This was written some time ago but not posted. After Prince and the Beastie Boys’ John Berry died, I was reminded of this post and thought to finally share it.
I’ll admit I didn’t know who it was when I saw the news about Scott Weyland. The name was familiar but I didn’t attach it to the sound I remember so clearly.
Stone Temple Pilots is a mainstay on my iTunes. They’re on my running play list. They create the fabric of sound in my very best memories. And he’s part of that. Forever.
And knowing he is dead I get that River Phoenix feeling. He was one of us, as Natalie Merchant sang. His death showed us how vulnerable we really are.
And Scott Weyland’s death is the same kind of reminder. Someone whose voice is so familiar it’s as if it were our own. Whose struggles mirrored our own. He’s a metaphor for our own lives. Anger and distrust. Exploration and boundary-pushing. A reluctance to grow up. More anger at the requirements of adulthood. A denial that adulthood is really where we live.
And addiction. Softening the impact of life on our psyche.
We all have vices. We all have ways of coping.
The loss and pain of it, crime and the shame of it. No way to save him from himself. Or us from ourselves.
We hear their voices, those who came before us. The ones who sacrificed themselves for us again and again in song and lyrics.
I have that River Phoenix feeling. The sense that we’re not immortal. And though I knew it all along, it’s a reminder that we suffer and some of us die sooner than others.
We’re not unique in this experience. The Boomers lost Hendrix and Belushi and Joplin. And we lost Cobain and Farley and Brittany Murphy and Heath Ledger. We can probably claim Philip Seymour Hoffman, too. Celebrities die just like everyone else. There is no life eternal and the frailty of the human experience is a reality for us all.
I’m not sure we’ve sought everlasting life. Not with our contributions to the casualties of war, our affinity for thrill-seeking, or our emphasis on appreciating the here-and-now. The Millennials call it YOLO (you only live once) but we never needed clever monikers. We simply saw it as the only chance we’d get to do whatever it is we planned to do.
One chance to be a rock star.
One chance to jump from a plane.
One chance for graduate school.
One chance to backpack across Europe living in youth hostels and going days between showers.
One chance to start my own company.
Before we started calling everything historic (thanks, Baby Boomers and Millennials for contextualizing everything as it happens), we thought of everything as arbitrary.
I think we still believe in the arbitrariness of it all.
And Weyland is further evidence of that. Why, in all those other times did he not find the right mix to end it? Why this time?
And how, after so long, did that bright light burn out?
We continue to lose the best among us to war, disease, addiction, and violence. And those of us who remain are left to wonder how we’ll manage to see life the way we did when they were interpreting it for us.