Death of the Rock God

While driving back from lunch, I introduced little Elly to Guns ‘n’ Roses – Use Your Illusion II, because the first one was somehow not in my CD case. Yesterday he learned about the wonders of Strung Out and then Counting Crows. (He’s going to be a very well-rounded musical boy!)

But I got to thinking about something:

As far as I can tell, it must have begun with Elvis. I’m not an expert here but I have a pretty good handle on popular music through the last century. He was one of the first musicians to receive this King-ike status. The fact that TV wouldn’t show him from the waist down had to tell you something. Next came the Beatles. When the Beatles hit it big, girls went absolutely berserk. Have you seen that footage where they cry and throw their heads about in epileptic like fits of ecstasy? It’s ridiculous but it brought these four Liverpool boys up to “Rock God” status.


The decades progressed and there were others of this calibre who garnered respect from both sexes; people like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, The Who, and Led Zeppelin. These musicians were worshipped like false idols of the rock and roll world. Men wanted to be them and women wanted to be with them. Something about the electricity and sheer emotional and intangibility of the music that sent people into a rage. Speculating, the world of rock took a bit of a dive when Disco hit the scene. Girls went nuts over guys like Leif Garrett and David Cassidy; blond haired, tight-jeaned boys who had none of the roughness that a “Rock God” should possess.

The 80’s (and early 90’s), however, revived this phenomenon. Looking back now, hair bands were – all in all – pretty lame. I mean, they wore lipstick, fishnet stocking, and enough AquaNet to create an ozone hole the size of Spain. But they were hardcore, hot stuff, bad boys with motorcycles (Motley Crue) and epitomized the guy you should never bring home to mom; which is why you wanted to. Personally, I was partial to Poison front man Brett Michaels, the true lead singer of Van Halen, David Lee Roth, and of course, Axl Rose.

Oh how I adored him, plastered his image on my wall, cut out of so many issues of Rolling Stone, Metal magazine, etc. And oh how he was the object of my teenage fantasies. He alone was the one man for me, oh yes. In the same way this kid, Gary, in middle school wanted to be James Hetfield, I wanted to be with Axl Rose. I have no qualms about admitting this. It’s best not to have regrets. He epitomized all that is a true Rock God.

But let me ask you: who do kids have today? Who do boys want to be like? Who do girls dream about late at night as they try to sleep? Are they rappers? Are there any new rock bands whose front men possess the necessary attributes? I worry that when my son is in his teenage years, the state of music will be so bad that he won’t have anyone to turn to. And I always thought it was important to have some kind of hero like that. Maybe he’ll just have to look outside the area of music. If musicians and sports stars keep it up, there won’t be any great American heroes left.