The year the music died?

Pop music mourns its dead in shades of feeling and opportunism. The tone was set when Buddy Holly and two other rock and roll singers, Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson, died in a plane crash in 1959. A week later a Californian radio DJ called Tommy Dee had readied a tribute record, “Three Stars”, which sold a lot more than 1m copies. (Dee tried the very same when Patsy Cline and two other nation singers died in an additional plane crash in 1963, but the record flopped.)

Over the decades, with the expanding roll-contact of renowned deaths, commemoration has grow to be an market. Archive recordings are tricked out for posthumous release — this year witnessed the 60th Jimi Hendrix album to seem since his demise in 1970. Box-sets act as portable funerary monuments, a mini-necropolis for living-area shelves.

Amongst the most current is a 17-CD collection of Lou Reed’s solo albums, packaged in a tomblike black slab and remastered below Reed’s “direct individual supervision”. It was, intones the label, Sony Legacy Recordings, with grave emphasis, “his last project”.

This year’s crop of deaths has tested pop’s mourning capacity to the limit. It began with David Bowie dying in January at the age of 69. Then Prince, 57, followed 3 months later. Leonard Cohen, 82, died in November. Christmas brought news of George Michael’s death at 53. Each was a shock.

Cohen was frail, while Bowie turned out to have been gravely ill — but each released effective albums ahead of their deaths. The songs have been suffused with an awareness of mortality, yet they possessed a force that recommended that their makers have been somehow inextinguishable. Even though Prince’s current releases had been far more erratic in quality, he remained an apparently ageless live performer. Michael’s health was precarious but he reportedly planned generating new music in 2017.

The quartet’s deaths prompted familiar responses. There were makeshift shrines and impromptu wakes, like these at Graceland following Elvis Presley died in 1977 or at the Dakota Constructing following John Lennon’s murder in 1980. Tribute concerts were held, as they have been for other greats. At Freddie Mercury’s tribute show at Wembley Stadium in 1992, Bowie, who was at that point in the artistic doldrums — held up as the acme of the embarrassing middle-aged rock star — was mocked for falling melodramatically to his knees and reciting the Lord’s prayer.

Yet there was an edge to this year’s mourning. The felling of four key figures from numerous different eras of music gave the impression of an complete tradition under threat. “I know something is extremely incorrect,” Bowie sang on Blackstar, released two days ahead of he died, an album of dislocated, jazz-rock time signatures and topsy-turvy imagery. Our sense of loss at his death, the notion that we would by no means see his like once more, carried a new note of anxiousness. Why will we by no means see his like once again?

Tributes left for George Michael © Getty

Pop music is constantly altering. Unpredictable trends blow across its landscape like climate fronts. The audience is passionate but temporary most folks quit listening to new music in their late 20s. Bowie was a maestro at managing the alterations but the majority of performers are undone by them. Tommy Dee, Holly’s memorialist, is one particular of many thousands of one particular-hit wonders.

Endings loom massive. At the most basic level there is the unit of the song itself, an abbreviated knowledge lasting 3 minutes or so. The finish is often nigh, delivered by a dramatic final flourish of drums or a slow fade into silence. The life or death of the song depends on our willingness to play it again.

Revolving around the weekly battle in the charts, pop is defined by competition. Genres are set in opposition to each other, rivals contending for dominance. “Death to hippies” was punk’s slogan as it vied to kill off progressive rock. “You are now watching the greatest living rock star on the planet,” Kanye West announced throughout his headline set at Glastonbury in 2015, a harbinger of rap supremacy.

Rock and roll’s demise was imagined as early as 1957 when The Maddox Brothers and Rose, advertising themselves as “America’s most colourful hillbilly band”, released a single called “The Death of Rock and Roll”, a sardonic take on Elvis Presley’s “I Got a Woman”. In 1969, The Doors added their own stamp to the theme with a bluesy jam, “Rock Is Dead”, which ended with Jim Morrison announcing: “As long as I got breath, the death of rock is the death of me.”

Morrison died in 1971. That year Don McLean sang about “the day the music died” in his hit “American Pie”. The reference was not to the ill-fated Lizard King, identified dead in a Paris bathtub, but to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly. McLean viewed it as the juncture when US pop lost its innocence. Even in the peak year of 1971 — music writer David Hepworth argues in his most current book, 1971: Never ever a Dull Moment that it was rock’s high-water mark — even then the music could be portrayed as having lost its way.

Over the previous decade the threnodies have accelerated. Album sales have plummeted, with 2016 shaping up to be the worst-performing year in the US since sales have been first tracked in 1991. Digital streaming and internet platforms represent the largest change to listening habits since the advent of radio in the 1920s. Throughout this intense period of transformation, “death of rock” forecasts have been superseded by other extinction events: “death of the album”, “death of the charts”, even “death of the music industry”.

Insisting that pop is dead is generational hoarding, a belief that it ended when one’s personal interest waned

Amid the accumulation of morbid rhetoric, the deaths of Bowie, Prince, Cohen and Michael felt like a tipping point, the moment when a metaphor became real. Though from different generations and backgrounds, they occupied a equivalent musical climate, primarily based about a cluster of main record labels and a normal stream of revenue from recorded music sales. It was not an excellent planet: Prince and Michael spent much of the 1990s in furious disputes with their record labels. But it was stable. Absolutely everyone knew how it operated, even if they chafed against it.

These days have ended. Pop music now is a confusing tangle of diverse interests. Record labels are challenged by tech companies. The numbers of musicians and recordings develop even though revenues fall. PRS for Music, which collects royalties on behalf of UK songwriters, saw its membership rise from 70,000 in 2010 to 112,000 in 2015.

Uncertain of what lies ahead, it is natural to dwell on the death of what came just before. The mistake arises in assuming that pop music itself is dying.

Every single generation believes the music it grew up listening to is the very best. Condescension cuts both ways. For every traditionalist who abhors the computerised warbling of Auto-Tune, there is a current pop fan to whom anything made before 2010 is prehistoric.

But the dismissal is specifically ungenerous when directed by these who have stopped listening to new music towards those who do. Insisting that pop is dying or dead is a form of generational hoarding, a belief that it ended when one’s personal interest waned.

We will not see the likes of David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen or George Michael once more. The conditions that produced them have changed as well considerably. But the thought that pop is a historical quirk, lasting roughly 40 years from the mid-1950s, diminishes their legacy. They are less wonderful than we thought if the music stops with them.

Illustration by Sarah Hanson

Photograph: Getty Images

Listen to the FT’s new culture podcast

Introducing Almost everything Else, our new weekly podcast about culture in the broadest sense. Feel film not finance, style not stocks, and music not markets.

In the very first episode we tackle our age of narcissism and regardless of whether it’s genuinely so undesirable to take selfies (most likely not) plus “bad boy” theatre director Ivo van Hove reveals how his punk origins still inspire his operate.

The award-winning London poet, rapper and writer Kate Tempest talks in the second episode about the “beauty in rough lives” and what William Blake and the Wu-Tang Clan have in common.

Politics and culture in the age of anger dominates episode 3. The Indian author and essayist Pankaj Mishra visits the FT to go over how the seismic events of 2016 have revealed a planet in chaos later we hear from Njideka Akunyili Crosby, the artist exploring the myth of the “authentic African experience”.

The historian and FT contributing editor Simon Schama joins us in the studio to talk about all that was excellent (Hamilton the musical), poor (the unmasking of Elena Ferrante) and ugly (president-elect Donald Trump’s tweets) in 2016.

Every single new episode of Almost everything Else, which is presented by FT Weekend journalists John Sunyer and Griselda Murray Brown, is published on Thursdays in all the usual areas you discover podcasts, like iTunes, Stitcher and at From a desktop or laptop, you can also locate the show at Please get in touch to let us know what you consider of the podcast by emailing

Section: Arts

The Year Of The Re-Release Of Lil Wayne Leaks Continues

Thanks to Streetrunner, we’ve had the pleasure of reliving, in 2016, some of Lil Wayne’s legendary, career-altering mixtape run from the mid-2000s. The producer has been dropping mixed and mastered versions of some of Wayne’s gems from that era — which we only heard at the time by way of leaks — and pumping them with some new life.

The latest came on Thursday (June 30), with “Pray to the Lord,” exactly where Tunechi gets reflective about his life and contemplative about his mortality more than a stunningly soulful beat.

“This was 1 of the primary songs that produced me want to mix and master these old Wayne leaked tracks I developed,” the producer said on Soundcloud. “This classic had millions of views/ listens on the web and it was the worst attainable version any individual could ever hear of this song. Now I bring the fans the new crispy mixed and mastered version. Enjoy!”

If this does not make you go back to some of Weezy’s mixtape greats, then perhaps Streetrunner’s earlier mastered releases, like “Cry Out (Amen),” “Trouble,” and “Let’s Talk It Over.”

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Tig Notaro On Her Terrible Year In &#039I&#039m Just A Particular person&#039

I'm Just A Person

In 2012, Tig Notaro walked onto the stage at LA’s Largo Theater and said this: “Good evening hello, I have cancer, how are you? Hi, how are you? Is everyone obtaining a excellent time? I have cancer. How are you?”

Notaro was in the middle of 1 of the worst years of her life, dealing with critical illness, a breakup and the death of her mother.

And it should not have been funny, except that evening, it was. Tragically, heartbreakingly funny. It was the beginning of a riff that hasn’t stopped. And Notaro — as you can inform — did not die. She’s in remission, lately married and the author of a new memoir, I am Just A Particular person.

“Of course I was scared,” she tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers, “but it genuinely did attain a breaking point, and right just before I went on stage was — I don’t prepare as well considerably just before my shows, typically just before, when I’m showering is really when I’m pondering things via, and that is when I came up with that line … I believed it was the funniest line.”

Interview Highlights

On producing individuals laugh about what they worry

That show … I wasn’t trying to truly do something for the audience. I consider it was far more for myself, and I genuinely feel like, hunting back now, that I was probably asking for assist on some level. You know? I truly was astounded by how many folks had been touched and lifted by the efficiency. That was such a relief following placing that vulnerable set out there.

On her mother’s comfort with discomfort

She was extremely shocking. 1 of the examples I always use to give men and women an thought of who she was — she had been in a actually poor car accident years ago and broke every bone in her body, and was in a coma. And they had used these long, thin screws to straighten out her toes. And following she had the screws removed, she asked the physician if she could have them, and she used them for olives, to place in martinis. And so when she would have parties, folks would say, “Oh, Susie, this is so cool, what made you believe to use these screws?” And she stated, “Oh yeah, these had been in my toes following the accident.” … I’m a mellow version. She was extremely wild and funny.

On receiving married in her Mississippi hometown

We got married on the beach, and it was truly so touching to be walking via the neighborhood to my cousin’s house where the reception was, and having locals run out and cheer us on, saying, “This is so fantastic!” … All the regional establishments prepared food, and they were so beneficial, and there are just so numerous artistic, beautiful, talented, open-minded loving men and women that I hate the believed of them receiving grouped in to the others.

On whether or not happiness is the enemy of art

No, I consider it really is silly. Folks really like to make comedians out to be miserable, dark, twisted individuals. And I feel a lot of individuals struggle with depression and mental illness, and have troubles and difficulties with their family. The mailman has it, your neighbor has it, it’s just that comedians have a microphone. For me, I never connect with getting this dark particular person. I certainly have had dark moments, but I don’t want to be the anything comedian — whatever you want to call me, it really is your organization. But it really is not a selection I produced up in my head.

Arts &amp Life : NPR

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Wins Film Of The Year With A (Star)Killer Tribute

As if any other film in the galaxy could compete with Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Movie of the Year. Episode VII took residence the night’s prime prize at the 2016 MTV Film Awards, and franchise star, and Breakthrough Performance winner, Daisy Ridley and director J.J. Abrams were on hand to accept the Golden Popcorn for the cast and crew in the course of the Saturday night taping on the Warner Bros. backlot.

The duo, who left production on Star Wars: Episode VIII to attend the massive show (!), created very the entrance as they walked by way of a deconstructed recreation of the 1st Order’s Starkiller Base amid an audience holding hundreds of lightsabers.

“I gotta say, it was an outstanding honor to be element of the Star Wars saga,” Abrams stated, holding his popcorn proudly. Whereever this little guy was, he was freakin’ thrilled:

Relive Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams’ kiss and more of the most significant moments from 25 years of the Movie Awards:

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Watch the 2016 Movie Awards on Sunday, April 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.