As we approach the end of another year, I can’t help thinking about our mortality.
I can think of few things sadder than a favorite musician of mine coming to the realization that they are knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door and they feel it necessary to release an album bringing us through the process.
I call them “death albums.” There are a few. The saddest part is in a lot of cases, they are the best albums the artist had done in a while.
Warren Zevon was one of the most underrated artists of all time. His novelty hit, “Werewolves Of London”, garners attention once a year, segued into “Monster Mash”, but few know it’s from a phenomenal album called “Excitable Boy”. that was one of the most played albums in my collection back when it came out. Warren released quite a few albums. Some good, some bad. His final album, or death album, was “The Wind”. It features collaborations with his buddies from The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder, Joe Walsh, Tom Petty and a host of session musicians. It’s a great finish to an amazing career by Zevon. He left us with a sad, introspective album. Too bad he had to die to create it.
Curtis Mayfield released his final album in 1997, called “New World Order”. Curtis was paralyzed but managed to release a thoughtful, hopeful album of songs to remind us of his soulful voice and wonderful contribution to the world of music. Another underrated artist primarily known for his Superfly soundtrack. It’s worth digging into Curtis Mayfield’s catalog and early years.
Joey Ramone is one of my heroes of the punk rock movement. I was a wreck when I heard of his death at the age of 49. I didn’t even know he was sick. However, Joey released his first solo album of death songs in a way that only a Ramone can do it. “Don’t Worry About Me” is a great solo effort from a sick Joey. Still better than just about anybody, Joey sings about what is happening to him in the most sincere way you can imagine. I miss him a lot.
George Harrison has always been one of my favorite Beatles. His solo career was superior to the others, in my opinion. His final album, “Brainwashed” was the culmination of everything George had been preaching since 1967 when he discovered Indian religion. This album is so nicely done and a must listen for all Beatle fans and George fans. Unfortunately, the title track is awful, but the rest of the album is great. Even more unfortunately, George is no longer with us.
Johnny Cash had about five death albums. Check out all the American Album series. There are alt least four that deal with subjects surrounding his ongoing death. There were even some death albums released after his death. I love Johnny Cash in smaller doses. After a while he gets a little too depressing, especially after the third death album.
Those are a few of my favorite death albums. I am sure there are some I missed.
So, if you want to ponder about the beauty of life, or just get sad in the depths of great music by artists no longer with us. Start here.
Here are some death songs….Better get some Kleenex.