Voices

by elmergantry

Ideal voices we have greatly loved,
of those that death has taken, or of those
that are, for us, lost, even as are the dead.

At times we hear them talking in our dreams;
at times in thought they echo through the brain.

And, with the sound of them, awhile recur
sounds from the first poetry of our lives, —
like music, on still nights, far off, that wanes.

Cavafy

Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!

Thomas Hardy

Losing a close family member recently (a parent, in fact) led me to think about how rock music in general has dealt with such subjects and with the complex web of grief, regrets, childhood memories and associations that goes with it. For much of my life, music has been a crucial therapeutic tool in crises situations and this has especially true in relation to the cluster of deaths which have occurred within my family circle in the past decade.

My personal view is that (unlike as is the case with classical, country or folk music) rock music – which began as a genre for young people – has tended to shy away from this area. There are some honourable exceptions to this rule which I will get to below. – most of which deal with the deaths of close contemporaries/friends rather than directly with the passing away of a close relative.

The first of these is Lou Reed’s classic cd, Magic and Loss, which I have played repeatedly in the immediate aftermath of the deaths of four family members in recent years. For me, the album is another indication of the acute insight, honesty and bravery, which were the hallmark of Reed’s musical career. A full concert performance of this masterpiece can be found here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c28TXKnCANw).

Like this particular song so much, I want it played at my own funeral:

The next honourable exception I would point to is Robert Forster’s fine album, The Evangelist. Written not long after the sudden and unexpected death of his songwriting partner, Grant McLennan, on it Forster writes in a far more personal and revealing way than he had done during his time with the great Australian band, The Go-Betweens. For me, the most moving song on the record, however, is this one:

More to follow…

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