Adieu, 2016. Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya, as they say in these parts.
I wanted to write a post about all the influential celebrities, public figures and other notables that the world has lost this year, but my thoughts aren’t really coherent. There are so many angles that I could take, but honestly, so many other articles and think pieces are out there doing it first and better (this one in particular that a friend sent me on George Michael spoke volumes to me, and I just loved it. Take a minute to read it. It’s good).
So I’m not going to attempt to eulogize Bowie or Michael or Rickman or Fisher, or to draw parallels between the many artists and creative minds we’ve lost. Though I have to admit, if there ever could be a plus side to a beloved celebrity passing away, it’s that everyone flocks to their work with fresh eyes, revisiting and dissecting their contributions, looking at them from a new place, falling in love with them all over again. If anything good could come of losing someone like David Bowie or Leonard Cohen, it is that. Mourning can lead to a renewal of love, a new appreciation. Discovery. In death, a rebirth.
I was listening to George Michael in the car today – ‘Freedom ’90’ on repeat – because that’s a damn good song and I don’t need any excuse to belt it out at top volume (sorry to my passengers). Just before the song segues into the chorus at the second verse, I realized the lyrics I’d memorized decades ago contain an interesting line:
I think there’s something you should know.
I think it’s time I told you so.
There’s something deep inside of me.
There’s someone else I’ve got to be.
Take back your picture in a frame.
Take back your singing in the rain.
I just hope you understand.
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man.
My grin burst out of me, y’all. Because life is so full of serendipity. George just died on Christmas. Days later, Carrie Fisher. And the day after, her poor Mother succumbed to what was essentially a broken heart. Beloved Debbie Reynolds, made famous as the first “America’s Sweetheart” in a movie called, yep, Singin’ in the Rain. No doubt that George line is a reference to that film (a quick Google search just confirmed it). Just a coincidence, surely, but when you start watching those viral videos of George Michael rehearsing a Queen song back in the early ’90s, who is that standing in the back, cheering him on? None other than David Bowie, who also died this year. Rogue One is currently in theaters, the latest Star Wars installment, and whose indomitable spirit cloaks that entire movie? Princess Leia, played by none other than Carrie Fisher.
Those little mysteries of life, the way that people are connected and interwoven, how their art intersects and merges, even in death – I find that magical. I find that comforting. And while it’s all mere coincidence, it is those little quirky sparks that light the fire in an artist’s belly.
I’ve heard a few people going around naysaying these past few weeks, seeking to remind us all that there are more important things going on in the world, that thousands of people die every day and only a small fraction of them are celebrities. That we need to get our priorities in order and stop grieving over people we don’t know.
To that I say, bah. To love a musician or dancer or painter or author, to mourn their death, to honor their life, does not mean that you care less about anything else. It doesn’t mean you’re shallow or wrapped in frivolity. What are we, if not made up of the things we love? When we mourn the loss of an artist, we mourn who they awoke in ourselves. We mourn the music, the writing, the art that shaped us, made us cry, made us shriek with joy, made us wail, made us think, made us angry. We mourn our own learning. We mourn our own becoming. There is nothing wrong with that. Don’t let anyone trivialize the things you love, or tell you how to love them.
So as I get ready to close this year out tomorrow (with more than one beverage, I assure you), I’ll be toasting those artists who moved me, inspired me, and shaped me into who I am today. The quaint, southern introspection of Harper Lee, the childlike mirth of Gene Wilder, the soulful gravel of Leonard Cohen, the brass balls of Carrie Fisher, the wholesome temerity of Debbie Reynolds, the unapologetic, drenched in purple, stark sexiness of Prince, the brooding, mocking intensity of Alan Rickman, the tough-and-yet-vulnerable crooning of George Michael, the other-worldly sex and sage of my very favorite artist of all time, one orange tinted, androgynous alien David Bowie. And so many others. I’m an artist who is grateful for artists.
Time is a construct and it’s all in our heads, but as an artist, and a fan – one who has seen more than my share of creative minds, icons and legends leave this earth this year – I say a hearty “fuck off” to 2016. Goodbye to the Dumpster Fire to end all Dumpster Fires. Onward to next year, where I’ll continue living, loving and creating unapologetically, to honor those who came before.
(And if David Bowie really is colonizing Mars with super creative empaths, I’ll be the first one to buy a ticket to that space shuttle).