016 | Grieving lucky stars

Celebrating the lives of those no longer with us. Those whose voices shakes the Earth.

Home is where the art is

In 1977 the world lost the King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley. Thousands of fans flocked to Graceland to pay tribute to his legacy. In his documentary This is Elvis, video footage shows women, men, and children grieving the death of an icon that transformed the trajectory of music and culture as we know it.

When we lose a public figure with cultural and/or historical significance, we collectively mourn. We mourn for the body and spirit of the person that gifted us work that accompanied our lives.

We mourn for the memories associated with the particular person’s work: their writing, music, words, attitude, and aptitude — these things unleash parts of our subconscious. Their passing triggering flashes of periods in our lives that encapsulate significance and meaning.

The Grand Champ

On April 18th, 2021, the world lost the artist DMX, a prolific writer and musician that impacted hip-hop and whose words were the catalyst that introduced many of us to issues that often we’re not written about in popular mainstream music. His unapologetic juxtaposition of subject matter demonstrated the polarities of life. He presented to us detailed stories of crime, fame, redemption, salvation, and faith within his music. His music gripped fans across the world through his ability to navigate the two extremes by shedding light on the complexity of life. He blurred the line between good and evil and abandoned notions of duality. To DMX, the darkness was just as important as the light and he proved it true by including both prayers to God and conversations with the Devil in his albums.

I first discovered DMX’s music when I went into my mom’s brother’s son’s CD drawer and saw his record Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998). On the album artwork, DMX is drenched in blood holding a stoic facial expression — it was the epitome of being present in the midst of chaos. His debut album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot (1998), was another portrayal of somebody excavating something that at the time was foreign to me — a raw gritty underbelly that perhaps cemented a newborn fascination in me in not only unhinged voices but also impactful visual language.

Thank your lucky stars

Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius begins Meditations, his series of personal writings on virtue and Stoic philosophy with a long collection of dedications and acknowledgments in the form of passage. He pays homage to his forefathers, mentors, and philosophers who laid the foundation for his sense of ethics and morals. We can apply a similar modality of gratitude and recognition to the work of artists that shape our lives.

Artists enrich the world with their testimonies that allow us to reframe our relationship with the world. The work that resonates with us we deem holy whether we admit it or not. They jumpstart our lives and to mourn them is to bask in their vulnerability and magnitude.

When you read about somebody special
Who has met an untimely end
Although you didn't even know them personally
Feels like you've lost a friend

— Gilbert O’ Sullivan — Lost a Friend

Artists are emotive anthropologists that tread the fiery planes of the world and excavate diamonds constructed of blood, sweat, and tears. Their work becoming the backdrop of our lives and their voices the amulets that act as beacons in the night.

Whether it’s a song, hymn, film, or prose, their documentation serves as a testament to the climax of life. Through their medium, they construct a canon that nourishes and inspires the spirit. They break the walls of doubt and shatter glass ceilings. Swimming in the depths of the world, they gather the pearls and gems that adorn our lives.

But don't forget the songs
That made you cry
And the songs that saved your life
Yes, you're older now
And you're a clever swine
But they were the only ones who ever stood by you

Morrissey / Rubber Ring

Artists teach us what we are and what we are not. So to those that have left us, let us cherish their work and celebrate their lives. We canonize these artists as the saints they are despite their mirror-like flaws.

So this newsletter is dedicated to the voices that have touched our hearts.

Beginner’s Mind | A Playlist

To go with this issue, I’ve created a playlist with those that have drifted. The songs are amongst my favorites and consist of light-bearing idols.

If you follow the Beginner’s Mind playlist below on Spotify, every month, it’ll be refreshed with new music.

  1. Mad Lou Reed 1942 – 2013

  2. Flaming Star Elvis Presley 1935 – 1977

  3. Darkness Leonard Cohen 1934 – 2016

  4. Lost in Music Anita Lane 1959 – 2021

  5. Pain and Love T-Rex 1947 – 1977

  6. Thursday’s Child David Bowie 1947 – 2016

  7. You Don’t Know Bob Andy 1944 – 2020

  8. Algebra of Darkness Harold Budd 1936 – 2020

  9. When I’m Nothing DMX 1972 – 2021