Friday Night with Guitar George: The Mortality Dilemma


It looks like 2016 is going to force us to face a harsh reality. Just days after the passing of David Bowie, Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey and Mott the Hoople drummer Dale Griffin died, both at age 67. All of the following artists are in their seventies: Dylan, McCartney, Starr, Jagger, Richards, Page, Clapton, Simon, Townshend, Seger, Brian Wilson, John McVie, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Neil Young, George Clinton, Roger Waters. If you change the threshold to 65 years of age, the list expands alarmingly and includes names like Plant, Fleetwood, Browne, Henley, Springsteen, Knopfler, Petty, Nicks, Santana. Three pillars from the Pantheon of early rock-n-roll are still standing: Jerry Lee Lewis at age 80, Little Richard at 83, and Chuck Berry at a remarkable 89. The music business has infamously claimed countless victims prematurely, but we have reached a point where natural causes are more likely to take their claim than tragedy or misadventure.

Our Mortality Dilemma is twofold. First, how do we accept this reality in a broad, general sense? Secondly, how will we address each death outside the context of the inevitable trend? It is unfair to an artist of Glenn Frey’s or Dale Griffin’s stature to be juxtaposed against a musical and cultural giant like David Bowie simply due to the proximity of their deaths. Besides, the size and shape of an individual’s grief reflects the connection he or she felt with the artist who has passed and has no correlation to the size and shape of the legacy of that particular artist. And there is the matter of “the authenticity of grief” which Brad discusses in the final paragraph of his essay in last week’s David Bowie tribute edition. All that being said, the matter now at hand is to pay our respects to Dale Griffin and Glenn Frey.

Dale Griffin played drums for the “glam-rock” band Mott the Hoople, who enjoyed a brief and modestly successful tenure in the early Seventies. Griffin co-founded the group with fellow Herefordshireman Ian Hunter and future Bad Company founder Mick Ralphs. Ironically enough, Mott’s biggest hit, “All the Young Dudes,” was written by none other than David Bowie. To honor Griffin, I have chosen this video of a 1973 live performance of “Drivin’ Sister.” I chose this one because it highlights Griffin: the song opens with a mini drum solo and Griffin is clearly visible at several points throughout the song.

By the time the Eagles formed in 1971 Glenn Frey had already built an impressive resume. He had worked with fellow Detroit rocker Bob Seger, had written and recorded songs with J.D. Souther, shared an apartment with Souther and Jackson Browne, and toured as part of Linda Ronstadt’s backing band. Frey’s post-Eagles resume is not too shabby either: he had a very successful solo career that featured a string of top hits, and he also landed acting roles on television and in film. However, Frey will always be best remembered as co-founder and front man for ultra-mega-successful country rock band the Eagles. For tonight’s featured video I chose a 1977 live performance of “Lyin’ Eyes.” I like the way Frey’s understated vocals allow the story to slowly unfold in the listener’s mind, and I love the harmony vocals in the chorus. Plus, there is a certain poignancy to seeing these guys perform before they knew what Hotel California was about to do to their lives, for better and for worse.

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  1. […] I wrote the Mortality Dilemma Edition of FNWGG on January 22, I did so in context of the recent passing of David Bowie at age 74 and Glen […]

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