By Julie Finley
I had recently paid my respects towards Rowland S. Howard’s latest album, Pop Crimes. . . as it was my favorite record of 2009 (and probably one of my favorite albums of the entire decade!) With reluctance I need to pay my respects in the way I wish I never had to, but. . . Rowland has unfortunately passed away.
This news has been particularly gut-wrenching for me to take, as I always perceived Rowland as a beau ideal. . . mi El Ídolo. I know there are many fans out there who are probably feeling as knifed in the heart as I do, but I’m also positive that many people out there probably cannot relate to that feeling in regards to him (I’m sure if one of their favorite musicians passed on, they might begin to understand).
At the same time, there are some people who will never comprehend the idea of feeling distraught over a passing icon. . . they would prey upon someone else’s sorrow and persecute what they saw as a weakness for fun.
In essence, when you’re an adult, you’re expected to carry on with the business at hand (but somehow its OK to gush tears for an “A-lister”. . . explain that one!) Its easier to explain idolatry when you’re younger. . . but when you get older, the world expects that you’ve gotten over shit like that. So I’ve been forced to “keep a poker face so well. . . ” on the surface.
However, that’s on the surface. Under the surface. . . Rowland’s death mortifies me like it was a death of one of my friends or family. I guess I attribute that to the fact that for more than half of my life, I’ve been a diehard fan of his. . . not a casual listener, a diehard with a vengeance! I never met him or communicated with him, nor did I ever get to see him perform live. I knew nothing of him personally, but somehow what he conveyed through his music, was unflinchingly honest, a characteristic that I find trustworthy and comforting, even if what is being said is cynical and ugly!
The truth will beat out a bullshit story any day, and I appreciate the fact that many moments of my life have been graced with his soundtrack. His approach to lyrics, along with the musical accompaniment, honestly made me feel like I did know him. He opened up and bled. . . and he bled on the page and ear! His music affected my feelings in ways that are hard to describe, but easy to feel. His style and delivery made it very easy to muster up inner emotions, and that wouldn’t have been possible without his vulnerable talents that seethed from his soul! How could I NOT fall in love with that?
I am reluctant to admit that the day I learned of his passing, I came home from work and I cried to myself in the shower. . . let the snot and tears wash down the drain, and the running water covered up my yelps and heaves. I’m not sure if that makes me weaker or stronger, but I definitely needed to, as I felt like I was going to explode! I still feel sallow. . . like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. . . this is a bitter pill to swallow! As much as this tugs at my heart-strings, I feel more empathy for his family and close friends. As a fan, I feel loss. . . but he was someone’s son, brother, lover, and best friend! They have my boundless condolences, and my infinite respect.
The night before he died, I had a dream with him in it—I don’t remember if he spoke or whatever—but I remember seeing him with a cigarette, sort of grinning through a cloud of smoke. I have heard from another diehard fan of his that he dreamt of Rowland that night, too. . . that Rowland had an acoustic guitar he played to a very select handful of fans. Maybe that was Rowland’s way of saying goodbye to his fans. . . telepathically. If so, thank you, Rowland. Thank you. . . forever!
He is now “. . . Outta the black, and into the ether. . . “