Popular music is littered with stories of what could have been.
The medium itself has arguably leveraged hope and dreams for profit so it seems fitting that it would be inordinately effected by the loss of this same hope.
On February 3rd in 1959, a small plane went down in a storm near Clear Lake, Iowa taking Ritchie Valens (La Bamba), The Big Bopper (Chantilly Lace) and, of course, Buddy Holly with it. This tragedy became known as “the day the music died” and the mythos of what we never heard was inexorably cemented to music culture. Don McLean makes sure of it in “American Pie”. The first legendary rock ‘n’ roll touring tale pretty much takes the form of a ghost story and ramps up the stakes. But it pales in its pure innocence compared to what follows. Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse all died at 27…what does it mean??? Search “early rock deaths”; the lists you’ll get back are staggering. Duane Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Bonham and Keith Moon, Bob Marley and John Lennon, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls; the list goes on. Yet, at this point, the loss seems almost part of it all. Like a macabre balance sheet explaining the human cost of music.
This all occurred to me earlier this week while watching Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience at the Molson Amphitheatre. The love and sadness from the loss of Jason’s father seems to be almost transferred to him, in the form of of the aforementioned hope, by fans of his father that feel like they’ve missed something.
This is natural, I think, and absolutely worthy of further exploration. But seeing the younger Bonham made me think not at all of his father. And it didn’t make me miss any of the incredible talents I listed above.
My first thought was of my friend Matt Osborne.
To be clear and up front, a few things you should know about Matt:
Most people won’t have heard of Matt, though they should.
Matt was the single best rock singer I’ve ever known.
Matt could turn your hair around or make you softly cry with his voice alone.
Matt was the most prolific and talented songwriter I’ve ever known.
Matt’s encouragement is the single reason why I’m still a musician today.
Most folks who know Matt would echo my sentiments above.
Matt died in his sleep at 31 on Friday April 23, 2004.
There is much to tell about Matt. Most of it personally boils down to me missing my friend; missing his music and missing his inspiration. And this is where it intersects with what music is, ultimately. At it’s core, music is fleeting. Surrounded by emotion and power and inspiration and joy, it’s ultimately destined to stop as sure as it has started.
But I can hear Matt anytime I want. I’m lucky for this.
We all are.