DEATH IS A STRING DRIVEN THING

Orpheus strums and unwittingly ears are opened;
The musicians’ call is soon answered by whichever stars
Shine that day. On the turn of August 8th two men caught
In their eightieth year composed a chorus
From the Greek God’s air, both souls singing
Death’s sad refrain on that day.

Robbie Robertson of The Band and the equally mythic
Sixto Rodriquez, one who swam while stirring
The mainstream and one banked survivor, plucked
From the silt to shine on. Each at either ends of the scale,
The stave forming a ladder on which their achievements
Mastered lost moments within the magic encampment

Of song. Robertson, one part Mohawk, one part
American jewish, was a Canadian carny player,
As he later played in his film. Raised for the wild,
From the relative calm of his country; at 14 was playing
Early Rock n’ roll while drinks spilled from bar-room
With the Hawks to Madison Square Garden with Dylan,

To the Last Waltz and Scorsese, and the singers
Who shaped their own age. Robertson wrote most
Of The Band’s famous songs but was never heard to sing
Til the 80s with his eponymous solo debut had a voice
Like oil poured at night. Somewhere Down the Crazy River
Struck me in 1987, straight through to Storyville

And Sinematic, while Killers of the Flower Moon
His last soundtrack will once projected echo his breath
And lost light. People die all the time but for one such as I
This feels seismic. On the same day as Robbie and Sixto
We have lost Jamie Reid also, Punk and The Sex Pistols Portraitist.
The man who provided the prints which have preserved

The aesthetics of revolt and resistance. At least in Art
Truth is granted, for as these records spin ages twist.
So many things are now lost. For death is theft and voracious.
It is as if the orpheic song was now moving from plaintive
Strumming to fervent three chord thrash as it gathers up
Ghosts who can be summoned still from their objects,

Be they 7 inch covers or album, on vinyl each verse
Becomes lash on the fragile surface and skin of what we consider
As culture, and yet the ones who first founded are returning now
To the mix from which myth is made. We have lost Bowie,
Cohen and Lennon, Berry and Elvis before him,
Marvin Gaye, Little Richard, each one of them starring 

And directed in Death’s dimming flick. Those we have left
Must be prized, as once they’re gone we’ll have nothing,
But a fading age and a genre and a medium too, time can mar.
As the trend for vinyl slips likes Cds and song is squeezed
Into smartphones, or caught in the cloud where art’s angels
Are above and around, yet seem far.  As was Sixto Rodriguez

For years, with the cold fact of his worth chilled by distance,
Thought dead for decades, a suicide for success,
It took South African fans to save the Sugarman from the sour
As obscurity and an initial lack of sales staled and seasoned
All that was tasty, until the ketchup coated replacements
Made in each mouth its own mess. That mixture remains

To this day, but thankfully Sixto was savoured. His two albums
Lasting for more than fifty years still sound fresh. As if his turn
Of phrase, particularly in Cause, aids ascension,
For just as his ‘heart’s become a crooked hotel, full of rumours,’
The ‘rain drinks champagne’ and ‘the queen of hearts
Who is half a stone and likes to laugh alone’ in her leaving

Is allowing us all to confess. Rodriquez ran for District Mayor
And worked on building sites in his sixties. He had no television,
No luxuries and no phone. He evolved his own age in 22 songs
As he hid while raising a Lear’s worth of daughters.
He lived a real legend, from something forgotten
To something unearthed through time’s throne.

He was all we could ask, those who need to contribute
And make statements. He made another nation revere him.
And this he never knew, left alone. These are the lives
We have lost on the 8th and 9th of August. And so, I must ask
At what cost, separation. And shouldn’t we all now attone?
Not just for these and the other major figures we’ve lost,

For at the end of the day it’s just music.
And yet music is our myth and our shadow. 
It is mankind’s air inside air. 
As each strum sings out, silence pronounces. 
Which sound then shapes your soundtrack.
And which song sung shows your care.

A one day swathe sweeps the sweetness of a soulful croon
With the sour. The glare and the glory and the filth
And the fury now slide into the space between
What we once thought we knew and what we can now
Only imagine. For these servants of song the gong’s sounded.
But is chiming still. Hasten. Hide.

 

 

 

                                                                                      David Erdos 11/8/23

 

 

 

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