For the most part, that grief is private. But imagine if everyone in town was talking about your friend. Imagine if every time you turned on the TV or radio, or logged onto your computer, someone was talking about your friend.
Imagine, too, that upon hearing the news of your friend’s death, you are confronted with members of the media pushing microphones into your face, asking for a comment. How eloquent do you think you might be?
In In Other Words: Artists Talk About Life and Work, Anthony DeCurtis recounts an interview with Paul McCartney in 1987. They covered his years with the Beatles (it was the 20th anniversary of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”). The discussion took a turn when he began to talk about the breakup of the group, segueing into the death of John Lennon in 1980. McCartney received a firestorm of criticism for his only public comment, “it’s a drag.”
“But I said ‘it’s a dra-a-a-ag,’ and meant it with every inch of melancholy I could muster. When you put that in print, it says, ‘McCartney in London today, when asked for a comment on his dead friend, said, ‘It’s a drag’.’ It seemed a very flippant comment to make.
“…All these people who were supposed to have been John’s friends. The rest of us were just gaga with grief and sitting at home crying, watching all the news and watching all the telly, watching anything we could gather, and listening to every bit of radio. It was just like Kennedy dying, only worse for us, and that had been bad enough.
“The pundits come on, ‘Yes, so John was the bright one in the group. Yes, he was a very clever one. Oh, well, he’ll be sorely missed, and he was a great so-and-so.’ I said, ‘Bloody hell, how can you muster such glib things?’ But they were the ones who came off good, because they said suitably meaningful things. I was the idiot who said, ‘It’s a drag.’
I confess that my reaction at the time - without seeing the videotape - was less than charitable towards my favorite ex-Beatle. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I sympathize with him.
How do you think you’d do?