Gongol.com Archives: May 2023

Brian Gongol

May 24, 2023

News What death has to do with life

Upon his untimely death at the age of 57, the artist (usually) known as Prince is reported to have left behind a vault containing a nearly unfathomable 8,000 unreleased songs at various stages of completion. Other artists have left behind unreleased and incomplete music, but none of them come close to that kind of an archive yet to be widely discovered. ■ Tina Turner, who has now passed away at age 83, might have stored away some surprises for future discovery, but it's likely that we already know most of her oeuvre -- a big one. The world will undoubtedly replay her ten studio albums and 72 singles for at least a few generations to come. (And rightly so.) ■ Yet for most people, it won't be an ongoing catalog of performances that keep our names on others' lips after we die. That is often the work of rituals (like visiting a cemetery for Memorial Day), family genealogy enthusiasts, and occasional chance forays into dusty old yearbooks or photo albums. ■ Counterintuitively, though, recalling the names of the dead is a meaningful way of channeling the behavior of the living. By necessity, nations often hail "glory to the heroes" of battle. But it's good to praise the names of those who led more pedestrian lives with decency and honor -- and to curse the ones who did wrong when they should have known better. ■ Everyone lives in a race against mortality, even though we don't often want to acknowledge it. Passing judgment on the choices of our forebears and actively seeking to make the awareness of that judgment a guardrail on the behavior of the living shouldn't be underestimated as tools for getting people to behave well even when the good behavior doesn't appear to have immediate rewards. ■ Some people will be remembered mainly for the artistic or tangible works they leave behind, but most won't. Those lives matter intrinsically (which is why they are marked with gravestones and other commemorations), but they can continue to teach if we let them. Recounting an old name is not unlike remixing a classic hit to make it fresh once again.

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