I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like a lot of famous musicians have left this earth lately. As if they’re being called “home” in groups. By the droves. Now, I’m aware that there are people who don’t believe in an afterlife, but from my experience, musicians – as well as most Creatives – believe that soul lives on. That we go somewhere to continue our learning, our growth, and our creative arts. Musicians and all Creatives have a connection to life that seems to be deeper and even, at times, more surreal than those who are not of that mindset.
As I’ve watched all these famous musicians exit Planet Earth, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a special place in Heaven for them. For musicians. For all Creatives, in fact. For all groups of all intellects. Souls might live in select groups and have their own expansive Estate that’s filled with every kind of music instrument known to man. On this Estate, there are mountains and magical forests and hideaways where they can go. I imagine that they all gather at times in a great room overlooking a beautiful lake or ocean, or out on the lawn for an old fashioned hoedown where there's lots of barbecue, whiskey, and laughter. This is where they jam together and write new music.
For instance, think about Jon Lord, born in Leicester, England in 1941, who died July 16th at the London Clinic from a long bout with pancreatic cancer. Can’t you just see Jon, England’s legendary keyboard player with Deep Purple, who co-wrote many of the band’s legendary songs including “Smoke on The Water” and who played with many bands and musicians throughout his career, talking to Levon Helm, born in Elaine, Arkansas in 1940? (Leon died from cancer on April 19, 2012). Levon Helm, with the voice of a wildcat, raspy and raw, achieved fame as the drummer and frequent lead for The Band, a bluesy-folksy-rock group. He also starred in several films including “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” with Sissy Spacek and “Shooter” with Mark Wahlberg.
Setting: Interior of a massive estate, in the luxurious lounge appointed with beautiful oak furniture, gleaming hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows that boast a view of a beautiful lake with cerulean waters and surrounding trees and hillsides. Levon Helm and Jon Lord, in their 20s, are standing in the room, greeting one another.
Jon Lord: “Hey, Levon, good to see you, man!”
Levon: “Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”
Levon: “Oh, sorry, Jon, I forgot that I’m not in Arkansas any more. Are we in heaven? God, tell me this is heaven!”
Jon: “Well, I haven’t seen God yet, or Jesus or Allah or Buddha or any of those guys, but this must be heaven. Have you ever seen such a beautiful place in all your life? It’s the bee’s knees!”
Levon: “I saw a few places on earth that looked similar, but not nearly as brilliant or colorful as this place, that’s for sure. I noticed a room full of music instruments down the hall. Did you see those, Jon?”
Jon: “I did. Can’t wait to get in there with some of the musicians. Hey, Levon, how did you leave Earth? Care to talk about it?”
Levon: “Ah, nothin’ special. It was cancer. Throat cancer. Can you believe that? I guess it figures with all the singing I did.”
Jon: “Well, yes, I understand. I had pancreatic cancer. Cancer seems to be an epidemic on Earth today.”
Levon: “I’m sure glad I’m past that. I’ve never felt better now and I feel so young. Like I was in my 20s.”
Jon: “Me, too. That’s a cool thing about this life here. We seem to be able to take on our best age and appearance. And you know what? There’s this one room upstairs that has computers, videos, and newspaper clippings about our time on earth. There’s a great article of you in the music section in the Rolling Stones Magazine.”
Levon: “This is gooder’n grits. Can’t wait to take a look.”
Jon: “And tonight, you’re not gonna believe it, but we’ll all meet in the music room and jam a while.”
Levon: “All? Who all is here?”
Jon: “Andy Griffith, remember him? The famous actor who starred with Ron Howard in the Andy Griffith TV series? He died on July 3rd on Roanoke Island in North Carolina."
Levon: “Well, he died later than me. I left the planet in April.”
Jon: “I know. I died on July 16, 2012. The funny thing is, time is different here. It’s all bunched up together.”
Levon: “Yeah, seems like I would have been the one to meet you instead of the other way around.”
Jon: “Maybe you just had to rest up a while longer in the Health Spa before coming here. Many of us do that after we’ve had a long illness on Earth.”
Levon: “That’s true. I just got out of a Health & Rejuvenation Spa. It was ah, heavenly! Pun intended.”
Jon: “I know. That spa is unlike anything I ever experience before. Since then, I’ve been busy meeting a lot of the celebrities here. You’ll enjoy seeing Andy.”
Levon: “Well, I know Andy’s a musician like us. He had a lot of albums in his day. Wow, Andy Griffith is here!”
Jon: “And that’s not all. Kitty Wells is here. She died on July 16th at age 92. I believe she had a stroke.”
Levon: “Well, gosh dawg! Kitty’s hit, It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels was one of my favorites. She was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Home of Country Music. I think they called her the Queen of Country Music.”
Jon: “And of course, Whitney Houston is here. What a voice! And she is stunningly beautiful.”
Levon: “This is all so surreal.”
Jon: “One of my favorite old friends, Robin Gibb, is here, too. He died on May 20, 2012. He was born on the Isle of Man, then moved to Manchester before settling in Brisbane, Australia. It was in the U.K. though, with his brothers, where he achieved worldwide fame.”
Levon: “I loved the Bee Gees. He’s almost like British royalty. Can’t wait to see him!”
Jon: “Oh, and know what else? On the estates next to ours are other Creatives – actors, writers, film producers, and people who just want to write, paint, or learn more about their craft.”
Levon: “Like who?”
Jon: “Celeste Holm, Dr. Stephen Covey, the author of the bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Ernest Borgnine, Nora Ephron, the writer and director of films like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. And there’s Dick Clark and a bunch more.”
Levon: “What about angels? Have you seen any of them around here?”
Jon: “Well, that’s an interesting thing, too. The Angels look like regular people. They don’t have wings or anything. They're dressed like regular folks. But they’re here, helping everyone understand what’s going on. You’ll meet a bunch of them.”
Levon: “Well, I’m gonna miss a lot of people on Earth. My family and friends, of course, and Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and some of the other greats that are still alive and well.”
Jon: “That’s another pleasant surprise here.”
Levon: “What’d ya mean?”
Jon: “The guys who are still alive on Planet Earth can visit us in our dreams and jam with us. And our friends and family can visit us, too. It’s one of the really cool things about being here.”
Levon: “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Looks like I’m gonna be livin’ high on the hog here.”
Jon: “I’ve been properly gobsmacked, Levon! You can’t imagine! If people knew how much better it is in this life, they wouldn’t hang on to Earth so long. Especially when they're sick with cancer and stuff. I mean, that's the hard part of living. Dying is so easy! People just don’t know how great this is.”
Levon: “Maybe we should start tryin’ to tell them when they visit us in their dreams. Maybe we could help people be not so afraid. You reckon?”
Jon (giggling): “I reckon, Levon. You and your Southern slang. You're funny. Come on, let’s go outside. Everyone’s waiting for you. I think they’ve planned a big proper 'hoedown' reception in your honor.”
Exterior Scene: Outside the mansion on the grassy yard overlooking the lake. Hundreds of musicians, writers and artists are gathered to welcome Levon Helm as he meets the residents of The Musicians & Creatives Heaven.