Dying is iffy business, and I’m not looking forward to it. Other peoples’ dying is doubly downing, as not only are you suddenly forever without the deceased, but that dying induces rumination on your own and everyone you know and don’t know’s dying, and not only do you have to come to flimsy grips with that reality but with your supplanting of the requisite empathy for the deceased with egoistic you-thinking, and at the same time you have to question if that you-thinking is indeed egoistic or actually a greater, more genuine emotion than ersatz grief, if that thinking is an avoidance of the too-hard thinking, that maybe the unconscious and genuinely human feeling slices of you outweigh the irrefutably selfish slices, and that thinking of your unthinkable own death in the wake of someone else’s is a twisted tribute to that someone else. I haven’t the slightest idea. What I do have the slightest idea about is that I don’t want anybody to die, much less the bassist for one of the best bands on the planet, which is just what happened last week when Gerard Smith, the bassist of TV on the Radio, died.
Gerard was 36 years old, which seems like too young an age to die, but every age is too young an age to die. Personally, I didn’t know the man. What I did know and love was his art, which is probably as close to knowing a person you don’t know as you can get, if you were to ask me. Steffy and I saw TV on the Radio in Central Park two summers ago. The show was wonderful. We weathered alternating spats of torrential sun-showers and waves of humidity like bisque and regretted not a second of it. TV on the Radio’s song “Wolf Like Me” was my Number 1 Song of the Naughties, and if I remember anything about Gerard I’ll remember his iconic performance of “Wolf Like Me” on Letterman. Because I distinctly remember watching the performance, not knowing who the band was, not yet fully recognizing the potency of the music, and I remember being mesmerized by the bass player’s performance and thinking, “Someone. Someone out there may maybe understand me.” That was how I discovered TV on the Radio. That is how my life became better.
To honor Gerard, I will update the Muzak section of BABY PICTURES OF FAMOUS DICTATORS with an apropos playlist of the best TV on the Radio songs. Until then and for the rest of your life enjoy: