Vivere Disce, Cogita Mori

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Vivere Disce, Cogita Mori

(Learn to Live, Remember Death)      

A TTK commentary by Marc Johnson      

Heroes never die, but maybe we should let them rest. At TheToneKing.com we have our fights about the greatest guitar players, and one attribute that seems to accompany every conversation on the topic is that most of the candidates are dead. Not to belittle the contributions of artists like Jimi Hendrix or Dimebag Darrell, but their legacies seem to constantly overshadow any guitarist out there who still stands amongst the living.      


These conversations are not limited to around the water cooler but have heavily influenced every aspect of the industry. The marketing of post-humus artists has indeed become a prominent strategy for everything from amps to movies. Probably the most brazen example of this was the Michael Jackson movie, This Is It. Jackson’s body was barely cold when This Is It was released less than five months after he had died. And if you think that that was “It”, well, you have another thing coming. In July of this year, TMZ reported that negotiations are underway involving the use and distribution of over 100 hours of Michael Jackson footage, ranging from various periods in his life. That’s a lot of movies, but it doesn’t say anything about the music that has yet to be “re-mastered” and packaged with different materials so that we can hear Thriller again for the millionth time.  

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Not to be limited by genre, this trend doesn’t even let guys like Dimebag Darrell rest in peace. In memoriam of his legacy, Dean has recently released a Dimebag D100 guitar amp. A nice gesture to be sure, but Dean already has over thirty different Dimebag guitars. And for those of us who don’t have advanced degrees in mathematics, it would be difficult for us to add up all of the Jimi Hendrix swag that has been put out there since he went six feet under. And don’t forget about Tupac Shakur. I was convinced for years that he faked his death because he was still releasing ‘new’ material!      

Many may say that these companies are vultures, cleaning the bones of the dead. Yet, these companies would not be stamping their equipment with the names of the dead if it didn’t sell. Our affection for musicians grows exponentially based on how deep they are buried. We love our dead guitar players and we will pay anything to make sure that we have all of their signature stuff, even if they never played the stuff in the first place. For the past three days, in preparation for this article, I asked everyone that I came in contact with, “Who are your three favorite guitar players?” Everyone I asked named at least one dead person. In fact, one person named three dead guys in a row!      

Without walking over anyone’s grave, are these guitar players more famous because they are dead? Would Jimi Hendrix still be regarded as ‘the greatest guitar player ever’ if he lived until he was ninety? Sure, he did things that very few people were doing at the time, but what about players that are doing amazing stuff today?  What about guys like Kiko Loureiro, Paul Gilbert, Michael Shenker, or Andy McKee? Should their contributions be overshadowed by the ghosts of long dead guitar players? Or, should we remember them for what they accomplished and try to appreciate the new legends while they’re still breathing?       

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Filed Under: Commentary / Editorials

About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for TheToneKing.com, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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