One of the features of getting to a certain age is that you can easily believe that something happened only yesterday. Furthermore, you can’t always understand nor appreciate that others may not have the same recollection. The fact that most people will not have been born at the critical moment is also lost in the ether of your own memories. I wasn’t going to mention football this week, but as Alan Shearer noted on the Today programme this morning, most of the current England side would not have been born in 1996 when the national side lost on penalties to Germany, an event that seems stuck in our national consciousness.
The death of Jim Morrison, singer with the American rock group the Doors, 50 years ago this week, was what prompted this bout of remembrance. Aged 27, he died of heart failure in (conspiracy theory warning - probably) suspicious circumstances in Paris and was buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery a few days later. At the weekend my newspaper ran the rule over the band’s best songs, and declared that ‘Riders on the Storm’a song partly about a serial killer on the loose on a desert highway, was the number one choice. The fact that it was the last song to which Morrison added some fresh vocals in June 1971 just before he died, is one of those chilling coincidences.
Although Morrison died when I was 17, I found it difficult to comprehend that it was so long ago. So perhaps over time our sense of time changes. My head tells me it was a long time ago, but my heart says that it can’t be. So how we recall , process and deal with an incident that affected us or someone else a long time ago is really important. Just because it happened so long ago, doesn’t mean that the feelings of hurt or elation, anger or joy are not ever present, especially when an anniversary falls or in this case, a song gets mentioned and played.
Jim Morrison has not been the only artist to die, generally suddenly, aged 27. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones, guitarist with the Rolling Stones died at the same age between 1969 and 1970. Kurt Cobain from Nirvana in 1994 and Amy Winehouse in 2011. Looking back, the poet Rupert Brooke died in 1915 and the enigmatic blues guitarist Robert Johnson in 1938. Each of their lyrical and musical contributions have gone on to be hugely significant, but this is tinged with the wistfulness of what might have been.
Likewise, as we reflect from time to time on those moments that have left an indelible mark on us, it can help if those around us accept that however long ago it was, to some it can seem like only yesterday, or even now.