Grieving for the loss of a hero

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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess

February 1974, at the tender age of nine, I was ready to buy my first single. A momentous occasion, clutching my pocket money and climbing the stairs of Callers, a furniture store on Northumberland Street in Newcastle. Surprisingly they also had a record department and my brother and I would always disappear to mooch around upstairs while my parents browsed the room settings downstairs.

Two years older than me, my brother Stephen was always my guide with regard to music. Despairing of my adoration of Donny Osmond, he steered me towards the cooler end of the music market and it was under his direction I was persuaded to buy ‘Rebel Rebel’ by David Bowie. Maybe he was aware that, in time, I would be grateful for having chosen a hip record as my first single when I could so easily have been tempted by ‘The Wombling Song’ or ‘Remember’ by the Bay City Rollers. I suspect he was also being slightly devious: his little sister now owned a David Bowie single that he could borrow from time to time.

Two weeks later, I reverted to type and bought ‘Billy Don’t Be A Hero’ by Paper Lace. But no-one ever asks you about the second single you ever purchased.

When I heard the news about the death of David Bowie, my mind shot straight back to that Saturday as I saw myself clutching the record, its orange RCA label bright and vivid against the shiny black vinyl. Like so many of my generation, I was saddened to learn that a man, whose music was always there as a backdrop for my early memories, would no longer be around to add more. We can’t help but grieve when someone we have always admired, dies. We don’t know them personally but they have unwittingly been a companion during so many important life events, their death does feel like a good friend has left us, however mawkish this may sound.

Likewise when hearing the news of the death of Glenn Frey from The Eagles, the melody of ‘Desperado’ came instantly into my head, its soulful chords causing me to catch my breath and reflect on another fine musician whose songs are bookmarks for my memories.

When Lemmy from Motorhead died, I was transported back to my teenage encounters with Heavy Metal, following my brother’s lead, yet again. Those evenings spent embroidering band names onto his denim jacket - I was such a good sister - and accompanying him to numerous gigs: I still have the tinnitus to remind me.

The grief we’ve seen on social media over recent weeks may look unseemly but it is natural. The loss of a pop idol isn’t the same as the loss of a family member or close friend but, for a short while, it does hurt. These men have all died at a relatively young age and this inevitably makes us uncomfortably aware of our own mortality and for that, we have permission to gently weep.

You can follow Trish on Twitter via @mumsgoneto and read her blog at