Heroic Couplings

"It's every generation throws a hero up the pop charts."
-- Paul Simon, "The Boy in the Bubble"

Music moves us -- physically, of course, by getting our legs shaking and hands clapping, by propelling us up and out of our seats and onto the dance floor to dip, twist or pogo, to gyrate foolishly, glide smoothly or slam frenetically.

But music and its makers also move us emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. If music matters to us at all -- and how can it not? -- we form special bonds with key figures: These musicians -- Frank or Elvis or Jimi or Janis or Joni or Neil or Mick or Bono or Alanis or Beck -- speak to us in direct and intimate ways by setting a stylish example; by giving full, beautiful voice to our unspoken thoughts and feelings; by shaping our opinions, our worldviews and even our lives. We ape their moves, dress in their clothes; we worship, lust after and fantasize about them.

They make, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, a tight connection to our hearts. They become our heroes.

Fannish ardor has its downside, of course -- see Mark David Chapman and John Lennon -- but most of us eventually learn to integrate our musical heroes into our everyday existence and to stay just this side of unhealthy obsession. And as we grow older, as time passes inexorably by and responsibilities mount, our interest sometimes lessens or our tastes simply change; we may even grow embarrassed by those who once transported us to ecstasy or moved us to tears. But in their day we loved them, and we still carry that torch, however wan and flickering.

In this issue devoted to music, we asked both writers and musicians to confess their first and/or abiding musical loves, and we went out among the young and asked which musicians, in this hero-today-gone-tomorrow world of instant and undeserved celebrity, they looked up to and swooned over.

Join us in celebrating some of the rock (and jazz and soul and country and R&B) gods at whose altars we genuflect.

-- Cliff Froehlich

 
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