Songs/Poems/Writing (brief) done by people near the end of their life, especially those who knew it was near their death.
August 15, 2012 9:33 AM   Subscribe

We have a venue and put on a monthly variety show. Up until now there hasn't really been a theme, just lot's of variety. I'd like to focus one of these on Songs/Poems/brief writings that were done by people who were dying and knew it. I think Freddy Mercury did a few songs celebrating life, I know that Warren Zevon did. Anything you can give me would be appreciated. And it doesn't really have to be celebratory.
posted by kenaldo to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Warren Zevon had a whole album in this vein; The Wind.

There's also a 60's/early 70's song "Seasons In The Sun".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:47 AM on August 15, 2012

I always thought Johnny Cash's American IV was about this very thing; it was the last album he released before his death, and you can tell he knew it if you listen to "Hurt".
posted by stellaluna at 9:48 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have had a happy life and thank the Lord, goodbye and may God bless all!

That was Christopher McCandless' last letter, held up in his final self portrait. He wrote it out in all caps but, as a citizen of the internet, I just can't bring myself to do that without feeling like I'm shouting.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:49 AM on August 15, 2012

It may not have immediate translation to a road-show skit, but there is a lifetime's worth of inspiration in The Journal of a Disappointed Man. Bruce Frederick Cummings knew all of his short life that he would die early and unexpectedly of heart disease, so he focused on doing what he liked-- studying insects at the British Natural History Museum and keeping a diary. It may not sound like it, but this is one of the best and most fascinating books written in the last two hundred years, and the preeminent example of the diarist's art. (Just realized I linked to an Amazon Kindle page, here is the same for free via Project Gutenberg.)
posted by seasparrow at 10:08 AM on August 15, 2012

There is a long history of death poetry in Japanese culture, particularly among Zen monks. The Crane's Bill, Zen Poems of China and Japan has an excellent selection of both Ch'an and Zen death poems, but there are also many to be found online. Maybe a bit bleak for variety show fare, but many of them are not dark in tone at all, but rather full of gratitude and wonder.
posted by Lorin at 10:27 AM on August 15, 2012

The Last Lecture? Long, but you could certainly find great excerpts.
posted by jbickers at 10:27 AM on August 15, 2012

I read somewhere (can't find a source) that Joey Ramone was aware that he wouldn't be around much longer when he recorded What a Wonderful World, which is on his last album, Don't Worry About Me (released posthumously).

I know it might be hard to image that anyone could cover the song better than Armstrong - but Joey did so in spades.
posted by she's not there at 4:45 PM on August 15, 2012

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