Whilst under the shadow of death Stephen Hawking attempted to answer some of the more complex questions of life. I saw this quote only this morning:
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
Personally I think there is more to us than that, but who am I to argue with someone with a mind as brilliant as Hawking?!
We recently had a Dutch student stay with us, and a conversation about famous Dutch people provoked two inevitables:
1. My son contributing every single footballer from the Netherlands that he could think of,
and 2. the namedrop of Vincent Van Gogh.
“Van Gogh!” exclaimed my daughter, “wasn’t that him that bit off his own ear?”
What followed were some incredible attempts by my children to fit their ears into their mouths, a feat surely impossible unless they were elephants.
Later that evening I finished a biography I was reading of The Mamas and the Papas. If ever there was a group that was destined not to stay together it was these guys. Remember that great 90’s film The Commitments, about an Irish group that imploded just as they were about to hit the big time?
Then, just as they were about to sign a recording contract with a record company, Michelle and Denny had an affair. John was angry with Denny. Denny felt guilty about cheating on his friend and upsetting Cass. Cass was angry with Denny and Michelle. Michelle was angry because John blamed her and not Denny. And on and on ad nauseum.
Now it was time to make music. Somehow they managed to last two years.
John, much in the way of songwriters both before and after, used the turmoil in his life to create art. Just like Abba, where the recently divorced Björn came up with the lyrics of The Winner Takes It All and gave it thoughtfully to his ex-wife to sing,
From this I began to think of the recently deceased Dolores O’Riordan. Although the cause of death in that London hotel has yet to be disclosed, and it would be wrong to speculate, there are tales of depression and breakdowns, bipolar and a suicide attempt, all in the wake of her terrible experience as a young girl when she was sexually abused between the age of eight and twelve by a man known to her family.
A man who, though she never publically named, approached her at her father’s funeral, as she had long dreaded, tearfully apologising for what he had done.
I thought once again about how artists turn pain into art; about creative tension, struggle and catharsis. How some need to somehow get it out in their work.
And, with Dolores’ personal disclosures, witnessed the heartbreak of this Cranberries song, Fee Fi Fo, shared below complete with lyrics.
I was saddened tonight to hear of the sudden death of Dolores O’Riordan. I used to like The Cranberries back in the 90’s, and the fact that she was the same age as I really hit home.
From Limerick, I loved that Irish accent of hers, haunting and evocative among the rolling guitar and drums.
Their music has been likened to singers such as Sinéad O’Connor and Siouxsie and the Banshees. O’Riordan stated her singing style incorporating yodeling was inspired by her father who used to sing “The Lonesome Cattle Call”: “I just kept with my father all the time, just copying him and eventually I learned how to do it. Then over the years there were artists like Sinéad O’Connor and Siouxsie from Siouxsie and the Banshees and even Peter Harvey was doing it. It was something that you could work into The Cranberries’ format because a lot of that was used in religious Irish music.”
The first song that brought them to my attention was the gorgeous ballad Linger with its dreamy vocal and strings, written about the singer’s first serious kiss. Almost twenty five years on this is still a favourite of mine.
The video to accompany Linger was shot in grayscale and is a tribute to Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 noir film Alphaville.
Another favourite Cranberries track is the protest song Zombie, written in the wake of the Warrington bombing that claimed the lives of two children. O’Riordan is strikingly painted gold in the video, standing at the foot of a cross. Patrolling soldiers and children playing in Northern Ireland also feature.
Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence
Who are we mistaken
the first time I encountered it I heard the ‘1916’ reference and thought it was about a traumatised ex-soldier, but I guess that works too, for victims of warfare and violence belong to a timeline that knows no end. As Dolores sings:
It’s the same old theme/Since nineteen-sixteen
I can recall many nights in my local pub in the nineties when this heavier Cranberries song was coming out from the jukebox. Some of them at the cost of my loose change.
R.I.P Dolores. Thanks for the music. Hope you’ve found peace.
From my poetry blog, written fourteen years ago on the death of my father.
This poem appeared in my book, Heading North. Though it doesn't explicitly say so, I wrote it on the death of my father, fourteen years ago today. No More No more. No more bleaching white the nicotine stained flesh of your fingers, picking at the sterile veneer of cordiality amidst the well-thumbed scattered deserts from which ruins strive to rise. No more counting down the markers, elbows jostling territorially, courting, sequential swans rising in toasts, triumphant. Your slow, inexorable withdrawal left behind a vacuum, the equilibrium of a table out of kilter. No longer the trumpeted parading of the heir apparent, the tedious repetition of vine and tongue, reproduced seasoned lines framing the true inheritance and held to likeness. Casual comparity no more. No more. ©Andrew James Murray