by Heidi M. Pascual
Many talented individuals in this world were fortunate to reach the pinnacle of success and became international celebrities that provided them
not only everything that money can buy, but also love and adoration of millions of fans around the world, and even power and influence in
political circles that mere presence in their midst reflects support and respect for a particular party or ideology.
Today is one those nostalgic moments when I feel sad thinking about a few of these persons in the entertainment and music industry that I
admired and loved, but who met tragic deaths, most of them at a young age. Many times I asked myself, what is in fame that attracts tragedy?
While this isn’t true in many cases, it happened in the few people in my short list of stars I wished I had the opportunity to meet in my lifetime.
Being a musician myself and a child of the sixties, I have been, and will always be, a Beatles ardent fan. Of the Fab Four, it was John Lennon
who stole my heart, really. In my high school days, I joined a band that played mostly songs by the Beatles and I became its lead singer.
Though my mother worried that my singing voice for the church choir would “change” or be badly affected due to the type of songs my band
liked to perform, I used to allay my mom’s fears and convinced her that the additional money would help my studies anyway. I sang many
Beatles songs with my band, but mostly ballads and slower beats. It was the boys’ turn whenever the songs got to be faster and louder. I
really enjoyed those days!
When the Beatles broke up, my high school days were over and I focused on building my future, though I felt really sad about my favorite
band’s breakup. When John was assassinated in 1980 in New York, it was a long period of mourning for me. I wasn’t alone, for sure,
because John Lennon was an icon in the music world and he had millions of followers then, but I must admit I loved this man from afar. Why
did he die at 40? He could have composed many more “Imagine”-like songs, full of great and intense messages that can move us all. To this
day, I still regret those wasted years after John’s death.
Elvis Presley, the “King of Rock and Roll,” didn’t learn music formally, but his natural talent, good looks, and desire to start something new
(though controversial for conservatives and whites who disliked whites “copying” Black music and style, and his gyrating pelvic movements)
and ability to draw young crowds made him truly the only one worthy of the throne. This man had a very rough beginning and lots of rejection
in his initial attempts to be a recording star, but he persisted until his dream came true! In my youth, Elvis was the heartthrob of everyone,
including myself. His movies, though so-so in terms of content, were “great” just because he was the star. It was the early ‘60s, and before
the Beatlemania ruled the world, thus, Elvis then was my idol. I worshipped him like someone from above that, though unreachable in person
was always heard on the radio and seen in the movies. His “Hound Dog” made me dance wherever I was; his “Can’t Stop Falling In Love”
made me “fall in love” with the guy who serenaded me with it (who became my husband, by the way); and his gospel songs made me think
about the heaven and God whenever I heard them. He didn’t compose his songs…and he merely played his guitar by ear…but he knew how to
connect with the lyrics of the songs he sang, was passionate about their content and how to extend the same passion to his audience. Oh, no
one could ever be like Elvis! At 42, however, the “King” passed in 1977, due to overprescribed drugs, according to press releases at the time
of his passing.
I understand the stress of performing, having done some of it in my youth. But for these musical idols who had to perform at various places
for several hours a day (or mostly at night), or “overnight,” do recording sessions for days or weeks at a time, or work on films, drugs,
prescribed or not, became a regular go-to relief. When Elvis passed, I couldn’t believe it at first, a feeling shared by millions of his fans. But
indeed the King was gone, and the world lost a legend whose life work we still enjoy today.
Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop,” was undoubtedly one of the top five musicians I love and admire to this day. Regardless of whatever
accusations levelled at him, I thank him for his positive and innovative contributions to music. I followed his musical growth and just loved his
songs “Ben,” “Beat It," "Thriller," "Billie Jean" and “Black or White." His signature dance move, the moonwalk, has been a staple dance move
of our children and grandchildren! He received tons of awards and recognitions during his lifetime and his songs were always chart-toppers.
Michael passed away preparing for a live concert that would have been the biggest in his career. But again, he resorted to pain killers and drugs
to put him to sleep, an overdose of which resulted in death. While his doctor was jailed for injecting the killer drug propofol, it was no justice
because Michel won’t ever come back. He left us at a time he could still do a lot more music and make the world happier than it is.
Freddie Mercury of Queen, the gay musician who stole part of my heart. It took me awhile to explain to myself why did I not know the person
in the ‘70s and ‘80s? While I love the songs “We are the Champion” and “We Will Rock You” whenever I heard them mostly in sporting
events, I just knew they were sung by the band Queen, and that was it. Going back to those years, well I was then very busy raising a young
family, going to school, and taking care of home needs. I didn’t have enough time to even listen to new bands or singers on the radio! It was
the recent movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” that actually introduced Freddie Mercury, Queen’s front man, to me. And for many days and nights
after watching that movie, I researched on this very special and talented person, watched him perform on YouTube videos, and simply loved
his music. I felt so sad and got teary eyed when I read about his death at 45. Indeed, he died at a time HIV-AIDS was not only literally a death
sentence but also a disease frowned upon by society and
thought of as a curse against promiscuous people, particularly
homosexuals. He had to hide his sickness to protect those
around him from society’s vitriol. When I watched his video
performing “Great Pretender” I understood completely and felt
so much injustice as payment for his legacy to the world of
music. I don’t know and can’t explain why I am in awe of this
man. Nobody I know in the rock music industry has a better
voice than Mercury. Wherever he is now, I want him to know
I am praying for the repose of his soul and for him to find the
happiness which he didn’t find on earth.
Fame has been unkind to my beloved musicians above who
met tragic deaths early. But what they left in the music world
will always be cherished and remembered by loving fans like