Dealing With Loss

Commentary by Ben Bowen King

by The Krayolas 
from La Conquistadora

Indie rocker Hector Saldana happened to be scanning the obituary pages when a photo jumped out.  It was one of his favorite college professors, who had died unexpectedly.

Many of us know the accompanying emotions associated with this type of discovery: shock, grief and the thought, “This shouldn’t have happened.”

But what turned out to be different was the way Saldana expressed those emotions. As lead guitarist in the indie-rock band The Krayolas he penned a tune, “Catherine,” that melded lyrics dealing with his grief to what Dick Clark would have called a “peppy beat you can dance to.”

Lyrically there are lines like: 

She’s too young
It’s not true
Must be wrong
No I’m sure
Oh, dear God I’m confused

But those lyrics chug along to a carefree, retro-rock beat punctuated by the playful sound of a Vox organ—an instrument more associated with skating rinks than funeral parlors.   And what started out as a highly personal requiem evolved into an improbable indie-rock sensation.

When Steve Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen’s rhythm guitar player who also played the Mafia hood Sal on The Sopranos, heard “Catherine,” he was immediately struck by the juxtaposition of lyrics and music.  He started playing the song four and five times a day on "The Underground Garage," his national XM/Sirius radio station. The song soon found a national audience as it became a popular download.

The key to Saldana’s unusual requiem comes in the last line: “Can’t believe I won’t see you my friend— You would laugh at it all in the end.”  Obviously, Catherine’s sense of humor, and perhaps her sense of irony, was something Saldana wanted to celebrate.

Think about the conventional ways we deal with loss—flowers, sad music and predictable eulogies. Then think about what really comforts you at the time of loss. Is it the flowers or is it remembering what made that person special to you?  What would their “play-list” really be like?  Admittedly simply bashing convention isn’t going fill the chasm caused by loss. But an honest assessment of our emotions and how we express them can be a step in the right direction.


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