Opening Argument: What Does It Mean To Miss An Artist?
I was talking recently with podcaster John Moe about the song “No One Else Is Singing My Song” from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. (More about this later.) The song is funny and wise, and it has a couple of piercing insights about how isolating depression can be as well as some gentle teasing about how it can lead you to think you’re more unusual than you are. It was written by Rachel Bloom and Jack Dolgen, along with Adam Schlesinger, who died of COVID in 2020. He’d had a brilliant career that included being part of the band Fountains of Wayne as well as a tremendous run writing music for film and television — he wrote the song “That Thing You Do!” He wrote so, so much that I love.
It really got me thinking … man, I miss Adam Schlesinger. I didn’t know him, obviously, and I know famous people aren’t any more special than other people, and I know it has been a year of tremendous losses that are so, so much more dear and important to so many of us than losing one of your very favorite songwriters. But … man, I miss Adam Schlesinger. I thought about it this week with Michael K. Williams, too — an actor I have loved in a lot of projects but especially on The Wire. I have thought so much about the fact that there are just entire roles that I cannot imagine anyone else will play nearly the way he would have, and that’s on top of his reputation as a kind and lovely guy. I started feeling, instantly, the way I would miss him.
I know the difference between personal grief and the loss of an artist or another person whose work you admire; these aren’t people I knew. I wrote about this feeling a bit when the author David Rakoff died in 2012. I’ve thought about it countless times regarding Roger Ebert and David Carr and other people whose voices I wish we still had. But sometimes I feel like when you write a remembrance of a person, you wind up trying to list all their accomplishments and their victories and the people they influenced because it’s so hard to figure out how to say, I miss this person. Or I’m really going to miss this person. I, personally, will miss them.
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There are lots of talented songwriters, lots of talented writers, lots of talented actors. We all are here briefly; we all leave whatever we leave. But none of that stopped me from going back to the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend soundtrack albums and thinking over and over and over again about missing people who made work that means something to me.
There was a whole social media flutter-up this week in which people were talking about parasocial relationships, which for this purpose you can roughly define as the sense that a person who’s famous is your friend, that you could walk up and talk to them because you watch their comedy, or you hear them on the radio, or you listen to their music. There’s a lot of concern right now about the shape of these relationships and how people invest in them in healthy and unhealthy ways. But I think you can feel the need to limit your emotional investment in celebrities and still leave room for genuine emotional responses, one of which is the sense of loss when people die.
I admired Michael K. Williams, I admired Adam Schlesinger, I admired so many people whose remembrances I’ve written. But I also miss them. I miss the work they didn’t get to do, I miss the songs they didn’t write, the films they didn’t make, the shows they didn’t finish. It’s not always a comfortable feeling, because it’s not neat. It’s not grief — I don’t feel grief for them the way I do with people I knew, and I don’t feel grief for them in the way people who knew them did. But boy … I miss Adam Schlesinger.
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The death of actor Michael K. Williams this week hit his many fans very hard. Do treat yourself to this conversation he had with Jesse Thorn on Bullseye a few years ago. A brilliant artist who will be terribly missed.
Nobody is more qualified to put together an oral history of the first season of The Amazing Race than longtime reality television journalist Andy Dehnart. I was delighted to read this chronicle, and less delighted to realize this was 20 years ago, and I am old.
I really enjoyed the first season of the podcast Chameleon, and now they’re back with season two, “High Rollers,” which traces a weird and, the show argues, regrettable FBI operation.
Comedian John Mulaneyshowed up on Seth Meyers’ show this week to talk about a year in which he went to rehab, got a divorce, got into a new relationship, and is now expecting a new baby. I don’t think it’s possible to make predictions about the guy’s future, but I did find it fascinating and affecting television.
What We Did This Week:
On Tuesday, Stephen talked to longtime PCHH friend Kiana Fitzgerald about Drake’s album Certified Lover Boy.
On Thursday, Glen talked to Mallory Yu and Cyrena Touros about Netflix’s animated Q-Force.
And on Friday, Stephen, Glen. Aisha and I sat down together to go over some things we’re excited about this fall.
Another thing: We’ll be talking about The Sopranos on the show in an upcoming episode, and we’re taking your questions. Send us a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you might hear us talk about what you asked! (We promise not to turn you in to the authorities for having questions about crime.)
What’s Making Us Happy!
Every week on the show, we talk about some other things out in the world that have been giving us joy lately. Here they are: