The first pop star I remember dying was the biggest. I was only five years old, but even though my parents were old enough to be from the generation before rock 'n' roll, I still remember the death of Elvis in 1977. I remember standing in the door from the kitchen to the living room and asking my mum to explain what had happened. I must have been able to sense the shock in the air, the shock of the whole world to the death of a legend.
By contrast, I have no memory whatsoever of the death of John Lennon three years later. Perhaps it meant less to my parents, though that's hard to believe. Not because they were Beatles fans, but because the circumstances of Lennon's end were so much more dramatic than Elvis's heart exploding while he sat on the loo. I made up for not acknowledging Lennon's death as a child by becoming fascinated by it later in life. When I went through my Beatles phase, in my late teens / early 20s, the subject obsessed me, fed largely by Jack Jones's Chapman biography, Let Me Take You Down. I even created Pepper's Ghost in tribute, a spooky character in The Jock who died as the result of a record shop argument over which was the best Beatles album.
The death that had the biggest effect on me was Freddie Mercury. I've written before about how Freddie was my first rock idol. The tragic thing about Freddie's death was that we got to watch him waste away before our eyes. You have to admire his conviction to keep recording until his last breath, even though he was little more than a skeleton with a moustache by the time he announced his condition to the world. I still find it painful to watch the videos he recorded for that last Queen album. Live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse... Freddie didn't get much choice in that.
Roy Orbison, Michael Hutchence, Kurt Cobain, Joe Strummer, Kirsty MacColl, Michael Jackson, George Harrison, Warren Zevon, Harry Nilsson, Clarence Clemons, Amy Winehouse... I remember being affected by all their deaths to varying degrees, among many others. And it's only going to get worse, isn't it? Not just the ones who burn out, but those who fade away too. I can only imagine how I'll feel when Bruce hangs up his guitar for the final time or Moz finally chucks himself off Beachy Head. How inconsolable will I be?
Though only two months old, 2012's already proved fatal for Whitney Houston. I had a soft spot for Whitney, if only because 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' is one of many songs that reminds me of unrequited crushes at high school discos.
And now we say goodbye to Davy Jones too. The man who gave us this...
"Okay. Now really, like, don't get excited, man. Just 'cause I'm short, I know."
...the self-deprecating intro to one of the greatest pure pop singles ever recorded. For a "manufactured boy band", The Monkees were anything but a manufactured boy band. There was more charm, heart and humour in Davy Jones's little toe than in Ronan Keating's entire recording career. I mean, people said they monkeyed around, but they were too busy singing to put anybody down. They were just trying to be friendly - after all, they were the young generation and they'd got something to say.
While I long since grew out of the Beatles, I don't believe I'll ever grow out of the Monkees. I felt genuinely sad when I read of Davy's passing. Another part of my childhood, another musical hero, another ever-smiling memory: gone. Still, cheer up, sleepy Jean... we'll always have the songs to remember him by.
Which rock star death had the biggest effect on you? And who will you mourn the most when they finally join the heavenly choir?