I thought I could do it. I thought I could write about how profoundly my world shifted this week.

I thought I could artfully tell you how significant this news was to me:
R.E.M. is no longer a band.

For days I jotted down thoughts and recollections and felt sure I could share my story without resorting to clichés and empty phrases. I am no historian, no musicologist, but certainly I could paint you a personal picture of what a tremendous impact this band has had on me.

I thought I could tell you tales about how I discovered R.E.M. in high school, devoured them in college and clung to them throughout my 20s and 30s. I thought I could share poignant stories about waiting in midnight lines at record stores every time a new album came out…about the bootleg concert tapes I swapped with other R.E.M. fans…about how incredible it felt (every. single. concert.) to hear those first few notes of my favorite song…how this band was my first real love and the only one I never stopped loving.

I thought for sure I could quote you some inspiring lyrics I know by heart. That I could share the common threads that R.E.M. wove through my life story and personal soundtrack.

But it turns out I don’t have it in me. It turns out I can’t bend my words to do justice to what my heart wants to say. And my heart, it is aching right now. Honestly grieving. When I heard the news I surprised even myself by bursting into sudden and excessive tears. I sat there in my office alone, sobbing.

I admit it’s a little awkward to share that bit with you. I figure some of you may think it’s borderline crazy that a 39-year-old mother of three is crying over grown men—strangers! musicians! superstars!—and I won’t argue with how it all looks on paper.

But I will tell you that I didn’t feel the least bit melodramatic sitting there crying like a devastated child. Because here’s the deal: Something amazing happens when you love a band for so long…the experience turns into a relationship of sorts. And when you find out that the relationship is over—even if the ending comes in the best of situations, in a confluence of “it’s just time” circumstances—it’s still an enormous loss. And this band, this relationship, deserves every tear I shed.

My words may be struggling today, but I can say this without hesitation: it’s been an incredible gift to love R.E.M.’s music for so long. I will always be grateful for the anchor and the inspiration.

Thanks and Godspeed, y’all.

Comments

  1. Oh how I love this one. Do you know I have actively imagined what my reaction when I am in my 90s and hear of the passing of members of Crowded House? I know that I will weep, for all the reasons you say; when these bands stop, the little piece of electricity they create inside our souls stutters too. I have to say, though, that I have so much respect for Stipe & Co. for calling it quits on their own terms and the gracious passing of the torch to the next generation. In many ways it’s better for them to leave fans with them at their best than to continue to release music that lacks the same soul as the earlier stuff (not naming names, but I know which bands I’m thinking of.)

    On a side note, when our eldest was an infant “Losing My Religion” was big on the radio, and we used to sing our own version, “That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight, changing Baby’s diaper, trying to keep a hand on her, but I don’t think that I can do it. Oh no she stinks too much, she wiggles quite enough.” Anyway it made us laugh.

  2. I am so envious of you, and others who have that deep connection with music. I love music, I always have, and I have certainly obsessed over a few artists here and there… But I have never had the kind of relationship with a band that you’re describing. It’s a wonderful thing, and I envy it. How cool that you have those memories and that you let REM’s music into your soul like that. I hope once you are done grieving, you keep celebrating their music. That sounds so cheesy! But I mean it!

  3. They need to have a band “funeral” and you need to deliver the eulogy. This was just awesome. And I do feel for you. I’m 42. My teen/college years are forever marked by the sounds of R.E.M. and U2.
    Cry on girl. Cry on….

  4. I felt the same way when Debbie Gibson changed her name to Deborah.

    (Kidding. I wasn’t a huge fan, but I loved reading this piece and your dedication to them transmitted without all the lyrics and tales.)

  5. So you are asking a near non drinker to tell you the difference between whiskey & rye?
    Bourbon is whiskey but only whiskey that is made in the USA can be called bourbon. Ditto Scotch Whiskey or Irish whiskey. I’m trying for extra credit
    Whiskey…to me… is going to made from corn…at least 51%
    Rye whiskey will have been made from at least 51% rye
    Blended whiskey is of course blends.

    The song would have really been bad if they had been drinking, “Scotch, Irish, Blends, Corn whiskey, Bourbon and Rye……and a Coke.

  6. There wasn’t even time to say goodbye to Wendell Gee. That’s what I woke up thinking the next day. Even now, a year and a half later, I still can’t figure out how to explain the role they played in my life. But with time I’ve realized that we won’t say goodbye, so long is so much more.

    • It’s funny, I’ve written about them a couple times and it’s always a very painful process, and I’m usually not happy with the end result. There are some things that just can’t be put into words.

      Thank you for your kindred spirit!

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