The Audio Cynic

“Snakebit”

A few decades ago I went through the rough patch to top all rough patches. Injury? Chronic illness? Death in the family? Economic stress?

Check, check, check, and check. They were all there.

My next-door neighbor, Ed, was a retired truck driver who had grown up in Mississippi during the Great Depression, and had seen not just deprivation but some truly horrific stuff. Because of that, Ed had a capacity for compassion unlike anyone I’d ever met. It usually took a lot to shake him.

One afternoon while Ed sat on the front steps of his house, chain-smoking as always, I told him about the latest string of disasters that had befallen me. Initially, Ed sat silently; after a few minutes of listening, his eyebrows knitted upward and he began to shake his head and laugh in disbelief. That turned into a phlegmy, racking cough, ending with a noisy pa-tooie as Ed spat into his front yard.

“Bill,” he said, “you SNAKEBIT!”

I wasn’t sure what that meant. Ed explained that it looked like I had some kind of jinx, hex, bad juju, SOMETHING, hanging over me that I couldn’t shake. It was hard to disagree with him.

I’m thinking that for musicians anyway, 2016 is snakebit.

I’m not even going to run down the whole list of notable musicians who’ve passed away in 2016; plenty of other folks are doing that. As my kids would say, it’s depressing AF.

So: just take a brief look at this list—feel free to pick out familiar names, or even ones that are just slightly familiar. This year has been devastating to the music world.

Just a few from the list—by no means complete:

1/8/16: Otis Clay, 73

1/10/16: David Bowie, 69

1/18/16: Glenn Frey, 67

1/28/16: Paul Kantner, 74

2/4/16: Maurice White, 74

2/6/16: Dan Hicks, 74

3/6/16: Nikolaus Harmoncourt, 86

3/8/16: Sir George Martin, 90

3/10/16: Keith Emerson, 71

3/16/16: Frank Sinatra, Jr., 72

4/6/16: Merle Haggard, 79

4/21/16: Prince, 57

5/17/74: Guy Clark, 74

6/13/16: Chips Moman, 79

6/21/16: Wayne Jackson, 74

6/23/16: Ralph Stanley, 79

6/24/16: Bernie Worrell,72

6/28/16: Scotty Moore, 84

6/29/16: Rob Wasserman, 64

7/24/16: Marni Nixon, 86

8/6/16: Pete Fountain, 86

8/11/16: Glenn Yarbrough, 86

8/22/16: Toots Thielemans, 94

8/25/16: Rudy van Gelder, 91

9/8/16: Prince Buster, 78

10/24/16: Bobby Vee, 73

11/7/16: Leonard Cohen, 82

11/8/16: Al Caiola,96

11/13/16: Leon Russell, 74

11/15/16: Milt Okun, 92

11/15/16: Mose Allison,89

11/18/16: Sharon Jones, 60.

In all fairness, many of these folks lived to good old age. The biggest shockers were those in their 50’s and 60’s: David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Rob Wasserman, Sharon Jones. Nonetheless: it’s difficult to not feel that this year has been, well—SNAKEBIT.  What do you think?