May 202015

Greatest bass ever?

Greatest bass ever?

I’m sure you heard the news today that Yes bassist Chris Squire had been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia that will knock him off the band’s touring circuit for the first time since 1968. This is sad news simply because Squire is a human, and it’s also sad because this oddly, fantastically talented prog legend seems like a good egg – at least as good an egg as any other prog musician with a low profile that seems characteristic of the genre.

With absolutely no research or empirical data, you know what else seems to be characteristic of the prog genre? Band members’ life expectancy and overall health seem to be better than that of other rock subgenres. How many prog musicians died in their prime, or even as early as their mid-50s? How many prog musicians were junkies? Let’s leave Pink Floyd out of this, because they didn’t play enough triplets to really qualify as prog rockers.

Has anyone died in Yes? Did one early member of Genesis die? Did any of King Crimson’s 43 members OD? E, L, or P? A long time ago Soft Machine’s Robert Wyatt got wasted, fell out of a window, and got paralyzed, but he lived for a long time – perhaps, in fact, to this day. Kevin Ayers – was he in Soft Machine? He died not too long ago, right? He was old enough to have died of natural causes or some expected hazard of old age. Daevid Allen of Gong just died, but he was old.

Do you think the rigors of playing progressive rock keep these musicians in better physical condition than other forms of rock? Do rock musicians of any other style live as long and healthy lives?


  7 Responses to “Get Well Chris Squire (and the Life Expectancy of Rock Musicians by Subgenre)”

  1. First of all, Robert Wyatt is still very much alive, though he says he is now retired from making music.

    Chris Squire is one of the very best bassists in rock. He plays melodic lines in counterpoint to the main melody while still maintaining a solid base for the other players. He and Bill Bruford made for a monster rhythm section in Yes’ classic era. Sorry to hear that he’s not doing well.

    As for the longevity of prog rockers, I think there are a few factors in play here. First of all is the rigors of the music, as Mr. Mod says. You can’t get trashed out at night on brandy, coke, and smack and then be expected to play “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic” the next day with any sort of precision.

    Prog players seem to be less interested in the sordid perks of stardom because they set out from the start to play music rather than ride in limos with bunches of groupies. While some may certainly indulge in rock’s pleasures, many have adopted (relatively) healthy lifestyles simply because they wish to continue for as long as fans demand. It may also be in part due to the fact that few proggers get as rich as, say, Led Zep or Pink Floyd. They might need to keep getting that touring income for as long as possible.

    Which brings up another point. Most prog fans go to concerts to actually listen to the music that’s being played. They will know if their favorite bands are slopping and fudging their way through 13/8 and 17/8 songs, and will comment on the web accordingly. That gives the bands strong incentive to maintain their chops.

  2. Thanks. I did not know that Chris Squire was ill. I don’t listen to Yes very much anymore, but used to wear them out. When I was a teenager, I also had Chris’ solo album 1975 “Fish Out of Water” that I got in the 8-track cutouts (and streaming right now on Tidal). It’s nice to hear it again. Get well indeed!

    It’s funny that this thread came up, because I was watching a BBC interview with Paul Weller earlier this week and was thinking how healthy the guy looks — and he ends up talking about how he quit drinking and take care of himself.

    Then the Stones tweeted out a bunch of interviews they did this week with each member of the band alone (questions posed Edna Gunderson who used to write for USA Today). They look good. Keith and Ronnie are smoking up a storm.

    Alan Parsons — alive or dead? ALIVE and tweeting. Teaching a class in Chicago this month!

    There probably is something to this prog rock health theory. No doubt a future bestseller and I would put this picture on the cover.

  3. BigSteve

    Barry Godber, who, painted the album cover for In the Court of the Crimson King, died in February 1970 of a heart attack, shortly after the album’s release.

  4. I read once that keeping one’s mind agile has positive long term health effects. Prog rock is like musical Sudoku.

  5. misterioso

    I think I’d rather listen to someone play Sudoku.

  6. 2000 Man

    Wow, I hadn’t heard that. Back when I was a kid I’d have known about that, because I devoured Yes albums back then. these days I don’t pay that much attention, but I just played Close to the Edge like two days ago. Seeing Yes was really fun in large part because I thought Chris Squire just looked so cool strutting around with that bass and maybe a cape. The rest of the band just looked kind of goofy to me, but I thought Squire was what a bass player should look like. I can’t imagine seeing them without him.

  7. EXCELLENT choice for the cover photo!!!

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