Sunday, 18 October 2009

No More Heroes...

Who are your heroes? Are they the same as they were when you were younger, or have you outgrown them? I've been pondering this myself for a while, since Michael Jackson died. Not that Jackson was ever a hero of mine...

What is a hero? To me, a hero is a person who exhibits qualities that puts them above others in any field, be it sports, music, art or writing. When I was younger I had a few heroes, people that I respected, who I felt had a talent that lifted them up to the highest heights, who became, for want of a better phrase, gods. Sadly, I now feel that most of those people have let me down.

Let's get down to specifics. Sixteen years ago, I wrote a list of "The Gods":

1. George Lucas
2. Jean Michel Jarre
3. Jim Henson
4. Green Gartside (from Scritti Politti)
5. Jim Aparo
6. Alan Grant
7. Gene Roddenberry
8. Nik Kershaw
9. Arthur C. Clarke

(Looking back, I would probably add Terry Pratchett and Madonna to that list, but didn't at the time. Poor old Nik Kershaw has "demi-God" in brackets after his name, so he wasn't obviously totally in favour at the time.)

Anyway, looking at that list now, would I still consider them heroes? By that tag, I mean that they are still as important to me as they were then, that they haven't put a creative step wrong, that they are still, well, Gods, and not mere... people. It's harsh, but there you go.

So, 1. George Lucas. Well, it was all going so well until 1999, wasn't it? His position in the pantheon looked assured, the Special Editions of the Star Wars trilogy could be seen as an indulgence, rather than a mis-step, but then Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace came out. The fall to mortality wasn't immediate, but the creeping feeling grew that the halo had slipped... (See I Blame Rick McCallum for more details!) Mortal.

2. Jean Michel Jarre.  In 1992, one of my favourite Jarre albums, Chronologie had come out.  In 1993 I went to see him at Wembley Stadium and I thought his reputation had been sealed, but in the intervening years, he's produced few albums of such magnificence, but has been reworking his old stuff, making little "art" albums and then the appalingly bad Téo & Téa "dance" album.  I blame the fact tha he's not married to Charlotte Rampling anymore.  The woman must have been a good influence which he's now sadly missing... Mortal (though fingers crossed for the future!)

3. Jim Henson.  Untouchable.  His sad and untimely death in 1990 meant that he could no longer prove himself fallible. (Unfortunately his death proved his mortality though...) The body of work created by him in his lifetime stands firm.  His legacy, and the future worth of the Henson Organization remains to be seen. Hero.

4. Green Gartside. Just when I thought nothing would ever be heard again from Mr. Gartside, in 2006, he pulled out his best album since Cupid & Psyche '85 in the form of White Bread Black Beer, a self-produced, minimalist album of pure loveliness. Hero.

5. Jim Aparo and 6. Alan Grant. Look, I was a big comics fan in the 1990s, especially a Batman fan, so this classic artist and writer duo got included. Still like their work, but haven't read a comic in anger for nearly a decade, so I can't really say if they're still heroes. Probably. Though I'd have to veer towards Frank Miller and Alan Moore for their work on The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke respectively.

7. Gene Roddenberry. The man had a vision and a commitment to get Star Trek made and to keep it going in the '80s and '90s with Star Trek: The Next Generation. His death in 1991 didn't stop the franchise, and his legacy, as proved by the huge success of J.J. Abrams' big screen reboot Star Trek this year. Hero.

8. Nik Kershaw. OK, so he's not as big a star as he was in 1984, but Mr. Kershaw keeps putting out songs of wit and intelligence on his own label, making albums such as 2001's To Be Frank and 2006's You've Got To Laugh. Hero, just for doing what he does.

9. Arthur C. Clarke. The greatest Science-Fiction writer ever. Prescient and talented and just a fantastic writer. Hero.

And Terry Pratchett.  His writing gets better and better all the time, despite a dip in the Soul Music/Hogfather years and unfortunately his Alzheimer's will probably get him before he gets a chance to make the fall from grace. Still a hero. Always a hero.

Madonna. The only woman on the list, but unfortunately now very much a mortal. Like Jackson, her heyday is well past now, but no one seems to have told her. She keeps churning out the same sub-R&B drivel, but people still seem to like it. So maybe it's just me, but she hasn't done anything good since 1998's Ray of Light (and actually, looking at the sales figures, a lot less people like it...). Mortal.

So, there you go. Most of my heroes are only still my heroes because they're dead. If I had to write such a list now, I'd definitely include Joss Whedon for his work on Buffy, Firefly/Serenity, Dr Horrible and Dollhouse and for being a funny, horribly talented genius. I'd also include John Lasseter and all the team at Pixar for neverfailing to entertain and amaze.

Funny, but all my heroes come from the creative world. No sports people and no politicians. Hmmm....

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