Today’s New York Times features a couple of obituaries that echoed of the past for me. The first was notice of the passing of dance and theater critic, Clive Barnes. Back in the day when I was living in the City, married to a professional modern dancer, and then to an actress; when I was hanging out in the Village and on the Upper West Side with theater types and artists, Clive Barnes was an omnipresent figure whose Word hung over that world like rolling thunder. Rest in Peace.
But that was in the 1970s and 1980s. Long prior to those days, during the Boomer generation’s formative years—the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties—pop music was notable for its obsession with the prospect of dying tragically young. Perhaps it was the threat of nuclear annihilation that had always been there, just over the horizon. Or perhaps it was that they made us read Romeo and Juliet in 8th grade English class. Whatever the source of our hunger for lugubrious thrills, the music we listened to—from Mark Dinning’s overly cutesy “Teen Angel” to Jan and Dean’s overly contrived “Dead Man’s Curve” to Bob Dylan’s overly journalistic “Percy’s Song”—was always spiked with similar examples of the popular macabre. Of all the tunes in that genre, however, the most deliciously haunting was Jody Reynold’s ballad, “Endless Sleep”. Rest in peace.