People who look at car crashes

Why does a celeb, posthumously, become a superhero?

I could name a few – who had varying degrees of talent (from ‘zero’ to ‘some’) – who have been raised to this state.

This is not really related to the Radio 4 Feedback programme itself, more to a programme that was played out this week featuring Jeff Buckley singing Dido’s Lament.

I’ve never seen a car crash in realtime, in fact I have never so much as seen a person get killed or even die.

Nor am I one of those people who slows down to look at the crash on the motorway. I believe it’s more dangerous to do so, besides, slowing down can have a knock-on effect on hundreds of people’s lives by causing huge tailbacks; those in cars behind you may be missing their plane, missing a crucial interview for a job, trying to get to the other side of the country to see their dying grandmother. A police cleanup operation is made ten times more difficult by the behaviour of the public.

If you slow down to look, you are contributing to the chaos for one reason only: to satisfy your sick curiosity. I abhor everyone who looks at a car crash.

The only way to help is to look straight ahead and ignore it. Tell yourself people die every day from their own – or others’ – stupidity and thoughtlessness, or by mere chance.

Technically, I should feel similarly about how we humans are morbidly interested in the dead.

I understand our human obsession with venerating people to cultural superhero status just because they died in unfortunate circumstances; there is a correlation between the depth of tragedy and the amount that we consider them a genius. I understand our obsession with venerating stars to cultural superhero status because they committed suicide; they were oh so fragile, society didn’t listen to them, they were victims of the modern world.

But celebrities? People in the pop industry? People who appeared on Big Brother?

Jeff Buckley appears to have been a reasonably talented person, however he does not deserve the veneration to cult superhero status that he has received. Apart from anything, he butchered Dido’s Lament. Here is a beautiful piece of music written in the context of a work of opera, which has been singled-out by a man who appears to be nothing more than slightly interested in gothic things, with no more than a modicum of talent.

From my above views on people who slow down for car crashes, you might assume that I would curse loudly, switch off the radio, move on.

Except I had to listen. The more I listened, the more enraged I became. The more confused I became about why such terrible singing could be seen as so brilliant by so many people.

The positive comments that flowed in to R4’s Feedback confirm this.

Regardless of whether you consider this person to have been a musical talent or not, I believe that either way this kind of veneration is like slowing down to watch a car crash.

There are hundreds of other cars on the roads, millions of other personal stories, thousands of other performances of Purcell that will make you cry.

Is Buckley’s rendition of Dido’s Lament considered to have the depth of emotion that it does, because we only hear it with the knowledge of how he died?

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