We are at the beginning of an epidemic.
The rock stars of our youth are dying. We’re getting old, and they’re even older. They’re not going to OD or choke on vomit, they’re going to get prostate cancer and conjunctive colitis. David Bowie and Lemmy and Glenn Frey are only the beginning.
It is morbid, it is unpleasant, but it is true. All these guys are pushing 70 — some of them are pushing 80! Mick Jagger is 72. Neil Young is 70. Patti Smith is 69. Time is not on their side. At some point soon all the rock stars of the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s — the people who made us — are going to start dying off. In much bigger groups than threes. And I’m not sure as a blogger that I will be able to keep up with all of the eulogizing that I am morally, spiritually, and as it turns out legally obligated to do.
So I’ve found a workaround: using sophisticated software that uses complicated algorithms to construct complex written narratives based on a range of responses, I have been able to write all three obituaries for this week’s fallen luminaries at once.
Using a generic story template, the algorithm is able to take the basic known facts of a person’s biography — entered by the user by answering a series of questions — and construct a highly readable narrative. You’d be surprised how much like a human you can make an algorithm write. write. write. write. write. write
So without further preamble, here is my three-in-one “Autobituary” for David Bowie, Lemmy, and Glenn Frey.
(David Bowie / Lemmy / Glenn Frey), (Musical Icon / Real-Life Pirate / Petty Control Freak), Dead at (69 / 70 / 67)
(David Bowie / Lemmy / Glenn Frey) died last week after a (long / incredibly short / protracted and painful) struggle with (liver cancer / brain cancer / pneumonia, rheumatoid arthritis, and acute ulcerative colitis). (Bowie / Lemmy / Frey) was surrounded by (his family / empty Jack Daniels bottles / an array of loaded Depends).
As the leader of (the glam-rock movement / Motorhead / the Eagles), (Bowie / Lemmy / Frey) was a (revered / well-loved / largely reviled) figure, earning (praise / respect / derision) for his (relentlessly creative / brutally disciplined / Extra Medium) sound and (dynamic and unpredictable / rough and tumble / Extra Medium) live performances. From his early work with (the Spiders from Mars / Hawkwind / Longbranch Pennywhistle) to his later work (partnering with Nile Rodgers to create the 11-million selling Let’s Dance album / touring relentlessly on the strength of classic proto-metal exhaust fume “Ace of Spades” and the greatest outlaw image in the history of music / firing the dude who wrote “Hotel California” because he asked questions about his 6.6% share in the reunion tour). (Bowie / Lemmy / Frey) had well-documented struggles with (cocaine / alcohol / cocaine, alcohol, Qualuudes, wine coolers, valium, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Don Felder, Don Henley, Don Johnson, Don Julio) but eventually prevailed by (finding sobriety / redefine longevity / firing everyone).
(Bowie / Lemmy / Frey) leaves behind a personal legacy of (relentless creativity / stubborn persistence / total douchebaggery), known for (generosity / loyalty / contempt) toward collaborators and a relentless drive to (explore new ideas / plunder your face / take your money). (Bowie / Lemmy / Frey) was a pioneer in (sexual politics and a variety of musical genres / heavy metal / raising ticket prices), uncompromising (in the studio / on the road / in screwing over bandmates), and is survived by (an African model and two grown children / some really big snakes, probably / countless petty grudges that nearly overshadow his musical accomplishments).
This technology can easily be scaled up to accommodate the growing needs of the rock star obituary industry, and I welcome bids from crazed venture capitalists.