I am older than a lot of famous dead guys.
May 12, 2011. Unless I’m mistaken, today in my friend, Charles’ 47th birthday. Charles and I have been friends since 1974, when I was starting elementary school, although we haven’t hung out in over thirty years. Happy Birthday, Charles! I remember your 12th birthday at COS.
Summertime has always meant birthday season to me. My sister’s birthday is at the end of May. My mom, grandfather, cousin and brother all have June birthdays. My birthday is in July. My dad, my son, and aunt all have August birthdays.
There are other birthdays scattered throughout the year, of course. My daughter is a Christmas baby. October had been a big birthday month for me. There have been October birthdays that have been important to me, over the years. Among others, my grandmother and John Lennon have October birthdays.
I woke up this morning with the song, “That’s alright, Mama”–Elvis’ first big hit from 1955 or 1956–going through my head. That’s what started me thinking about birthdays.
See, I just did some math–I hope I counted leap years and everything right. As of May 12, 2011, I have lived 42 years 326 days. Elvis Presley lived a grand total of 42 years 301 days.
Damn! Now there is a little perspective for you. “…too much. A little too much fu*king perspective.” — David St. Hubbins, Spinal Tap
It has been brought to my attention that I am in a lot better condition in my early 40s than Elvis was. Even with the occasional drinking jags, and the bouts with the blues, I am still doing better than Elvis Presley was when he was approaching birthday forty-three. John Lennon had been dead nearly three years on his forty-third birthday. I’d say I’m in a hell of a lot better condition than both of those guys.
I am older than a lot of famous dead guys–the 27 club
I have to laugh–sometimes so I don’t cry–when I think about the Twenty-Seven Club. These poor, dumb, dead kids. I raise my coffee this morning to Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and all the others who succumbed to excess so long ago, at the age of twenty-seven. It is kind of a bad joke, but I have been known to say that by this time, the Twenty-Seven Club had been gone for nearly sixteen years when they were my age.
Robert Johnson drank whiskey laced with strychnine at a country crossroads near Greenwood, Mississippi. Details are sketchy, and there are a number of accounts and theories. According to legend, when Johnson was offered an open bottle of whiskey, his friend and fellow blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson knocked it out of his hand, and told him that he should never drink from an open bottle. Johnson allegedly said, “Don’t ever knock a bottle out of my hand”. Soon after, he was offered another open bottle and accepted it. That bottle was laced with strychnine. Johnson is reported to have started to feel ill throughout the evening and had to be helped back to his room in the early morning hours. Over the next three days, his condition steadily worsened and witnesses reported that he died in a convulsive state of severe pain—symptoms which are consistent with strychnine poisoning. Shortly thereafter, Robert Johnson was dead.
Jim Morrison was found dead in the bathtub of his Paris apartment. Under French law, no autopsy was performed because the medical examiner claimed to have found no evidence of foul play. The cause of death was officially listed as “heart failure”, but heroin use was probably involved, possibly inhaled because he thought it was cocaine.
Jimi Hendrix died in a London hotel room under circumstances which have never been fully explained. According to the doctor who initially attended to him, Hendrix asphyxiated–literally drowned–in his own vomit, mainly red wine. Authorities can only assume that it was Jimi’s own vomit he choked on, because as many of us know, you can’t really dust for vomit.
Brian Jones drowned in the swimming pool of his home in Hartfield, Sussex, England. After a second arrest for marijuana possession, sporadic contributions to the Rolling Stones–which he co-formed–substance abuse and mood swings, Jones was pretty much kicked out of the band and was told by the other members of the band that a new guitarist would be added to the lineup, and that a tour of the US would go ahead without him. Which was okay, because by that time, Brian Jones was already dead.
Kurdt Cobain blew his own head off at age 27. Even after the success of his band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain was still as screwed up in the head as ever. Money and fame don’t buy happiness. In the last years of his life, he struggled with drug addiction and media pressures. Following a meeting with friends and record company executives, arranged by his wife Courtney Love, Cobain had agreed to undergo a detox program, but left the facility the day after arriving. On 8 April, Cobain’s body was discovered at his Lake Washington home by an electrician who had arrived to install a security system.
Janis Joplin died in a Los Angeles motel room of a heroin overdose, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol. She had recently become engaged, and was involved in recording her band’s album Pearl. The song “Mercedes Benz” on the album was the last thing she recorded.
How about all the others who died young? It’s not really fair, is it?
I am older than a lot of famous dead guys–I’m still getting older
I wrote this piece a couple of months ago. My 43rd birthday is right around the damned corner. I’m one of the lucky ones. I am older than a lot of famous dead guys.