Sad symmetry for me this morning between the apparently inexcusable execution of Troy Davis in Georgia and the breakup of REM, a band from Georgia that sang and spoke so passionately about so many issues for 30-ish years. They were definitely a band that woke me up to the idea of music as something beyond entertainment, and as something that anyone could make. As for Troy Davis, he seems to be a classic casualty of our (very) flawed justice system. Aside from my many general ideological concerns about the death penalty, just the simple fact that we get it so wrong sometimes and end up killing someone unjustly seems enough of a reason to abolish it. As if imprisoning someone unjustly for years isn't awful enough, killing them is obviously something else entirely.
For anyone offended by me mentioning a band breaking up and a man dying in the same breath, I really do understand that even the most transcendent music isn't like someone being put to death. Music isn't real life. That said, if you're like me, music has been the most simple and profound way to process stuff that defies comprehension and articulation, whether it be really sad stuff or really happy stuff. REM helped me with that. If they were still on tour, no doubt tonight they would sing something -- maybe their version of 'Red Rain' by Peter Gabriel, which is itself a stunning tune, and maybe the most popular song speaking out against the death penalty ever made -- they'd sing and say something, and if I were there, I'd probably get to mourn Troy Davis, feel for his family and wonder about all of us in ways that I might not figure out without them, their music, in that moment.