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The Day the Music Died

Maryanne Chrisant, MD
Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital
Hollywood, FL, USA

Vincent Valentine, MD
University of Texas Medical Branch
Galveston, TX, USA

It was Don McLean, who..."A long long time ago..." immortalized the words for the title of this piece for all who know the lyrics, a recapitulation of the early Rock and Roll movement in America.

It's my new friend and co-writer of this piece, Maryanne Chrisant - Director of Pediatric Cardiac Transplant, Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy at the Heart Institute at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, who summoned my subconscious to provide you these thoughts. All attendees of the ISHLT 2016 may have noticed the sprinkling words from David Bowie and Prince.

Maryanne's family listens to David Bowie a fair bit, including his new and last album, Blackstar. As she wrote, reflecting on Blackstar:

I think about pain and suffering - death and dying. David Bowie was weak and frail, though looking at the video and photos of his final days he doesn't look like a man dying of liver cancer. I can't help but think his vanity or his pain lead him to off himself before he suffered too much, physically and mentally. I can't help but think he was awaiting one of his other personas to take his place.

"...Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place and bravely cried
I'm a Blackstar...I'm a Blackstar..."

My son, Alex came to the same conclusion.

It is strange that all those aging rockers took a left and landed in heaven from cancer. Bowie, George Harrison, and in the last year, Leslie Gore and Joe Cocker. See this website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deaths_in_rock_and_roll

Looking closely, but not so closely to say we've studied this, the younger rockers are more likely to die of a drug related death, an accidental death (plane or car crash), or homicide/suicide. The older rockers are more likely to succumb to cancer or heart failure. Some are equivocal, but likely drug or lifestyle related, such as the 38 year old rocker who died of heart failure or Elvis whose cause of death is listed as a heart attack. Some are outliers, like the 34 year old who died of lung cancer. A more in depth analysis would likely support the view that the life of a rocker is a hard life. We can't help but wonder if those who made it through their crazed twenties and thirties, living a Bacchanalian (and more than just wine) life, set themselves up for health issues that would, after much pain and suffering, finally bring them to their rest. Their songs are sung, in memoriam.

Life is ephemeral. Art endures ■

Disclosure Statement: The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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