I’ve always been a Bob Mould kind of girl, and he’ll always be my favorite from Husker Du. But hearing of Grant Hart’s passing today was heartbreaking. He was Mould’s perfect foil and partner in art. He was also the kind of drummer I like best: clean and economical, even within the ramshackle chaos that marked much of Husker Du’s oeuvre. I really should say more, but I don’t know how (Rob Sheffield sure as hell does, though). This loss makes me so damn sad. Like the song says, it’s not funny anymore.
It’s been a bad day for Country music, losing both a latter-day star and one of the old timers from the 70s. While the death of Troy Gentry is more tragic, my own heart is a little heavier over the passing of Don Williams. My mother wore out the grooves on her copy of his Greatest Hits. So needless to say, Williams’ beautiful baritone is a fond and familiar one from my childhood.
At least Williams got the chance to live a long-ish and full life. Gentry’s death at 50 in a helicopter crash seems so much more unfair. As I get older myself, other people all seem to get younger, and 50 is too damn young. Traveling is as much of a hazard to musicians as too much drugs and alcohol; they spend so much of their lives on the road it makes a sad sense that that same road claims so many of them. My brain tells me this is just how it is, but my heart protests. At least their music will survive for all who loved them.
Steely Dan was always just Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Sure, they started out as a real band, but that eventually dissolved and the Fagen/Becker duo performed as Steely Dan with some of the best studio musicians ever. They were also pretty much a studio band, a record band. Yeah, they performed live and toured pretty regularly, especially after they reunited and found out how much money they could make touring the nostalgia circuit. But they were at heart a duo that was best when they were recording.
The duo has now become a solo act with today’s passing of Walter Becker. He co-wrote most of Steely Dan’s best work with Fagen, played bass and guitar, and was generally just a musical badass. I am surprisingly saddened by losing Becker, and I’m not sure why. I’m definitely a fan; they did some of coolest, funkiest, swinging-est, jazziest, most literary rock music ever. Come to think of it, Steely Dan was pretty much a genre of one; no other musical act as been like them. Which maybe is what makes Becker’s death so devastating. No one else was like this act, and no one is ever going to replace him. Donald Fagen has announced that he will keep Steely Dan’s music alive as long as can after losing his partner and friend, but it will never be the same again. Half the heart of Steely Dan is gone.