Kurt Cobain mentioned this Neil Young lyric in his suicide note, which really shook up the music world in a number of ways. I mean his death in general impacted not just a generation of music fans and fellow musicians, it shook up the entire industry, it shook up entire schools of musical thought. But all the same, it cemented the truth of Neil Young’s lyrics. What does music mean to you, or to anyone? What does making music do for us? It’s just like what writing does for people like us, here at the bottom of the bottle. Neil Young’s lyric will always ring true for so many of us. Nobody wants to fade away. I mean, I don’t really think anyone wants to literally burn out, right? But nobody wants to fade, people want to remembered for something for anything. People want to make a lasting impact or deliver a lasting contribution to this world that we were thrown into, and not by choice. Nobody chooses the life they initially start with, but we do have at least some choice in the life we end up with.
I recently learned of the passing of a friend of mine. I wouldn’t say we were close, but I’d say he did always leave an impression on me. He always lived the way he chose to, and some of those choices, at a very human level, were certainly not great choices, just like all of us don’t always make great choices. That’s normal. We choose to smoke, when we know exactly what cigarettes do to us. We choose to do any manner of things, knowing full well that they are habit forming or that they will kill us. We choose to spend money on things we know are only fleeting. But that’s the other point of the song lyric. If we truly live our lives, truly embrace our lives, and the choices we make therein, we all have the capacity to burn very brightly.
But more on my fallen comrade. He went out of his way to not be liked, and was the ultimate embodiment of everything my friends and I believed in during the parking lot days. Being uncool was always cool. Doing things just because others wouldn’t. You would find him on the street any random day, playing some really shitty song on his guitar, because it was his right to be as good or as bad at music as he saw fit. Addled by drugs at the best of times, my friend still danced to his own drummer, you get me? He was a compassionate soul, even though he was always rough around the edges. He couldn’t get out of his own head most of the time, but he always got into ours. He made us think about choices, he made us think about freedom, and life itself.
He never asked the deeper questions, because he never had to. Being near him, unsung hero of all that is considered Rock and Roll, of all that we decided to embrace as sidewalk punks and gutter trash, made us think, made us always question authority, and for that we are forever grateful to him for never letting us forget. It is truly tragic, that some of his choices brought him to this end, but we owe it to him to burn ever brighter in spite of this. And we also always have a choice on whether or not we look the other way, maybe we should pay more attention to the lost causes, to the people who can’t get out of their own way, and really even just stop and say hi, once in a while, it’ll make all the difference in your life and everybody else’s.
Bottoms Up to You My Friend…