Monday, June 29, 2009

Less Notable Passings

Dear Friends:
I had hoped to post on my blog more often than once a month, but evidently, life gets in the way. I hope this post finds all of you well.

In the wake of the passing of both Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett - both tremendously talented and notable celebrities - I want to remind you of the passing of some other very important people which were less vociferously noticed by the fickle and profit-driven media. I was surprised that Ed McMahon's passing did not receive nearly as much attention as it should have. He was a fixture on the Johnny Carson Show for many years, as well as a very publicly recognizable personality whose charm and benevolence graced the televison and was known to several generations of viewers. Evidently, his life was not considered as 'important' to the media as the previous two names I have mentioned. I certainly do not begrudge those two the attention they received. But I do shake my proverbial finger at the media for not giving sufficient attention to Ed McMahon. The media is often very fickle about whom they crown king - and for how long they allow him to reign. Ed McMahon will indeed be missed.

But there is another passing that is very near and dear to my heart. And I am shocked and amazed that I did not hear about this person's passing until today, even though the passing took place nearly five months ago. Billy Powell, keyboardist of the legendary band Lynyrd Skynyrd, passed away on January 31st, 2009. Powell was one of two remaining members of the original band lineup who still toured with the band. It was his talented musical mind that composed and played the very first few notes to be heard in the immortal song, "Freebird", known to just as many people as Michael Jackson's "Thriller". In the studio version, Powell's playing can be heard on the organ notes that so poignantly define that song; in live versions it is almost invariably played on his Steinway piano. Powell's tinklings of the ivories captivated Ronnie van Zant early on in the band's history, causing van Zant to turn this former roadie into the band's new keyboardist. In 2009, the band continues without Powell and will evidently tour with a new keyboardist, but this original master will be sorely missed. So, why was this not more widely publicized? Why were there not more audible cries of mourning from the music community? Could it be that, once again, the media's fickleness had won out? When the band first experienced tragedy, subsequent to their 1977 plane crash that took the lives of three prominent members and injured several others, the band was arguably at their peak, still recognizable by the youth whose dollars fuel the music industry and dictate where the media points their cameras. They were sorely mourned by their fans across the nation. But now, their appeal is not as universal and the media cannot see much profit in covering such an 'outdated' topic. To them, it is old news. But for many of us, it is not. I, for one, am saddened. And I know that many others, fans and admirers of the Lynyrd Skynyrd family, are in mourning over the nation's loss of a great musician and legend.

One might ask why I am digressing from the usual topics of my blog posts - focused mostly on religious history and religious tolerance. For me, the bottom line is that we tend to take for granted those who influence us most. There are many people who touch our lives, those we know and those we have never met in person. We need to show our appreciation for these folks and to cherish them while we can. Death is inescapable. All humans grow old and die. We must seize the day and take whatever opportunities we have to visit our loved ones, to attend concerts and performances of our favorite entertainers, to listen and learn from our teachers, and so forth. For this very reason, I have taken it upon myself to see some of my favorite bands who were more popular in previous ages - like the Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, and of course Lynyrd Skynyrd. I want to do this before they decide to change gears and follow a different muse, or before the passage of time that lurks behind all of us catches up with a few more of them, too.

I also would like to dedicate this blog post to the former friend who introduced me to Lynyrd Skynyrd. He and I had a falling out several years ago over what I consider to be a minor point of theology. Evidently, he did not think it so minor and cut off all contact with me. I suspect that there were other, more serious issues going on in his heart and mind. But I do not hold it against him. He was very important to me and I hope you will all join with me in praying for his perfect health and happiness. You will no doubt hear me refer to his story from time to time in the future, since our differences sparked in me much reflection over theology.

Blessings to you all, my friends. I will be sure to write more soon. Billy Powell, you will be missed.

Your friend,