Sunday, September 26, 2021

Ending September: Final songs

The final songs of pop music artists who die often take on far more importance than they might otherwise have had. But sometimes those final songs are a fitting end to a career, wrapping up their career. These are two final songs that do that for me.

The video up top is Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt”. The song was written by Trent Reznor, who is the lead singer (etc.) of American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. I must’ve heard that when Cash’s version was released because I’m quite certain I never heard the NIN version before Cash’s. Nine Inch Nails is a group that it’s still quite fashionable to hate, and whether that’s justified or grossly unfair is a matter of opinion, but either way I don’t care for their music. Had Cash never recorded his cover, I’d never have heard the song. I’m glad he did. [WATCH: “Johnny Cash The Story Behind His Cover of Nine Inch Nails Hurt & Trent Reznor's Reaction”.

Johnny Cash’s version is full of melancholy, awareness of his approaching end, and the regret that can come with that. The video, I think, is utterly masterful in capturing all that, and the use of the decrepit House of Cash as a kind of metaphor is perfect. This is the one of these two songs that I sometimes sing to myself.

“Hurt” was the final single released in Cash’s lifetime. The video was filmed in February 2003 and released the following month. Johnny’s wife, June Carter Cash, appears in it twice; she died in May 2003. Johnny Cash died in September 2003.

Because I always mention such things, the song hit 39 in the UK and 56 in the USA.

Next up, the last song by David Bowie, “Lazarus”:

“Lazarus” was the final song to be released in Bowie’s lifetime. and Bowie’s producer has said that Bowie intended it as his epitaph, which at the very least seems plausible. I have to be honest: This video, and the others songs from his Blackstar album, made me very uncomfortable because he was clearly unwell—though we had no idea how sick he was until he died. In the time since then, I found out that he died of liver cancer—the same thing that killed my Nigel, but Bowie got 18 months, while Nigel didn’t even get 18 days. Because of all of that, this particular final song caries far more meaning for me now than it did when it was released.

Coincidentally related – WATCH: David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails perform “Hurt”

The song hit Number 72 in Australia, 14 in Canada, 9 in New Zealand, 45 in the UK, and 40 on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100”.

As I said up top, the final songs of pop music artists who die often take on far more importance than they might otherwise have had. These two songs have taken on new meaning for me because of what I’ve been through, and I can relate to them more now than when they were originally released. To some extent, that happens with all music, but when it’s a final song? Maybe the meaning becomes a bit more.


Roger Owen Green said...

Apropos, I've linked to HURT in a post I've written but have not yet posted.

Arthur Schenck said...

I look forward to the post!

Roger Owen Green said...

Posted today, apparently.
I no longer remember what I've written for when, except for birthdays, holidays, and the like.

Roger Owen Green said...

I would also recommend to you Warren Zevon's final album, The Wind, recorded when he knew he was dying.

It was released on August 26, 2003. He died of mesothelioma on September 7, 2003, aged 56.