Losing Celebrities and Parental Guilt

This was a rough week for me in as far as losing people I never met. Justin Townes Earle and Chadwick Boseman were both big parts of my life in that I was a great admirer of both of their careers. 2020 could have taken John Prine from us and it would have been a shitty year in regards to celebrity loss. This was just a kick to the nuts this week.

I listened to JT a good part of the week. I watched Black Panther Saturday, and plan on watching 42 and Get On Down sometime soon. It’s what I do. It’s what a lot of us do, and then we tend to move on and go about our life.

I also listen to Steve Earle’s show on Outlaw Country every week. He airs it on Saturday nights, but I tend to listen On Demand on my Sunday morning walks. I joke about listening to Reverend Steve Earle on Sunday mornings. I really didn’t expect to see a new episode this morning, but I checked anyway. And there it was. Latest Episode: RIP Justin Townes Earle, 1982-2020.

Most of Steve’s shows, he talks as much as he plays music. And I love that. I can listen to Steve Earle talk about music every bit as much as I can listen to music. Still, I didn’t know how he would handle this. I can’t imagine how one could.

Well. He didn’t talk. He just played an hour of his son’s music. Every 5-6 songs, he would come on and say “Justin Townes Earle, 1982-2020”. That was it.

And I don’t blame him one bit. There is no way I would be ready to talk about losing a son the way he did. The parental guilt involved in this one has to be heavy. Losing a son to the same addiction that nearly took your own life. Knowing it had almost taken him before, and finally succeeded. The blame game one can play with themselves here has to be unbearable. Heartbreaking.

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Justin Townes Earle 1982-2020

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All of this was going through my mind as Steve played his son’s songs, some of which were autobiographical, or at least semi-autobiographical. Steve may have just recorded a quick sound bite, given someone a list of songs to play and moved on without listening. And I wouldn’t blame him one bit. But as I listened to the show, I thought about him sitting in a dark room somewhere, listening and drifting away in his own mind. More heartbreak.

And then he closed the show with one of his own songs, one he wrote for JT, and one I’ve heard a thousand times. But this time, it was heart shattering.

And if you aren’t familiar with JT’s work, Steve’s selection are a hell of a starting point.

You can find those at the bottom of my Hardcore Troubadour playlist I regularly update on Spotify when I listen to the show.


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