I tend not to fret too much about the deaths of people I don’t know*. Clearly that doesn’t apply to the likes of, for example, Lemmy, Prince, and Bowie, but it’s a general rule. However this week two people died, whom I’d never met, and were rather influential on me. Their demises have left me kind of at a loss as to how to respond.
First up, Robert Pirsig. If you haven’t ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance you won’t know who he is, and you’re also missing out on a wonderful book. It appealed to me on many levels. One of them is that my inner geek just got how he thought about mechanical things. There’s an episode when he has to stop some redneck mechanic using a hammer screwdriver to remove a stripped head. That’s stuck with me since the 1970s.
It also appealed to my innate hippiedom. It’s a very philosophical book, ostensibly about a road trip, but it goes much much deeper than that. It really is spectacularly good, and when I see the guy I leant the book to and he didn’t give it back, he’s going to find out all about karma.
Then Jonathan Demme turned up his toes. Silence of the Lambs became only the third film to be awarded all top five gongs at the Oscars, and that was a richly deserved achievement. It’s also the only film that gave me a ‘wake up now’ nightmare, and trust me I’ve seen some weird cinema in my time. The bit in the well where the woman finds the fingernail though… That got to me very badly.
I was never much a fan of Philadelphia. I know I was in a minority here, but I genuinely found it a bit saccharin. Different strokes for different folks I guess.
However, for me one of his crowning achievements was Stop Making Sense. If you never saw it when it came out in 1984, then shame on you. It’s a documentary of a concert from Talking Heads, who were then at the peak of their whiteboy funk powers. And you got David Byrne’s Big Suit, which became the stuff of legend.
Two losses. Pirsig and Demme. Not the Suit. Though that’s a loss too.
*Unless they’re on Kev’s Kick the Bucket List and I missed them off.