Like everyone else in the world, I’ve experienced my share of loss. Also, like everyone else in the world, I’ve experienced my share of what I’ll refer to as “complicated loss.” For the purposes of this article, “complicated loss” is that murky situation when a relative or other prominent figure in your life dies, but your relationship/feelings about said figure aren’t very “sunshine and lollipops.”
It’s the type of situation that reminds me of one of my favorite one-liners from comedian John Mulaney.
Years before he became one of the biggest draws in the world of stand-up, Mulaney landed his first comedy special: 2009’s The Top Part. In that special, he explores his love of Law & Order, his favorite TV show. As he’s funnily touching on all of the show’s various quirks and tropes, he makes his way to how much he enjoys the character Detective Lennie Briscoe played by the late Jerry Orbach. He then hits the audience with this blunt, yet hilarious, line:
“And I miss Jerry Orbach more than certain dead relatives of mine.”
It’s a line that always makes me laugh without fail, even though I know it’s coming. It’s also a line that is seemingly top of mind for me whenever a notable death occurs in pop culture. Sadly, when part of your living comes from covering news in the world of classic rock, you have to deal with death and loss far more than you’d really like. Alas, much like Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II, this is the business I’ve chosen. As a result, I have developed the morbid coping mechanism when having to deal with covering a notable death by seeing whether or not I actually miss the dead celebrity more than certain dead relatives of mine.
I’ve covered the rock music world for a decade now. Many deaths have hit me very hard, but the one that hit me harder than most was Eddie Van Halen. For me, his death was the perfect storm of being a massive fan, having it happen while still in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic and also still mourning the loss of my own brother who died six months prior. Add in the fact his innovative force truly changed rock and roll, it makes sense (in my mind, at least) why I would miss Eddie Van Halen more than certain dead relatives of mine.
If you aren’t sold yet by my reasoning, here are some other reasons to support my possibly bonkers headline.