Sunday, May 04, 2008


(wrote most of this last year when Castro stepped down as leader of Cuba never posted it)

Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant
Fight the Power - Chuck D

Been thinking some random type thoughts lately. Was just on the bus last week or was it lounging around the house when something occurred to me. Actually I think I was thinking about music and my favorite mcs and how some people have elevated some of these guys to hero and icon status. Of course that got me thinking about Kris and this foolish Celebrity fat thing and I came to a conclusion.

You can only live on as a hero and icon in the hearts of the public if you die young. Well not only but it increases your chances by quite a bit. Think about it; Che Guevara, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, even Tupac , Biggie, Bob Marley. Why all those fellows have icon status? Yes they were great men to some extent but it also has a lot to do with them being cut down in their prime.

I not feeling to really go into a lot of detail hopefully but the point is its easier to lionize these
young dudes. These only the good die young, cut down in their prime , showing so much promise, with possibly great futures ahead of them types.

Why? 'Cause of the unfulfilled promise mostly. We think wow they achieved so much in so short a span what would they have achieved if they had lived longer? We imagine all sorts of lofty achievements all sorts of greatness ensuing from these cats and it is possible they would have become greater but I beg to differ.

I really think that its also possible that some of these fellows would have crashed and burned, fallen the bleep off. Would have become footnotes rather than the icons they are presently. Is possible n'est pas?

Think about it. If Martin Luther King had lived on, was alive today he would probably be as irrelevant as Jesse Jackson is. Actually Prof Dyson made a very good point at his speech two weeks ago when he said that King had become disliked before his death mainly because of his stance on Vietnam in 68. Its only that the media has crafted his image to reflect his 1963 I have a dream speech and thats the lasting image we have of the man today.

Bob Marley would have probably made some horrible album that everyone hated or tried to fuse reggae and grunge or something and we would be cussing him as a sellout or we might have just said boy your time has past and moved on to more relevant artists.

Same with Malcolm. To be honest I love Malcolm but at the end I see a man with very little in the way of a coherent ideology. In a sense death saved his legacy.

I know people not going to agree with me but thats just the way I see things. Che would have become fat and old like Castro and we might be thinking of him today as some throwback to the old ways not a revolutionary icon. Biggie could have been eclipsed by Jay Z, Pac might have ended up in jail again and could have become a crazy Mike Tyson like figure who didnt know to quit when he was ahead.

The point is dying early without fulfilling their dreams and goals really to me saved some of these guys. Not that they wouldn't have made further useful contributions just that at the end of the day odds are they might not have been placed on the pedestals we keep them on. Not that one can second guess history in a What-if manner but just consider the one's who lived
and how they turned out.

Plus who does the lionizing, the canonizing with these public icons? Is usually the young and the young usually idolize those like them or just older. Ok so Nelson Mandela is a bit of an anomaly in my argument but he spent a few decades in jail. Would he be as big if he had not been incarcerated through those years or would he have petered off into irrelevancy in our thoughts?


GC said...

the best thing to do if you don't die young is to fade into obscurity and become a recluse like Willie Nelson did, or J. D. Salinger still does.

Amadeo said...

I agree...actually alot of them died (or were killed) because of what they were doing. People who live on tend not to challenge us as much. If they don't challenge us we can let them live and they will eventually fade away.

Radmila said...

You know...I was just thinking about this the other day when I watched some commercial for some cause that showed you a succession of legendary rock stars...their old and tired eyelined mugs with the long scraggly hair and tight pants....most of them well over 55 and wiggling their bums in memory of a time when they were at the top of game, and selling things that they would have scoffed at in their younger days, and joining reality shows embarrassing themselves.

I thought exactly what you're saying..since Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Tupac...and so on are forever young, fresh and ground breaking in everyone's minds. Cut in their prime.

Same with sex symbols...people malign and make fun of aging sex symbols like Bridgette Bardot, but revere Marilyn Monroe.

Because we didn't have to witness her aging.

Leon said...

Never thought of it, but that's very true. If you die young, you never become irrelevant, you never age, and you never risk falling from grace.

Breez said...

the people we love and/or revere, given enough time, almost invariably disappoint us. whether it's icons, significant others, parents, children, etc. if a person dies during their ascent or plateau, they usually haven't gotten the opportunity to disappoint on a grand scale.

as an aside, regarding malcolm x, i actually didn't see his change in ideology as doing damage to his legacy (though i know many did). i actually found it admirable that while on his spiritual journey, he was moved to make a change, and did not dogmatically adhere to his past ideology simply to save face.

enjoyed reading!

Empath said...

There are a few (men and women) who are alive and remain relevant, or it could be that they are remembered more for their youthful contribution/struggles, even as they are past their 'prime/relevance' Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison.
How we remember them is to sort of freeze them in that particular time. Mandela could be a good example of that too. Has Cornell West lived past his relevance? Just thinking about possible heroes in our midst. Thought provoking post.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Okay, now you have me thinking of the aged...our 'elders' as our culture calls them...and respect for their wise words, and I'm thinking how other cultures push them aside as if they have no relevance because they're no longer 'trendy'.


Great post!!

AirBourne said...

This is one of your best ever entries, a pity you didn't post it April 28 on Heroes Day in Bim? I wondered what could have happened if Malcolm was still alive? Would he still be relevant or said so much he had to pull an Abbie Hoffman and hide? Who would harbour him - Cuba?? LOL, great stuff, man... Well thought out! Also a look at how youth in this Creole European side of the world is worshipped even if death is necessary to make it sexy.

Abeni said...

I typed a response and it disappeared. I was saying th epost was well atriculated. However, I want to believe some persons would have still been as relevant had they not aged. Sometimes,I wonder if Marley would be singing dancehall but then he woul dnot have needed to do any new music or would he?

Stunner said...

you have to go out when you are on top. that's what these icons did, unintentionally, thus kleeping their memories alive. But even with this, one only remains a hero for their generation or the one after if they are lucky.


What about heroes and icons from the field of sports such as PELE and Muhammad ALI to mention a few?Your theory or hypothesis may not be applicable to the field of sports,or, is it?

bakannal said...

Esteban, you could be right about it not being applicable to sports. His Airness left the game after his prime but is still revered as the 'greatest ever.' Pele and Ali didn't go out on a high note, nor, coming closer to home, did Brian Charles Lara. I have a sneaking suspicion it might have something to do with stats.

Great post J.