That’s why, when an idol from your youth shuffles off this mortal coil, our personal connection to them, whether real or imagined, and the art they produce, rises to the fore. “With music, especially, there is this feeling of intimacy, like our idols are talking to us personally — it's very personal to hear a voice,” Bonior explains. “That’s why podcasts are so popular. You feel like you actually know the human being, even if you don't. Music takes that one step further because you're actually having an emotional reaction to the way that the music moves you, as well. Perhaps their lyrics are very poetic, and you feel like they're speaking the same language as you, and that they understand you in a way. It speaks to the power of music but also speaks to the power of the personality of artists who find a way to express something so profound that truly connects with people.”
Bonior says there’s no sense in feeling bad about feeling bad because your feelings of grief, even if you never met the artist, are, in fact, valid. “Sometimes, people might say that it’s silly or frivolous (to grieve an idol who passed). That sentiment ignores the fact that part of the power of musicians, and artists, and actors, and poets, and writers, and comedians, is that they do have an impact on a large swath of people and it is a personal impact,” Bonior said. “If their music touched us and became an indelible part of our youth, that does matter. If we’re grieving, that’s still real. We care because we all absorb our culture. When we care for an artist and their music speaks to us, that makes up part of our emotional lives.”
But am I really mourning Ric? Or am I grieving for my youth? “Both!” says Bonior. “We’re all aging at the same rate. As it's dark as this is, we’re all moving toward death in equal seconds, minutes and hours, and I think when we see the fact that death can take somebody who seems to supersede that and be timeless, it's even scarier. It also reminds us that the 80s really were a long time ago. Our youth is gone and just seeing these folks struggle with health problems due to their age, recognizing the fact that it was 40 years ago when they were first on the scene, it’s very startling. It’s a reality check when otherwise you’ve been able to ignore the passage of time.”
We can kind of delude ourselves that time really hasn’t moved forward, then when our cultural icons are in poor health or pass away, it's a reality check with the passage of time.
ANDREA BONIOR, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST
As for me, an ersatz musician, former music biz person and major nerd fan, The Cars came into my life at a pivotal time (the tween-to-teen years), when my taste in music was taking shape. Bostonians tend to puff with pride over the bands, actors, personalities and sports figures they produce, so a mark of their first album’s success was that it often blared during middle school gym class a couple of years after it came out, singeing each note and nuance of every song onto my brain. Eventually, I would find myself in closer proximity to the actual Cars during a music department internship in Boston’s cornerstone rock radio station. The past few days have found me regurgitating my adoration via a virtual caucus with my (largely Bostonian) music nerd brethren, as we reach out to share our grief from the depths of our Cars rabbit holes.
I guess the consolation of losing our idols can be found in how we reach out to console each other, even if through fleeting Facebook posts, in a self-fashioned virtual shiva. It’s always nice to know you’re not aging alone.
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