2016 was a very sad year in the world of music, movies, television, and pop culture. The death of a famous personality is almost always a sorrowful event. This is even more true the older you become. I was a few weeks shy of my 11th birthday when my cousin, Bessie Potts, came running out of her front door yelling to my mother that Elvis Presley had died at the age of 42. He was still the reigning “King of Rock n Roll”, but the news really meant very little to me. Years later, I went through my own little Elvis “period”, and I grew very saddened that I would never get to see him perform live or on television again, ever. Fast forward to 2016 and the year I turned 50. Scores of musicians and actors whom I revered have passed, and sadly, many still had a lot of productive and entertaining work left in them. The list of icons is staggering: David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Maurice White, Prince, Merle Haggard, Gene Wilder, and Leon Russell. Those that are considered the very best of all-time in their field is disturbing as well: Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe, John Glenn, and Arnold Palmer. Each one has a place in the storybook of my life.
At age 50, I receive the news of each death differently, but for each one there is a common theme that runs through my head: their families and loved ones they have left behind. How do you grieve for someone you love whose face is known around the world? For the most part, people mean well. How could you blame a perfect stranger whose life was touched, in some way, by your departed loved one when they approach you to give their condolence? Personally, I believe I could only smile and thank them for their kind words.
These legends and icons will live on in our hearts and minds forever. New acts will come and go. Young, talented actors will shine brighter and take home more hardware than those that have passed before them. All-time scoring records will be broken. The level of impact on society left behind by the new greats will not be measured solely by achievement and monetary earnings, but also by the way they carry themselves in public and their selflessness. Fans will forgive small missteps and small-scale brushes with the law. To truly stand out and become icons and thus measure up to their predecessors, they need to become part of their communities. They need to give back to those who helped them along the way. It’s not just giving money either, they need to give of their time: teaching, coaching, and mentoring those who may come along later and break the very records they are chasing right now.