In 2001, I was an editorial contributor to Suite 101, and my topic was “Life in America, Circa 1960s. This is a portion of an article I wrote for that website (somewhat redacted and updated).
Dying Young a Great Career Move
The saying is “the good die young.” I don’t know whether it’s true. The implication is that “good people” die young, because they are just too pure to live in this cold, cruel world. Maybe those who die young just seem good to us, simply because they didn’t live long enough to succumb to the worldly temptations that could ultimately corrupt them.
More often, those who die young were not necessarily all that good. But, for some reason, they are exonerated by their own premature demise. Dying unexpectedly is apparently more effective than baptism for washing away a person’s sins.
Since this column was a reflection of life in the 1960s, I went on to consider some ‘60s icons whose untimely demise was the best thing that ever happened to their careers.
Marilyn Monroe would now be 83. She died at 36, when her bust measurement still exceeded her age. But, had she lived far past that number, she might be like Mamie Van Doren – an antique sex symbol writing “kiss and tell” books about the men in her life.
Elvis Presley – Had he not died at 42, he would likely have faded away a la Jerry Lee Lewis.
James Dean – If a car wreck had not forever freeze-framed the actor in our minds as the restless, risk-taking, 24-year-old “rebel without a cause,” today, he might be, at best, Dennis Hopper – at worst, Robert Blake.
Buddy Holly – The “music died” when he was only 22. Would a 72-year-old Holly be more like Paul Anka?
Bobby Kennedy – If he had not been assassinated at age 42, today he would most likely be – TED KENNEDY???
John Lennon – He was already beginning to mellow at age 40, when he was killed. I suspect that 68-year-old Lennon might be very similar to Neil Diamond.
Apparently, an untimely death is a great career move and a shortcut to LEGEND status.