Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fly On, Little Wing

The other night, as I sat watching Pearl Jam Twenty yet again, Masuka sent me a text that delivered his intended effect - it got me riled up and ready for a music debate.

He knows me so well.

This is his first message (in yellow, of course):

He had been watching a Kurt Cobain documentary while I'd been watching my Pearl Jam / early 90's grunge doc. So we both had our minds on music, rockstars & legends. Just very different trains of thought.

I won't post our debate here, but I thought it would be worth a mention -  I want to know what the general consensus is.

I realize that hardcore Kurt Cobain fans do feel that he is the last rockstar, but I will always disagree. I mentioned that the timing of his death, in the middle of his success, has a lot to do with how those affected by his passing perceived him. It didn't hinder his "legend" status, it helped it. That often happens with musicians who die.(Which is why "it's better to burn out than to fade away".) And Kurt affected a generation of music fans. But that doesn't mean he's the last rockstar - and keep in mind that this is coming from a fan.

Throwing my own logic back in my face, Masuka asked if that meant other dead musicians were automatically legends. In some cases yes, and in some cases no.

While The 27 Club (all of the musicians who died at the age of 27) did include many legends, their deaths didn't mean that was the case for all of them. Only some.

Then he asked about Jimi Hendrix.

In an effort to further push me into a music fight, he seemed to disagree that Hendrix was a legend. Which, of course, led to expletives and angrily-typed paragraphs on my end. The damn nerve.

But our discussion is worth getting into, at least for me - what makes a musician a rockstar?

And what makes them a legend?

In PJ Twenty, Chris Cornell says "it wasn't later when people surmised that Kurt blowing his head off was the end of the innocence... it didn't, it was that... it was walking into that room". He's taking about walking into the room where Andy Wood was dying. 

Andy was the front man for Mother Love Bone - he died of a heroin overdose in 1990. He was definitely a rockstar, and in death his peers considered him a legend. But I'm betting most of you reading this don't know who he is - so does that mean he's not? It seems to all be relative; personal opinion.

I'm going to use another example from the movie, since it's fresh in my mind (and comes from another Chris Cornell quote). They're talking about Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready and his guitar prowess, and Cornell, explaining how impressed he was, says "this guy is a rockstar". And though he's overshadowed by Eddie's frontman popularity, McCready's skills alone would make him a rockstar to his fans. 

So what would make him a legend?

In my opinion, rockstars become legends - or at least they have the opportunity to. It's about longevity, talent, and some intangible, fantastic element that connects them to an audience long after they've played, and then long after they're gone.

My list of rockstars is endless. Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, Thom Yorke, Maynard, Layne Staley, Tom Petty, Mike Patton, Tom Morello, Chris Cornell & Kim Thayil. I could happily go on all day. I've even had a few rockstars in my personal life.

And legends? Well, for me that's Page, Plant & the rest of Zeppelin. Stevie Nicks. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Bowie. Leonard Cohen. Neil Young. Clapton. Roger Waters & David Gilmour. Yet another endless list. All the artists who got me stuck on them, and then stuck with me.

I can see already that a few from my rockstar list will make that jump to legend. It's only a matter of time.

But for the sake of argument, I want to know.... what's a rockstar to you?

And what do you think makes a legend?


Kurtys said...

A legend is a rock star who changed the game in some way. Someone who re-invented the wheel, who made us see something from a completely new perspective, someone who knocked collective humanity on its ass. A legend not only made music, wrote songs, played virtuosic but also made things different for everyone who came after.

Kris Goetz said...

That's a good description. What about a rockstar?

Kurtys said...

Rock star is someone talented and brash who has the nuts to stand up in front if the world and say:"Look at me!" In the loudest voice possible. Love them, hate them, it's all the same, but you will never, ever forget their name...

Byron Gordon said...

And that's why Jimi Hendrix is a legend.

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