As Monday’s passing of Nick Ashford gave way to today’s tenth anniversary of the tragic death of Aaliyah I find it instructive to do what my father always taught me
“Make sure you remember to connect the dots so you don’t just end up with freckles” – Inkognegro Beta (my father)
One of the most maddening things I experience in life is the lip-service paid to history. Our memories are as narrow as they are long. We can recite chapter and verse of what matters to us as though it is holy canon, yet scoff whenever someone dares suggest a little context, which invariably diminishes the moutain in our eyes to the molehill it probably deserves to be.
The very nature of Social Media in general, and Twitter in particular is that it is a massive but diverse organism in search of common themes to fuel it. Some folks seek to drive a narrative for one purpose or another, but most just float along and ride whatever wave comes along to pull them. As much as we would rather it not, those of us who indulge in social media to any appreciable degree are forced to ride the waves we catch, like it or not.
The difference between nostalgia of Monday’s Lament over the death of Nick Ashford differed from Thursdays acknowledgement of the death of Aaliyah in degree, tone…and intensity.
I have always been fascinated with the impact Aaliyah’s death had on her career. As someone who was a fan…but hardly a devotee of her, It was intriguing to watch the nostalgia build from one year to the next. Of course…the fact that her death came during the earliest stages of the broadband era, has only served to enhance her legacy. and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that. I do wish that she was as beloved in life, though. But that is how life is…It never occurs to us how fleeting it is…until it flees from us.
Which harkens me back to Mr. Ashford (to say nothing of the work his surviving wife of 37 years, Valerie Simpson). I would be lying if I said I was a huge fan or afficionado of his bonafides. I knew, intellectually, that he was a titan in the industry whose reach exceeded far beyond Solid as a rock and a cameo in New Jack City. Even if you delve into the Motown accomplishments or even lean into the work he (and Valerie) did for Ray Charles…rattling off a selection of hits in no way captures the cultural impact of Nick Ashford on the American Landscape. And no one thinks to do so until it is too late.
As we mourn the losses of Mr. Ashford and Ms. Haughton, let us Start to Pick metaphorical flowers for those legends amongst us who are still living. who still have lessons to teach us. So much is said about the paucity of genuine musical stars…I submit that if we spent more time lauding the stars amongst us rather than shepherding them into history, maybe there would be time for the stars of tomorrow to incubate and learn the craft. In our rush to crown new stars we may be leaving out the most obvious candidates.