I’d planned to write about something else, even composed it in my head instead of falling asleep right away last night, but something in my newsfeed today stopped me cold.
In music news was a passing reference to the artist Chris Cornell, whose song ‘Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart’ is one of my more recent favorites. As I read the article which actually focused on new work his daughter has done, it became clear that Chris Cornell killed himself two years ago. It had completely escaped me at the time.
I hadn’t purchased and downloaded ‘Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart’ much before that, and it remained in my ‘currents’ list for a good year-plus. So, while I was lounging on my deck digging that song, grilling cheeseburgers and drinking scotch, the artist I was enjoying was hanging himself in a Detroit hotel bathroom. I find poignance in that on a dozen levels.
I was reminded immediately of another musician named Patty Donahue, lead singer of a post-punk band called ‘The Waitresses’. They had a hit called ‘I Know What Boys Like’, but the song that had the greatest influence on me was ‘Luxury’, a song all about travel and serendipitous adventure; that song got me through Peace Corps. “Here I’ve got nothing and nothing is nothing is luxury”. It’s still one of my all-time favorites. And while I was basking the joy of my newborn son and on the upward swing of a stint in public service and still blasting ‘Luxury’ over headphones on a typical Friday night, Patty Donahue was dying of lung cancer. I didn’t know that for about 10 years.
Granted, Cornell had fought with depression and alcoholism all his life. Donahue had chain smoked cigarettes like a charcoal factory. Each produced work that influence a generation, at least. I can only pray my work has the most remote impact theirs did. One couldn’t make it past 52 without giving up on life, and the other couldn’t survive past 40 before life game up on her. And I sit here, contentedly cranking out photo art in my air-conditioned studio, surrounded by puppies and family, driving my son to work every day through my quiet and peaceful small city, anticipating another movie night. Poignance.
Oh, I’ve had my own heath issues (including one in the last month I may or may not get into at some point), I’ve had my share of disappointments, and I never did get to own that sports car I wanted, but, hey, I’m not in (that much) pain, any stress I feel is self-generated, I’ve got plenty to eat, hot and cold running water and cable TV. But my contentment is built at least partly on artists whose lives ran out in great pain.
And I’d nearly forgotten my broken heart.
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Please enjoy these links to these great songs:
‘Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart’ by Chris Cornell
'Luxury' by The Waitresses, Patty Donahue lead singer
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.