Despite ample evidence to the contrary, I still find it difficult to accept that a life spent creating music and becoming rich from it could ever feel pointless. Oh, believe me, I’m well aware that many celebrities are utterly miserable and self-destructive, despite seeming to have it all. It’s just that music is still as thrilling and meaningful to me as it was when I was an adolescent, both as a listener and as a creator. How could anyone talented enough to create beauty out of nothing but imagination fail to be rejuvenated by the healing waters of musical creativity? Perhaps asking that question indicates that I’ve only ever been splashing around in the shallow end, safe from the dangerous undercurrents out where the truly gifted swim. Or perhaps, to borrow religious terminology, salvation is purely a matter of grace, not works. Maybe talent and undying passion are just more false idols. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, and he became unlucky, and there’s no more reason to it than that.
Doubtless, subsequent reports and eventual biographies will fill in further details, and they will likely offer seemingly clear reasons for why a man with a happy marriage, three kids, and a successful musical career would kill himself. Goodness knows, even a brief reading of his lyrics over the years can plausibly seem, in hindsight, to suggest inevitability rather than impulsivity. Was it depression? A relapse into substance abuse? Some other kind of personal trauma that became overwhelming? Any name will do; any rhetorical candle to provide a comforting, explanatory glow against the inexplicable darkness.
It’s not quite survivor’s guilt, but the shock of something like this almost makes me suspicious, wanting to look closely behind and under all the things that provide so much meaning in life for any telltale hints of gathering shadows. What if love, music, books and writing all desert me one day? Asking that question reminds me how quickly powerless we can all become, even as we build our lives around the illusion of control. And so we tremble and comfort ourselves with ritual words and behaviors while waiting and praying for the periodic darkness to pass without something in it lingering and turning its gaze in our direction.