I Hang My Head and Cry
Three Goodbyes in One Week

There’s been so much death this week that it almost seems crass to discuss anything else.

So I won’t.

Two weeks ago, I prematurely eulogized Warren Zevon, on the occasion of the release of his final album, The Wind. Zevon died in his sleep at age 56 on Sunday night, but not before he capped off a reckless and exhilarating career with a terrific, graceful goodbye in song. I know I didn’t know the man, but his passing has oddly affected me – Zevon’s songs were always little windows into his (often very black) heart, like letters from a crotchety, cynical friend. I’ll miss reading them.

But at least Zevon lived long enough to see not only the births of his twin grandchildren, but the widespread critical acclaim afforded The Wind. Better than that, he got to crack the Top 20 sales chart one last time – the first time, in fact, in more than 20 years that he had done so. It’s like thousands of people all got together with the goal of making sure that Zevon knew how many people loved and appreciated his work.

Mid-week, of course, we had the second anniversary of September 11, and while I’m still waiting for that considered artistic response I predicted two years ago from our most insightful musicians, the day still rang with resonance. I chose, in what’s becoming a tradition, to re-read my September 11 benefit comics – two volumes, published by a host of companies all working together for no money, with all proceeds going to a fund to help the families of victims. It’s striking how angry and powerful some of those stories are, and how deeply felt the work is as a whole. Immersing myself in them again only added to the hopeful gloom of the week.

Then there’s John Ritter, who died suddenly today. (I’m writing this on Friday the 12th, regardless of the date up top.) While everyone is mentioning his work on Three’s Company and Eight Simple Rules, I’m remembering Ritter another way: I will always respect him for sending himself up so completely on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the show’s second season. The episode itself (“Ted”) was pretty bad, but Ritter was terrific, spoofing his too-perfect TV dad persona, and the cast couldn’t say enough nice things about him. That was apparently the case wherever Ritter went – along with Fred Rogers, we’ve lost two of TV’s genuinely nice guys this year, and it’s a shame.

And then there’s Johnny Cash.

Cash died at age 71 last night, mere months after the passing of his wife, June Carter Cash. Many people are going to try to eulogize Cash in the next few days, and I’m interested to see them try it. I don’t think it can be done. I refuse to believe that anyone can sum up what Johnny Cash meant, embodied and symbolized about music, faith, honor and dignity in words. He transcended genres, labels and boundaries simply by being Johnny Cash, and his music is timeless and immortal. Thankfully, there’s a lot of it as well, and more on the way – at least six CDs worth of recordings he made with Rick Rubin prior to his death. There will never be another like him. Ever.

At least once a year, I find myself writing one of these short columns on the ridiculous brevity of life, and I never regret doing it. Seriously, folks, take some time out this week to enjoy the moments of your life as they pass. Go outside, sit in the sunshine, play, frolic, dance, sing, whatever. I mean it. Go. You’ll thank yourself later. I’ve said it before, and will likely say it again: life’s too goddamn short.

Next week, that Sloan album. Now, seriously, go.

See you in line Tuesday morning.