Spires in the sky
The year began with David Bowie releasing one of the most acclaimed albums of his vast career, a sign of new creative energy from the rock legend. Two days later, he was dead after a battle with cancer.
Three months after that, another pop icon, Prince — who had covered Bowie’s classic Heroes at one of his final concerts — also died, succumbing to an accidental overdose of painkillers despite his outward signs of vigor.
By late 2016, Leonard Cohen put out an album ominously entitled You Want It Darker — and the storied songwriter and poet, who spent his life reflecting on spirituality and mortality, passed away within weeks.
The past year — so momentous on the political front — also marks a symbolic turning point for rock, with a generation of musical elders starting to exit the stage.
The sense of a rock era’s passing could also be felt in California in October with Desert Trip, a new music festival featuring acts including The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Dylan — with a subtext that it was unclear for how much longer the septuagenarian greats would be playing.
Other major musicians who died in 2016 included: Maurice White, founder of funk allstars Earth, Wind and Fire; Eagles frontman Glenn Frey; country icon Merle Haggard; two-thirds of the prog-rock trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer (only Carl Palmer is left); Jefferson Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner; and Phife Dawg of hip-hop groundbreakers A Tribe Called Quest.
It is obviously coincidence that so many artists died in quick succession. But there is also a precedent — the 1980s and early 1990s, when towering figures in jazz were dying.
In a loose parallel to Dylan’s Nobel prize and the establishment recognition it represents, the US Congress in 1987 designated jazz as “an American national treasure”.
Lawmakers at the time were hoping to step up education and historical preservation of jazz — a process well under way for rock, with Dylan earlier in 2016 announcing that his archive would go to the University of Tulsa, alongside papers of his Oklahoma-born inspiration Woody Guthrie.
Like with jazz in the late 20th century, the deaths in 2016 come at a time when music purists fret that the future will have fewer cohesive albums of the type of Bowie’s final work, Blackstar.
The top stars who died in 2016 consciously made music away from the spotlight.
Bowie lived with his family in a New York penthouse and was rarely seen, Cohen retreated to Los Angeles where he spent time in a Buddhist monastery and the prolific Prince secluded himself in his Paisley Park complex in Minnesota.
For Bowie and Prince, “basically for the last couple of decades, they either were in isolation or at least had autonomy over what they were doing,” said Theo Cateforis, an associate professor of music history and cultures at Syracuse University.
“And that seems unusual for a newer artist who has such accessibility and is expected to have a Twitter feed and be in some sort of constant engagement,” he said.
“Their passing allows us to reflect on what careers were like in previous eras — and that kind of artist may be less and less frequent in the future.”
An aerial view of the Resurrection Cathedral at the New Jerusalem Monastery in the town of Istra, in the Moscow Region of Russia.
It has been hailed as a revolutionary way to get people moving, using smartphones to pursue cartoon creatures through city parks and streets on foot, instead of taking the car or metro.
But has Pokemon Go made people more active and healthy? A study on Wednesday reported mixed success.
In the first week of playing the game, people took 955 additional steps per day on average — equaling nearly half the World Health Organization’s recommended physical activity level, researchers found.
But this soon petered out, with activity levels “back to pre-installation levels” of around 4,250 steps per day by week six of playing the game which has become a global phenomenon.
“The results suggest that the positive health impact of Pokemon Go is moderate and diminishes after six weeks of playing,” said a statement from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, whose researchers conducted the study.
The team measured daily walking among a group of 1,182 adults ages 18 to 35 in the United States. All used an iPhone 6 smartphone, which records the number of steps you take while carrying the device.