Dave Brubeck, the legendary genre-bending, time-signature-ass-kicking jazz musician Dave Brubeck passed away today, just shy of his 92nd birthday. As with the passing of any great artist or musician, the Internet (and Twitter in particular), is already raring to go with its crash course in the fundamentals of Dave Brubeck. Expect to hear fond memories of tweed-jacketed college professors leading Jazz Appreciation seminars, to see listicles of the "Top 15 Essential Dave Brubeck Recordings" (bet you can already guess No. 1, can’t you?) and Buzzfeed-style galleries of "25 Young Whippersnappers Who Have No Idea Who Dave Brubeck Is." And everyone will make fun of everyone for making fun of everyone’s moments of ignorance about this one genre.
And everyone on Facebook and Twitter suddenly puts on the hat of a jazz aficionado. Did you know that "Take Five" is in 5/4 time? That it was inspired by Brubeck’s experiences watching folk musicians in Turkey while on a State Department tour? Did you know that same homage occurs in "Blue Rondo á La Turk?" Did you first experience Brubeck while listening to Pavement’s "5-4 = Unity" too? Don’t you just love "Unsquare Dance?" Did you see his Kennedy Center honor induction? Of course. That and more. The deluge begins. You’ve probably seen the same video of "Unsquare Dance" at least a dozen times already (and again below, because to be fair, it is great). This is the way we grieve and appreciate now. And with the death of a great artist comes the deluge of discussion of This Is The Way We Grieve and Appreciate Now. Everyone becomes the Dave Brubeck expert, the fan, the educator.
And that’s not to say that all of this rush to share and anecdote and post in the wake of the death of a great artist is necessarily a bad thing. Everyone has cultural blind spots and shouldn’t be shamed about them; and when an artist dies, it’s often a peak time for that artitst’s work to gain exposure, to obtain new fans and appreciators and to share someone’s work that you really, really love with the world. I’ve definitely, admittedly, done it; you probably did it with Elliott Smith in the infancy of blogging or for Jam Master Jay or Marvin Hamlisch or Gil Scott-Heron or Whitney Houston. And being able to share beautiful things is one of the best thing about all this social media that we have and whatnot. The more who hear, the better. But at the same time, a lot is done in a rush to appear relevant, to lead the Internet rallying cry of "First!" and to be all like, "I knew more about [dead famous person] than you," and that’s when things get kind of gross.
So, it’s sort of a weird system we have going, with positives and negatives, and there’s no real solution, but just take the good with the bad and let people do what they do, I guess? But those "xx People Who Don’t Know Who [Famous Person] Is" are getting old. As the bumper sticker says, "Don’t hate, educate."
And all jokes about the weirdness of Twitter grief and how legacies pan out in social media aside, Brubeck’s genius is difficult to understate, his legacy tough to put in words, the number of musicians and music lovers he has influenced ever-growing. And yes, you most certainly should give his work a listen. And below, your video crash course.