Originally Posted by Betterread
Ian Curtis and D Boon must be mentioned. Both Joy Division and the Minutemen were on the ascendancy when they died.
Gram Parsons and Chris Bell are immortals.
I'm back in the Gram Parsons hole I fall into every few years, and I came back to this thread just to make sure he was mentioned.
He's one that really, really gets to me. His career -- even with quite a bit of its peak time arguably wasted -- does stand complete as it is. Part of that is his body of work, and part of it is just the unbelievable reach he had within music in terms of his influence. I do truly believe that country as a genre would not have touched rock in the same way it did without him, from the Byrds to the Stones all the way down to Wilco and beyond. We might have Taylor Swift and that's it, in which case I might have just never cared about music as an entire art form. (But maybe there would be no Taylor Swift without Gram Parsons either, so thanks for that, Gram.)
So it's hard to say that he died too soon in that sense, I guess, and he is totally immortal that way. But man, certain songs of his I listen to, I just feel like his voice alone could have sustained a very long career, and his songwriting would only have kept evolving. There are very few people who are able to sing with the quality and tone and just purity that he had and still make it sound somehow like he's just talking to you. Country by default almost has to have an affect to the vocal quality of it, and he did have that twang, but it never sounded affected or put on at all. That kind of voice and it just never even sounded like he was trying (he probably wasn't). I don't think people realize how rare that is. That would have just had increasingly mass appeal and substance over decades.
I also hate all of the things associated with his death and its weird freaking aftermath, because I feel like it makes people so prone to romanticizing what was a clearly a very troubled and unhealthy person who also consciously made some very bad choices -- while people also sometime discount a lot of the joy he brought to his work, which was another thing that set him apart. All of that is natural, I guess, but sometimes I feel like it overshadows the music itself, which is just peerless, i think. There is nothing like it. That death, it happened way before I was born, but it is one that keeps me up at night.