Many are familiar with the 27 Club and its legendary deceased membership which includes Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. It’s the club where nobody is dying to get in, because to get in you have to die at age 27.
Since the beginning of this year, the 74 Club added 4 members to its ranks, including Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, Dan Hicks of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, as well as Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson both members of the original line up of Jefferson Airplane, and both passing away on the same day. All of them were 74 years old. Is this a coincidence?
Yes, even more than the theories and conspiracies surrounding the aforementioned 27 Club. When rock stars are young and reckless, it comes as no surprise that any of them meet a premature demise. After decades of playing dodge ball with the Grim Reaper, it comes as a bitter pill that so many talented and influential musicians leave the land of the living, and in such a short period of time. What does all that mean?
The Death of Classic Rock as we know it. While that may sound sensationally gloomy, the sad reality is that it’s actually happening. Starting with the sudden unexpected departures of Lemmy, David Bowie and Glenn Frey, and coupled with the passing of Vanity (nee: Denise Matthews), the pantheon of artists and performers who forged the sound that influenced definitely one but maybe even three generations is being reduced against our wishes.
Now take into account the reports that touring musicians can no longer sustain an ongoing livelihood on the road, sales of the number of CDs and digital downloads declined again, LP sales increased and in 2015 old catalog titles outsold new releases for the first time. You’ll think that the first two statistics are bad, and the last two are good.
A touring business model that can’t be sustained and declining unit sales are negative factors in the equation, but even an increase in vinyl LP sales can’t compensate for the decline in CD sales and downloads, and the sales of catalog might indicate appreciation for Classic Rock, but it points to creative stagnation in a faltering industry that demands it. Add to it that the makers of such music are dropping like flies and there are no suitable replacements being presented, and the prognosis is grim.
The 74 Club will gain more members, and undoubtedly more musicians whose heyday was in a previous century will pass away, but the conclusion is inescapable. The remaining pioneers of the British Invasion, the Woodstock generation’s performers, godfathers of Glitter and Punk, and all too soon the architects of Grunge will be consigned as museum pieces with young people wondering who they were and how they became extinct. Rest in peace, Classic Rock. You will be missed.