The Day the Music Died

December 3, 2010 | By | Add a Comment

I’ve been thinking a lot about dead people lately.  In particular, I’ve been thinking about stars who died young, the impact it had on their legacies and which ones I would want to bring back the most.  Here is a list of the top five musicians I wish had seen many more days.

Honorable Mentions:

Michael Jackson: I don’t have much to say about MJ that hasn’t already been written.  One of the most strangely fascinating people I’m aware of.

Karen Carpenter: Like Michael Jackson, another sad ending. She died at the age of 32 from complications due to her fight with a little known disease at the time named anorexia. She sang like an angel.

Jim Croce: Aside from songs about guys like  Slim and Leroy Brown, there is something about a rough looking man singing sad and sensitive songs that is very touching. It’s like he wasn’t singing words.  Rather, he was singing a chunk of his soul.  As a result, more than words came through.

5. Buddy Holly: Died in a plane crash at age 22. Despite only being well known for about a year before his death, he still managed to have a major influence on artists such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan. The song “The Day the Music Died” by Don McLean was about the plane crash that involved Holly. The song “Killing Me Softly” was born out of a reaction to a McLean concert. If you’re tracking, that is an amazing song inspired by another amazing song inspired by the death of Buddy Holly. That is the kind of impact he had.

4. Sam Cooke: In case you’re not familiar with Sam, he sang songs like “Wonderful World”, “Chain Gang”, “You Send Me” and “Bring it on Home to Me”.   Though only 33 at the time of his controversial death, his songs had the sound of someone full of years and experiences.  There was a purity to his voice that makes me wonder why he was never better known.  Just listen to the quality and depth of his vocals in this song for example.  Of all the Oldies singers, he was always my fave.

3. Keith Green: Like the title to one of his albums, this man did not believe in compromise.  He was passionate about finding the truth and then passionate about the truth he found.  He gave away his music for free and deflected the glory and fame he once so desperately longed for. He was outspoken, yet practiced what he preached. Not only did he open his home up to strangers, he purchased additional homes next to his for strangers to live in. I wonder how much he would have mellowed out over the years and whether his mellowing out would be a good or bad thing.  He was such a leader and so different from everybody.  I wish there was someone like him around now – not just for his music, but to help keep people like me in line. I have an incredible amount of respect for this man. There will never be another Keith Green.

2. John Denver: Something about John Denver’s music soothes my soul.  It is so simple, yet so very rich at the same time.  There is a warmth about his music that makes me content with what I have rather than pining away for what I don’t.  In short, his music helps me appreciate nature and slow down.  It also brings up a lot of nice memories.  Lastly, what an effortlessly wonderful voice. If he were a baseball player, he would have the swing of a Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark or Ken Griffey, Jr.  Smooth.

1. Rich Mullins: I could go on and on about why I love Rich Mullins.  Like Keith Green, he was ruthlessly honest and didn’t feel the need to follow the crowd.  Like John Denver, he helps me appreciate nature, but the praise he brings to the maker of all that beauty is what sets him apart.  He also has some of the most beautiful and poetic lyrics I have ever come across.  Take this opening lines in the following song about the color green for example:

And the Moon is a sliver of silver, like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter’s shop.

Though Rich died young, single and childless his life was the furthest thing from meaningless.  Even today, his music is a great blessing to those who know about this man.  He also happens to be the biggest influence on my favorite living artist – Mr. Andrew Peterson.  I venture to say that Peterson’s music would not be what it is without Rich Mullins.  Peterson cites the song “If I Stand” by Rich Mullins as a turning point in his spiritual life.  In turn, the music of Andrew Peterson has played a huge role in my life.  As Christ himself remarked, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” What a great scripture and what a wonderful thing it is to live a life that positively impacts many for generations to come.

How about you?  Who do you miss?

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