This weekend, I got a message from Angel Dean that the great bluegrass musician, singer, songwriter and social activist Hazel Dickens had died. (I wrote about Hazel, and Angel too, a few years ago here). Angel and I corresponded about how much Hazel had meant to us, and how when we met her years back, she’d seemed ancient. And how we’d both been shocked to realize she was the same age then as we are now.
How could Angel and I know, looking at 52 or 53 year old Hazel, what incredible stores of energy and creativity and whatever else can be inside a person, even as the physical side is ebbing a bit – how could we know she was not anywhere near finished – hell, she was only getting started in a way, giving what she had to give?
God, we were young then! Oh, we could be honored, and awestruck to be hanging out with someone who’d been where she’d been and done what she’d done. But how, at the age of 28 or 29, could we imagine what someone that old had left to do on this earth?
I’ve been thinking about Hazel a lot the last few days, how she never stopped playing and singing but kept on performing right up to her death at the age of 75.
Then today I was in the post office, standing behind a man, who was giving his date of birth to the lady behind the counter. “Mille neuf cent soixante quatorze” I heard him reeling off. Let’s see, 1900 and 60 plus 14 so that makes it 19…74.
Shit. He’s young! Not even 40. I was 15 in 1974. I look at his face. He looks, um, middle-aged. That makes me…old?
If not old, older. Always, always older than I think I am.
Got back home and saw on Twitter: RIP Poly Styrene, age 53.
No! She was just releasing her first album in many years. Recent photos show a lovely, enchanting woman with lots to give. From the beginning, in X-Ray Spex, here was a brain at work, questioning, challenging everybody’s idea of what a girl was, what advertising did, the modern world. Saw her play at CBGB, one of the English bands we all would’ve killed to see but this show was more 3D, more fun, more colorful, more energetic and exciting than anyone could’ve expected (I just found this recording of it). She raised a daughter, had problems and was coming back again, with experience and wisdom and power.
53. Not old. Young.