The Big Hurt: The week in death

 RIP Chilton, Guru, and editorial tact
By DAVID THORPE  |  April 27, 2010


I hate admitting I’m wrong, but I gotta cop to a bad call. Back in January, I predicted that, because of medical advances and the prospect of universal health care, no musicians would die in this decade. Unfortunately, it hasn’t turned out that way. A few weeks ago, I lamented the passing of ALEX CHILTON, who just missed the UHC era — it’s been revealed that he didn’t seek medical care for chills and shortness of breath, in part because he didn’t have insurance. And that’s put a distastefully topical spin on the tragedy. The brief ripple of cashing in by health-care proponents was followed by a grody backlash — dig this classy quote from conservative hack Austin Rhodes of the Metro Spirit of Augusta, Georgia:

Lifelong use of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes did the music legend no favors to be sure, but it was not that deadly trio that put his case on the mouths of liberals worldwide, it was this headline: “Alex Chilton died with no health insurance.”

Ladies and gentlemen, learn a lesson here.

It will likely never be a headline, but it damn well should be: “Arrogance, stupidity and laziness defeats talent, generosity and genius every day of the week.”

Just ask Alex Chilton.


Just ask Alex Chilton’s widow.

That’s a new one: Alex Chilton was defeated into cardiac arrest by his own arrogance and stupidity. I guess it’s easier to demonize a dead legend than tally up a point for liberals.

And we’ve got another bummer on our hands: GURU, the Gang Starr legend and national hip-hop treasure, also made a false prophet of me. There were recent reports of heart trouble, but his death at age 43 has been attributed to cancer. He’ll be missed — a lot of rappers have devoted a lot of rhymes to convincing you that they’re the best in the game, but I always appreciated how Guru went about it. Speaking in that professorial monotone, he had a calm, rational, authoritative way of explaining how dope his skills were. He swayed you with pure rhetoric and flawless logic.

A weird cloud of drama hangs over his death. In his final months, he was attended by his long-time friend and collaborator SOLAR, who’s been his spokesperson during his illness. Guru’s family members have alleged that Solar had total control of the ailing star’s affairs and prevented them from visiting him, and the plot has thickened further with the release of Guru’s final letter to his fans. Weirdly heavy on praise for Solar, and extremely harsh on everyone else, it has the Internet abuzz with rumors that Solar faked the message. Here’s a taste:

“I do not wish my ex-DJ [Gang Starr’s DJ Premier] to have anything to do with my name, likeness, events, tributes etc. connected in anyway to my situation including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this. I had nothing to do with him in life for over 7 years and want nothing to do with him in death. Solar has my life story and is well informed on my family situation, as well as the real reason for separating from my ex-DJ.”
The accusations of fraud were so widespread — near-unanimous, in fact — that Solar took to Twitter to condemn them: “Guru made this statement from his own mouth and anybody saying different is insane with Hate!” I prefer to think I’m insane with healthy suspicion.

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