It’s hard to imagine that Col. Bruce Hampton would have wanted to be anywhere else when he collapsed last month and died.
Col. Bruce was on stage, surrounded by friends he had influenced throughout the years, and a young musician was playing an impressive guitar solo when the Colonel passed. To me, that's tangible evidence of how the master’s influence has been passed on to a new generation.
Yes, it was still a tragedy. And yet fitting.
Col. Bruce was celebrating his 70th birthday when he fell to the stage at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. He was so well know for his stage antics that everyone just kept playing, expecting him to pop back up at any moment.
Hampton was a singer, guitarist, songwriter and bandleader known for his energetic, eccentric style and was widely regarded as the granddaddy of the jam-band scene, according to The New York Times.
One of his bands, the Hampton Grease Band, once opened a concert for Three Dog Night by playing its own off-kilter versions of that group’s hits, according to a report in The Times. The crowd booed, which only encouraged the opening act to play a long unwelcome encore.
Friends and family noted that Col. Bruce was a mentor to many musicians and had a good nose for talent. His influence can be seen in groups like Phish, Widespread Panic and the Dave Matthews Band. He put out more than a dozen albums, but his dedication to helping develop young musicians’ careers may turn out to be the most lasting piece of his legacy.
While seven decades may seem like a good long life for a musician, these days 70 is still too young to die.
So many other great musicians had fewer years and died in less hospitable circumstances. Okay, maybe there’s no good way to die, but suffocating on your own vomit, as a few stars have, is a horrible way to go.
Just a few examples of superstars gone before their time:
- Kurt Cobain, suicide at the age of 27
- Janis Joplin, 27, heroin overdose
- Jimi Hendrix, 27, asphyxiation in his own vomit
- Jim Morrision, 27, drug overdose
- Tupac Shakur, 25, shot
- Notorious B.I.G., 24, shot
- Bob Marley, 36, melanoma
- John Lennon, 40, shot
- Elvis Presley, 42, heart attack
- Marvin Gaye, 44, shot
- Freddie, Mercury, 45, bronchial pneumonia
- Michael Jackson, 50, cardiac arrest
- Tommy Bolin, 25, overdose
- Terry Kath, 31, self-inflicted, accidental gun shot
- Ronnie Van Zant, 29, plane crash
So if there is a silver lining to this sad occurrence it’s that Col. Bruce had more then enough time to leave a lasting legacy.
Rest in peace, Col. Bruce, and keep on rocking wherever you are.