A guy over on one of the lists I sub to has raised the “what-if” question, which rolls around periodically in every music-related discussion group in the world: “What if X hadn’t died?”
I’ve always heard these what-ifs and regarded them suspiciously. We just have too many examples of people who have gone to hell as their careers “matured.” Elton John is the greatest, best example in the Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen pantheon, but he’s hardly the only one.
Let’s look at an example. We always love to wonder what Hendrix would have done had he lived. So what if, on September 18, 1970, Hendrix had lived and another artist had died instead. Say maybe a brilliant young blues rock singer who had, at that point, just released his second solo record – a 5-star wonder that followed a solid 4.5-star debut from the previous year. These came after he’d fronted 4.5- and 5-star efforts from The Jeff Beck Group and a fantastic 4-star (at least) debut for The Faces.
That’s something like five records in three years, and the worst in the pack was at least worth four stars.
So, what if Jimi had lived but Rod Stewart had died that day? What kind of mythology would we have constructed around him? How many what-if debates would his legend dominate?
For all we know Jimi would be doing duet records featuring Rob Thomas and Nelly or playing the pan flute in Celine Dion’s band in Vegas right now. Probably not, but how many people predicted Rod’s current 25 year-long nonstop Frustrated Housewives Tour back in 1970?