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Dec 07

New book is a grave reminder of rock star mortality

In 1996, Tiny Tim had just performed his trademark tune — “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” — for a women’s benefit in Minnesota when he was stricken with a fatal heart attack.

Many would say it was the perfect way for him to go. Except at age 64, Tim might have protested.

Nonetheless, his demise is one of more than 1,300 chronicled in “The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns and Ham Sandwiches”(Chicago Review Press, Nov 2012, $24.95) by Jeremy Simmonds.

When his publishers contacted me about a review copy, my curiosity was piqued because, well — I’m a little morbid, I guess. And, let’s face it, the lifestyle automatically puts rock stars on a fast track to mortality, and that mortality is often reached in a much more dramatic fashion than say, your average reporter (Not that I’m complaining — I’m happy to be still alive*, thank you.)

So this 800-page book is certainly a good way to discover how some of your favorites met their final encore.

There are a few problems, though, including:

* It’s outdated as soon as the next rock star keels over. This book is, in fact, an update of the 2008 original, and since that time we’ve lost Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Heavy D and many more. (They’re included in this version.) But let’s be honest here: One of the Stones could drop by the time I publish this blog entry.
* It doesn’t focus on their deaths. I know — sort of a morbid request, right? But this is “The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars,” right? The entries here all begin with the artist’s life, a la the All Music Guide, then at the end we discover how they died. I’d prefer the reverse — with more details on the death. You know — since I’m morbid.
* They’re arranged chronologically. The thing that makes the website Dead or Alive? so interesting is that it categorizes celebrity deaths by engaging categories, like “By Cause of Death,” “Lived to 100″ and “Died Before Age 30.” A chronological account just isn’t as interesting.
* It’s not really that witty. While the pitch I received heralds its dry humor, I found the writing to be pretty straightforward and not especially engaging.

That said, this is a pretty comprehensive book, and at 800 pages, it’s a nice reference guide. Better yet, it provides for good bathroom reading since you can skip around to your favorite dead rock star.
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* As of this post

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