December1980 I was singing one of those songs, Las Mañanitas, because Dec 8 is Bear’s birthday. And we always serenade birthday boys/girls on their birthday. Really early in the morning. We are supposed to wake them up. Not that we sounded like we were singing Las Mañanitas, aside from the words, because no one in our family has ANY ability to carry a tune. It was, and continues to be a truly horrible auditacle (that’s my word for the audio version of spectacle). We had a record of Pedro Infante singing it, but this did not help us sing it better and for some reason we felt impelled to out-sing him. Sad, really. And just really, really sad.

**Further convincing me that running is bad for your health. (Unless someone is chasing you.)


  1. All the people who died, died,
    All the people who died, died.
    They were all my friends
    and they died.

    I love Kirsty MacColl, and Billy Bragg, too.

  2. I had the privilege of attending a requiem mass for Johnny Cash on the 1st anniversary of his death (Roseanne Cash is a member of the church in NYC where I did my field placement in seminary). Roseanne’s singing and tribute to her dad were awesome.

    And I do remember the day John Lennon died.

  3. i just rented Tupac Reserection and wow. He was only 25! There was film of his teenage years when he was a 17-year-old activist–he was very smart and destined for much better things. I think he was just playing the rapper part to get the youth’s attention before he slapped them with a revolutionary message. Have you seen it? even if you are not a fan, it is still a great film.

    I was born just aften Lennon passed on. :( i know, i’m a baby.

    I remember when Elliot Smith died…

  4. Ohh, Elliot Smith! That’s a good one, luisa. I’ll have to check out the Tupac film. I didn’t know he was an activist…very sad.

    Memorial for Johnny Cash sounds great, I really like Roseanne Cash a lot. Her son went (goes?) to the same school a friend of mine’s son used to go to. I enjoyed that I was only a couple degrees separation from her and then one more to Johnny and June…

    Phantom got it right! Why does that song get stuck in my head really easily? It’s not like it’s cheery or anything…

  5. I’ll have to check out Kirsty MacColl; she sounds lovely.

    Some of my favorite June Carter Cash is on the old Nittty Gritty Dirt Band recordings. And I also miss Earl Scruggs, and Merle Watson.

  6. Oh, I looooooove Johnny Cash. Love him. The video of “Hurt” makes me want to cry. My dad used to play “Ring of Fire” when I was a little kid. I totally agree that he died of a broken heart.

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