What Song Should Be Played When Either Jagger or Richards Passes Away

12Sep12

A story about myself: I often think about how celebrity deaths are handled by the media. It’s become such a standard thing that I assume there has to be a template available to suit whatever dignitary, celebrity or famous pet passes away, and I believe I at the very least have a good handle on the “Famous Musician Template.”

Basically, they’re going to play some of their most popular songs, if not the single most popular song.

The artistry one can apply to the template is how to punch up the mournful feelings by choosing which portion of which song. For example, when Kurt Cobain died, I’m sure most of the news reports played “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” If they thought they were really savvy, they would have played up the opening line “Load up on guns.” If they wanted to push a little harder, they could have played the “I swear I don’t have a gun” refrain from “Come As You Are.” Lately, when people lament Cobain’s suicide, they usually play one of the slower, sad songs, such as the acoustic version of “All Apologies,” or maybe “Something In The Way.” I have almost no evidence to back up these claims, but I know I’m right and we’re going with it.

Yes, I think of such things. I wrote about it when Adam Yaught passed away, and I’m still thinking of it for deaths that have yet to occur. It doesn’t take a ton of imagination to consider the mortality of the Rolling Stones, each member pushing 70 years old, 50+ of which would qualify as “hard living.” So I’ve often wondered what song or songs would play when Mick Jagger and/or Keith Richards meet their ultimate demise.

Please note that I’m not wishing they would die. I think that should be clear.

The easy vote goes to “Satisfaction.” In fact, it’s so easy that it’s the reason I left off any other member of the Stones. If and when Charlie Watts or Bill Wyman passes away, that’s the song that the news will play.

But Jagger and Richards offer a few variations. Sure, MOST news programs will probably play “Satisfaction,” but the variations can show a lot about you, the news maker, and your personal tastes.

You could go with “Wild Horses” or “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” for obvious reasons. Both are very popular songs, and both contain a more mature feeling than, say, “Rocks Off.” “Shine A Light” would be another good one, though a little on the nose considering the line “Let the good Lord shine a light on you” and all the references to angels. Of course, you could also be a total jerk and play “Sympathy for the Devil” — ha ha, they’re in Hell.

But for my money, the one to play would actually be “Salt of the Earth,” the closing track from 1968’s “Beggar’s Banquet.” It’s got that slower, contemplative pace (in the beginning), and lyrics that are not on the nose about the current/eventual subject at hand, but more about the world in general. The song’s basic message seems to be “Be nice to people,” and in times of mourning, that’s a good reminder. Of course you feel bad about your problems, but it’s a big world and you don’t have a monopoly on sadness, so pray “for the common foot soldier.”

“Salt of the Earth” might also serve as a nice reminder to non-defenders of the artist/band that these were/are caring people, who did occasionally think of people outside themselves. This would naturally lead to more tears than ever. It also has that great rave up at the end, which would send you off on a happier step than you began. You came to mourn, but you leave energized. And as a special bonus, it has both Mick and Keith singing, and not just over the chorus.

There you have it. Your theoretical problems have been legitimately solved. We can all sleep better at night.

EDITED TO ADD: I should’ve remembered “Ruby Tuesday!” GAH!

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