12
Oct
15

dead hippies

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I’m surprised it bothers me so much given my belief system, but I’m distressed that such a large number of the people I have been closest to have passed on before me. My wife, a girlfriend before her, my best friend from college—even a couple of girls who could have been more significant to me had circumstances been slightly different. Who could have predicted I would have survived them and they would be dust?

A few days ago I watched a film about the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival and reflected on how many of the performers at that show—kids then, really—are no longer with us. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding are famously dead, cut down in the prime of their youth. Both members of Hendrix’s band The Experience, “Mitch” Mitchell and Noel Redding, have since died. Joplin’s band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, has lost half its four members, Sam Andrew and James Gurley. Yet given enough time, the others who shared that stage will inevitably also become history.

One by one, three of the four Mamas and Papas have hit the dust. Cass Elliot died in 1974 (from a heart attack—not, as urban myth maintains, by choking on a ham sandwich), John Phillips died in 2001, and Denny Doherty died in 2007. Today only Michelle Phillips survives.

The Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar died in 2012. Of the original lineup of the Who, a four-member group, John Entwistle and Keith Moon are dead. Of the original five members of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan have died. Of the original six members of the Association, Larry Ramos and Brian Cole have died. Of the five members of the Byrds, “Gene” Clark and Michael Clarke are dead. Of the six members of Jefferson Airplane who appeared on the Monterey stage, Spencer Dryden has died. Of the original five members of the Animals, Chas Chandler is dead.

Admittedly, looking at the longevity of rock musicians (who live particularly fast-track lives) does not inspire confidence that life will go on forever. Thank god it won’t. I confess that some days I get tired of the constant struggle. I admit that sometimes I wonder if those who died young weren’t the lucky ones?

Aging, they say, is not for sissies. I read somewhere that people who have suffered losses of the people they have loved are twice as likely to die when compared to similarly-aged persons with no losses. Being a survivor wears you down, and the prospect of soldiering on only worsens as time proceeds.

This morning my home health care nurse told me her agency wants to cut back reimbursement to every-other-week visits. I don’t know if someone is maintaining the fiction that I am improving or if they are merely acknowledging that my health condition is relatively stable. Yet as long as this old hippie is able to pound out a blog post each day, I am satisfied to be patient before once again seeing my old lovers and friends.

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۞

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2 Responses to “dead hippies”


  1. 1 matt
    October 12, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Once young, and perhaps still young in our memories, the reality is that they would all be in their seventies now. Watching them pass one-by-one is often easier than watching them perform on public TV, yet either way it is a reminder of our own aging.

  2. October 12, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    Ah, yes, public TV: The Morgue of the Living Dead.


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