Even when you’re older than the dead, musical idols they seem the more experienced adults. Why? They did things in their lives you haven’t and are increasingly unlikely ever to do – two years my junior, forever, Tupac Shakur could nevertheless boast a quantity of living three times my own.
Or not, because like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and the artists we’d collectively agree were sell outs if they were still alive, he’s dead. But I take no comfort from that. When someone leaves a body of work that will endure for hundreds of years, simply being alive where they are not isn’t reassuring. And if you protest the thought of being in competition with a dead, young artist, you’re doing so in your own defence, because we’ve all lain awake with this anxiety, and it’s unbearable when anybody brings it up.
I would have done it by now. You would have done it by now. The fantasy of being prodigiously talented and tragically young is over. Is is what you really wanted? Yes. Of course. What a stupid question. Would they, the dead? We can’t ask directly. But given the millions of people who’d love to know the answer, and the millions more to come, I’d say it’s doubtful the dead would swap for being just some 27-year-old.
30 is bound to be harder. But 27 is the age when – after inevitable comparison to so many heroes – dreams break and roll back. By sheer good fortune you have a higher standard of life than most people in the world. You are born onto solid ground – fear and laziness tie you to it. And Normalcy is such a luxury. So who knows, who even has a word for, what is experienced by the doomed and dead artists? What is certain: the more you age, the less likely you are to be regarded, by peers, progeny or yourself, as unprecedented or superlative. Youth may not be over, but let’s face it, you’ll never be that good ever.