Wednesday, September 21, 2011

REM Splits -- This fan mourns/celebrates

The initial reaction upon learning that REM split today was shock.  That was to be expected; the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross stages of grief will tell you that denial is the first stage.  But what is interesting was how quickly I moved to depression.  The music of REM and the voice of Michael Stipe, has meant more to me than any other band and any other singer.  And I grew up listening to the Beatles, just to give you some perspective.  Losing them is like losing a family member, a limb, and all hope at the same time.  I feel gutted.

No matter what I was feeling, I could immediately feel better if I put on an REM song.  It was comforting, soothing, life-sustaining music.  There are songs you like, songs you love.  But, if you're lucky, there are also songs that fill you up with such joy and peace that you can make it through anything.  I guess I'm explaining something of a religious experience, in the true monumentally restorative sense of the word.  Listening to REM changed me on practically a molecular level.

From a musical standpoint, REM is deserving of all the praise that has come their way.  What was unique about REM was how they blended so many musical influences to create a sound unlike anyone else before them.  They took the idea of the wall of sound from Phil Spector and added the folky sound of Peter, Paul and Mary, with a nod to the guitar grinding rock of the 70s, and with lyrics straight out of a Kafka-bad dream.  They were a layered, jangly, country/rock group, with sometimes pointed, often vague, but always mesmerizing lyrics.  And as for the voice, Michael Stipe had a way to cut through to your soul.

It would seem disingenuous to say that words fail me, but they do.  How can you describe colors to a blind person?  How can you explain love?  REM's music feeds me a greater sustenance than food.  It heals, it soothes, it energizes, it sustains.  Knowing that I will never get to experience it live again is like a knife in the heart...only I fear my heart has disappeared.

I'll finish, as you might expect, with a few songs.   These are just the ones that I need to hear today and want to share.  And as soon as I hear them, I feel better.  Not "accepting," but better.

Here's to REM.  Thank you for so many years, so much music.


  1. Awh I feel bad for you Shari...Maybe they will come together again after time. It happens to bands all the time. At least we can hope.

  2. So sorry to hear this Shari. At least you have all of the fantastic music that have made together for all of these years....

  3. We covered their song "The Great Beyond" when I was in secondary school if that is any consolation :)

    Let's both keep our fingers crossed that both of our fave bands are just wanting to take a realllly long break and would come back together sometime late 20XX. Until then, let's sink ourselves with their masterpieces.

    TC - Drew

  4. An impressive and lavish send-off from a devoted fan. I am not familiar with REM (a generational thing) but understand the loss of musicians whose music resonates in a way that few if none will ever do the same way again.Rely on the stages of grief and know there will come a time when you can look back on this time fondly.