September 13, 2009

People Who Died

Here's a headline in the NYT that's representative of a trend I've been noticing in the obituaries for about 5 years now:
Jim Carroll, Poet and Punk Rocker, Is Dead at 60
The ex-rock figures who show up in the obituaries tend to die around age 60.

Sure, that's not the way to figure out life expectancy since you're only seeing people who died. For example, a lot of the original wild men of the 1950s aren't dead yet (Chuck Berry is 82 and Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis are in their mid-70s.) And Les Paul, who sort of invented the electric guitar, died recently at 94.

Still, 60 or thereabouts is what I keep seeing in ex-rock star obituaries.

In general, rock stars tend to be high energy people. For example, a thoroughly hashed-up and beered-up Joe Strummer of The Clash ran marathons in 1981, 1982, and 1983, claiming a best time of 3:20, which is pretty funny considering the shambolic state of The Clash from late 1979 onward.

Kurt Cobain is close to the exception that proves the rule by being a rock star who probably would have been sickly even without all the drugs. Neil Young suffered from epilepsy when he was in his 20s, but it has disappeared, and his iron constitution has reasserted itself (his mother was a terrific athlete and his father was Canada's top hockey writer). For Bruce Springsteen, who appears to be a generally all around above average individual, I'd set the over-under line at, say, age 87.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here's a headline in the NYT that's representative of a trend I've been noticing in the obituaries for about 5 years now:

Jim Carroll, Poet and Punk Rocker, Is Dead at 60


2004 - 60 = 1944
2009 - 60 = 1949

I think there was this thing called "The Baby Boom" which got its start in there somewhere [at least for Caucasians].

You're a student of demography - you know what's coming.

And it ain't pretty.

Ian said...

Clever title, clever title ...

Anonymous said...

Yes, but the baby boomer punk rockers shouldn't be keeling over until they're 80.

Too many drugs do wear you down.

headache said...

Dunno about the particulars since I detest rock music anyway, but as an outsider I cannot imagine that lifestyle to be healthy in any way, even if you somehow managed to avoid drugs. The boozing, sexual immorality, lack of sleep and bad eating habits alone would wreck any normal person.

bgc said...

It would be intersting to add a control for IQ - my impression is that the cleverest rock stars live the longest; and vice versa.

Black Sea said...

Jim Caroll died at 60. It would seem that all of of his "best" work had been completed by the age of 30. So, what did he do with the remaining half of his life, just coast along on the dubious achievements of his youth?

"Hope I die before I get old . . . "

derry said...

I suppose Keith Richards should be dead by now. I think he's almost died several times already.

What's your take on Jagger. He seems pretty healthy.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that complications due to cocaine abuse (particularly cocaine induced heart attacks, when flabby middle-aged hearts are unable to cope with the intense stimulation of a cocaine rush). account for most pre-mature deaths of rok stars.
Off hand John Entwhistle (of 'The Who') and British star Robert Palmer are known to have died this way - though I'm sure it's implicated in many other sudden late-middle aged rock deaths.
As we all know the rock industry runs on cocaine.
Also it's pretty certain that years of abuse of alcohol and drugs other than charlie take their toll.

Anonymous said...

Clever title, clever title ...

Well done Ian (and Steve), now I know who Jim Carrol is, or rather was.

Shouting Thomas said...

Boring as it may seem, smoking is usually the culprit.

At any music party I've attended, the people who are getting sick and dying in their 50s and 60s are the smokers.

Sucking on a cigarette and playing music just seem to go together.

Anonymous said...

The BBC recently ran two documentaries of Normandy landing veteran's memories and the survivors of Britain's glam rock era 71 -73.

Most of the eighty year old soldiers were in the peak of physical and mental health. The rockers looked as if they could audition for Dawn of the Dead. Several of them have fallen off the perch since.

ironrailsironweights said...

Your cited headline actually brings up a question. Why do so many obituary headlines follow the [name] Dies at [age] pattern? Unless the person dies at an unusally young or old age, his or her age at death really isn't that relevant, yet it's always featured in the headline.

Peter

David said...

Anon said

> You're a student of demography - you know what's coming. And it ain't pretty. <

Invest in the mortuary business.

Concerned Netizen said...

Look at the Ramones:

1. Johnny dead at 50 of prostate cancer.

2. Joey dead of lymphoma at 50.

3. Dee Dee went down with his dope at 50.

75% mortality by age 50...that's way weird for middle-class guys from Queens.

You kind of wonder whether friends who get fat together, quit smoking together...and die together??

Mr Apostrophe said...

I knew Carroll: he was hooked on heroin for years, and he died an alcoholic. Therefore, rock stardom had nothing to do with it. Jim always thought of himself as a pet anyway.

Anonymous said...

Anthony Kiedis... I am astounded at that man's energy. He just doesn't seem to age. I seriously doubt he'll live to be a very old man, but I think the genes are there if he hadn't ravaged himself with drugs and STDs.

Anonymous said...

ironrailsironweights said...

Your cited headline actually brings up a question. Why do so many obituary headlines follow the [name] Dies at [age] pattern? Unless the person dies at an unusally young or old age, his or her age at death really isn't that relevant, yet it's always featured in the headline.

Peter

Me: It says here Jim Carroll died.

Husband: Really? How old was he?

It's the first thing most people ask.

Marc B said...

I've was never a fan of Jim Carroll and suspected that most of his fame was linked to folklore realted to being a former street hustler/ junkie/ scenester. Any chance the Ramones played one too many gigs at Giants stadium in East Rutherford, NJ?

kudzu bob said...

>I've was never a fan of Jim Carroll and suspected that most of his fame was linked to folklore realted to being a former street hustler/ junkie/ scenester.<

Carroll was a fine writer. To see what I mean, read his "Basketball Diaries" and "Forced Entries," or, if you are a poetic sort, his "Living at the Movies."

I wish he had written more books before he checked out. I'll miss him.

josh said...

Dumb question-but could,well,sex have anything to do with a rockstars mortality? I dont mean the burden of "social disease"--altho for some that may be a factor;isnt hep C sexually transmitted? But these guys have tons of sex.Tons Jerry! More than Mother Nature really intended men to have. Thats why our drive(well,James Kabala excepted) is so strong,cuz Mom expected mans sex life to be nasty,brutish and short.Imagine the Sex-With-A-Woman vs Sex-With-Self ratio in the average young man. Pretty low,I'd imagine. For many of these rockers it may actually be reversed;that is he gets massive sex-- with the occasional solitary session,perhaps seeking refuge from young groupies to meditate on the charms of,say,Margaret Mead? BTW some of these eastern-philosophy based sex guys say that ejaculation actually weakens a man. Bummer! Buck Turgidson,call home...

SKT said...

I'm a doctor.

"Boring as it may seem, smoking is usually the culprit."

Smoking kills people off in their 60's.

The culprit here is cocaine. It does a lot of heart damage, vascular damage. One thing that I always find hilarious is that patients readily admit to smoking crack, but if they're asked about IV drug use they look at you like you're crazy. Actually, heroin is much less dangerous (well, assuming you don't share needles). The heroin itself is much less likely to permanently damage you.

David Davenport said...

ironrailsironweights said...
Your cited headline actually brings up a question. Why do so many obituary headlines follow the [name] Dies at [age] pattern? Unless the person dies at an unusally young or old age, his or her age at death really isn't that relevant, yet it's always featured in the headline.


Huh? The age of death is quite relevant to some obit readers.

My father likes to read the obituaries in his local newspaper.
He congratulates himself for still being alive when some people he knew aren't anymore.

He's probably not the only geezer who is like that.

Delphi said...

Patrick Swazye (P-Swaze) is dead at 57.

Anonymous said...

Dr SKT

Smoking should kill people off later but if they are indulging in coke and smoking too, surley the old ticker is under a double assault?

Not being a druggie type, or a smoker for that matter, I dont know that my friends would admit to me of their illegal vices (if indeed they have them). But people Im aware of who do take coke or smoke dope are invariably smokers (and serious drinkers)too. A double bind for them.

Brent Lane said...

Sorry to hear about Jim Carroll, Catholic Boy is one of my alltime favorite recordings. Even if a valid argument can be made that Carroll's performance was more shouting his poetic lyrics as opposed to singing, the music accompanying it was solid.

I suppose Keith Richards should be dead by now. I think he's almost died several times already.

I hear that Keith has a portrait of himself in his attic that looks great.

Udolpho.com said...

I sure hope Springsteen doesn't live to 87, I know I'll outlive him but I have a lot of pissing on his grave to do.