Thankfully, Davy Jones Was No Whitney Houston

Davy Jones passed away last Wednesday of a heart attack.  He was 66.  He was also a huge, wonderful part of my life while growing up.  Yes, I watched The Monkees every week, and yes, I saw the first run episode of The Brady Bunch when he made Marcia a hysterical mess by going to the prom with her (although I didn’t realize they had proms in junior high school).  That was a different time than now, obviously, but it sure was a great time.  It was a time when we could believe in something and not have it torn down by the oversaturation we have these days.  We all knew Davy as a short dude from Manchester, England who could sing, dance and act and that was good enough for us.  The girls were seduced by his charm and pin-up good looks.  He was the first of his kind and quite possibly the last of his kind.

I found it interesting to compare the lives and deaths of Davy Jones and the recently departed Whitney Houston.  Both were big performers, both were celebrities, both were talented in many ways, but the similarities stop there.  Once fame was achieved, one chose a path of self-destruction while the other chose the road of enjoying life.  One rested on laurels and one continued doing the things he loved to do without controversy, without drug busts, without domestic violence, without stints in rehab and without winding up in the tabloids.

The other comparison I found interesting and somewhat disturbing was how Whitney Houston’s death was described by many as a major tragedy while the news of Davy Jones’ passing was met with little fanfare and almost a ho-hum attitude.  When it comes to the contributions both of these people made to our society, I found that to be a backward model and a sorrowful reflection of what’s important to us today.  I guess it comes down to how you put a value on one’s life after they’ve gone.  Everyone measures that differently.  I choose to measure it by the positive impact you have made on society or individuals while you’re here.

Davy Jones burst onto the scene in The Monkees television series in 1966.  The show ran until 1968 and then found its way to syndication.  You know what that period in time was all about in this country.  Yet The Monkees found a way to marry the differences between pop culture and the hippie scene to produce a show that kids of all ages could watch, relate to and enjoy.  The music they produced influenced many bands.  The show was always a positive viewing experience filled with a certain innocence that found a place within the turmoil defined by the sixties.  Their only real controversy came about when The Monkees began demanding more power over the music they recorded.  They wanted more input into writing their own material and playing more of the instruments on their recordings.  The Monkees were one of the first “corporate bands”, put together by the show’s creators and supervised musically by producer Don Kirshner.  In the beginning they provided the vocals for their songs while other people played the instruments.  As time went on they wanted more say in the music.  It has been said the reason why The Monkees haven’t made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is because they didn’t play the music on most of their hits.  To me, that’s a sham because the impact The Monkees made on rock and roll is unquestioned, especially when you consider some of the groups that made it to The Hall who have no legitimate reason to be there.  There’s your controversy.

Whitney Houston put out hit after hit during the 80’s and 90’s.  I’m intimately familiar with her discography because during that time I worked as a disc jockey at several top 40 radio stations.  Some people complain that when a new song comes out it gets too much airplay.  Think about what that’s like for a disc jockey who has to play that song three or four times per shift every day!  I always thought she had a wonderful voice.  She was racking up every music award imaginable and there seemed to be no end to what she could achieve.  As I watched her rise to stardom I also wondered what would eventually bring her back down to earth.  I could see it coming like a freight train, out of control and engulfed in flames, roaring down a dead-end track at 500 miles per hour.  Her fall back to earth began in 2000 when authorities found weed in her luggage at a Hawaii airport.  Rumors began flying around about her weight loss, possible drug use and her domestic troubles with then-husband Bobbie Brown.  She began showing up late for interviews and recording sessions, and all the writing began to show up on the wall.  Whitney was becoming a child of the era of excess and there was no way she was going to escape that.

Whitney’s life up until a few weeks ago followed the exact E! True Hollywood Story or Biography series plots.  She rose to stardom, struggled with drugs and personal issues and came out on the other side.  She was re-tooling her career and was aboard the comeback train.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, she had damaged herself so much physically she couldn’t come back.  She was no longer capable of churning out the hits that had won her so many awards in “the day”.  Her body decided it had finally had enough and it was time to shut down for good.  I didn’t like how the press handled the news of her death.  I feel sorry for her daughter and even a bit sorry for Bobby Brown.  But that’s a blog topic I chose not to write about weeks ago.

These days so many people are searching for a hero or someone who can set an example.  Many times we are let down by those we’ve chosen to look up to, whether they are sports greats, celebrities, or even politicians.  It’s strange that many people who should be viewed as heroes never are, simply because they lead a normal life outside of the scrutiny of the press and tabloids.  If you’re going to put someone up on a pedestal, it should be these people, not those we read about all the time.  Davy Jones was a person of integrity and someone who chose not to succumb to the pressures of stardom.  That takes a special fortitude and a high level of self esteem and control.  He should be remembered as a respected artist, entertainer and most importantly, a decent human being.

I can’t say that I ever thought of Davy Jones as one of my heroes, but I can say that he had nothing but a positive impact on my life from a time that seems like yesterday.  Sometimes I catch myself saying that I wish things were the way they were back in the 50’s, when life was simpler and without all the external crap that is thrust into our heads nowadays.  I wasn’t alive in the 50’s, but I was here in the 60’s and I’d still rather live in that time period than now, but I’ll take what I can get.  Davy’s passing, though quiet and without the due respect we owe him, is certainly a tragedy.  Tragic not in the same sense as the passing of Whitney Houston, though.  It is the passing of a kind of person who set a real human example we all could follow with confidence and comfort.  The absolute real tragedy is how many people don’t see that.

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