How we pay tribute others

I guess I am at that age where many of the famous people who were influential on my growing-up are starting to die. I noticed that several of my recent posts have been about recent deaths. Yesterday, we lost Mary Travers (the Mary of Peter, Paul and Mary). While Michael Jackson certainly was a huge part of my adolescence, the trio of PPM were also very much in the mix as I listened to a lot of their music when I was young and then continued the love affair with many hours sitting around a campfire singing their songs with other campers, then as a counselor and finally now, continuing the tradition each year with my annual campout with friends from those summer camp days.

All of this death has me thinking about how we pay tribute to these celebrities who are so influential for whatever reason: crushes, aspirations of similar stardom, talents that create art that speaks so deeply to us and so on. It is interesting to note how those tributes have changed over the years and with the technologies available to those who feel need to “tributize” someone.

After Michael Jackson died, it was almost immediately that the tributes started pouring in via blogs, YouTube, twitter, Facebook, MySpace and more. There were mashups, postings of clips from interviews, artwork and more.

Patrick Swayze’s death probably prompted the same reaction. I was not as affected by his death as others around me were but that is probably another blog post on another blog.

I did a quick search on Mary Travers this morning on blogs, YouTube and Twitter. While there were a few podcasts and audio tributes last night, I didn’t find as much as I would have thought. And that makes sense. Mary’s audience is older and her work is not so much in the digital realm. I have one CD and the rest of her music I have on LP album and cassette. That adds a hurdle to making an online tribute so it cannot happen so “immediately” as Michael Jackson or even John Hughes, as I posted earlier.

I only wonder how the technology will change how we memorialize people, both famous and not, in the future. I think the feely part of the equation will always be there…we have a human need to eulogize, share grief and express admiration for someone’s life and how it touched ours. But, how we do it is certainly changing. It is easier, faster and much more public.

Thinking about my own tribute rituals, I recalled when John Lennon was shot. I was a freshman at Virginia Tech. My roommate and I got all of our albums together and played them all night while other girls on our hall came by. Slowly, a little shrine developed with his photo, candles, a flower or two and just a bunch of folks sitting in the yellow candlelight listening to Lennon sing us to sleep. Last night, I played two Peter, Paul and Mary albums on my turntable and then put their jackets in my LP album frames as my tribute. I guess that will her shrine for now. For Michael Jackson, I blogged about his influence and found plenty of videos to embed. That also makes sense, because part of MJ’s art was so visual that you need the video to appreciate it, share it and pay tribute to this talents. I dont’ think you need video with Mary Travers as much.

But, just because I think this song is beautiful (a tribute to John Denver as he wrote it), here is one Mary Travers song to share.