14 September 2007


I've long had a penchant for obituaries. Something about the stock-taking involved attracts me.

Something that's always bothered me is how unfortunate it is that the notable-but-not-household-name deaths are over-shadowed by the deaths of the more famous. It's no one's fault, but somehow it seems to add insult to injury.

For instance, while I admit to tearing up every time I hear him eulogize himself through recordings played on TV and radio, Pavarotti's recent expiration outshone that of Alex, the African grey parrot who died the same day, and about whom I've written previously. Alex's last squawk just couldn't compete with Luciano's glorious tenor, but his untimely death (he was expected to live for many more years) deserves mention.

Likewise, amidst the September 11th memorials, we didn't stop to pay our respects to the great Joe Zawinul, who died on that fateful date this year. But Zawinul was an extraordinary composer, keyboardist, and band-leader. Listening to John McLaughlin talk today reminded me of how difficult it would be to conceive of jazz fusion without Zawinul, Bitch's Brew, and Weather Report.

And then there's the recent spate of philosopher deaths. When the big-shots die, the profession bows its head -- or thumbs its nose, as the case may be. But also significant are the less heralded losses: those like Susan Hurley -- whose obituary didn't make the national papers in the UK until nearly a month following her death (The Guardian, The Times) -- Michael Frede -- who drowned off the coast of Greece and whose death has yet to be acknowledged in any national paper (though the Berkeley Classics department has a notice here) -- and Timothy Sprigge -- whose death seems to have attracted about as much notice as his work, I'm sorry to say.

The world has become significantly poorer following these departures. So it seems to me anyway, even if not to the mass media. And so we acknowledge them here, lest they be forgotten.

UPDATE: Okay, so Frede's death was noted in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

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