What is it about celebrities that we take into our hearts so much. 2016 was described by many on my Facebook feed as being an awful year, people becoming distraught as some of their favourite famous people passed away. The flip side of this is people reacting by asking “Why are you so upset? You didn’t even know this person, there’s …………… going on and you’re crying over a celebrity.” Now, I’ve never been one for fawning over celebrities but the other day I read and shared a story about one of my all-time favourites – Elvis Costello – that made me think a little differently.
I’ve been a fan of Elvis Costello for quite a few years, ever since I bought an album of his only to get it home, read the liner notes which opened with something like “Congratulations, you’ve just bought the worst album we’ve ever made.” Obviously, nothing inspires you more to put a different album on, which I did, and Goodbye Cruel World lay at the bottom of a stack of cd’s for a while until I got around to listening and I have to say, I have no idea what he’s on about. Sounds alright to me, Ok, its not my favourite by him but It’s a decent listen. Anyway, back to the point of this waffle. It transpires that Mr. Costello has recently undergone surgery for an aggressive form of cancer, which was successful but has meant he needs to cancel some shows.
Upon reading about this, I immediately shared the post on Facebook. As soon as I hit the share button I wondered to myself why I had done it. What purpose is there to sharing this information? Is it something that all my friends need to know? Probably not, I don’t even know if any of them are fans. Is it so Elvis will know that some random fella from Blackpool cares? Again, no. But then again, maybe. I don’t know how active he personally is on social media or if his team pass on information, but it’s nice to hold the fantasy that someone has told him that it has been shared, in support of him. Like a new-fangled get well soon card from people you’ve never met. Is it to raise awareness of cancer? In some ways yes, it has certainly made me think, especially as he signs off from his apologies with this:
Take very good care of your loved ones but Gentleman, do talk to you friends - you'll find you are not alone - seek your doctor's advice if you are in doubt or when it is timely and act as swiftly as you may in these matters. It may save your life. Believe me, it is better than playing roulette."
I think above all this though is that we do know these people, in some way. I know Elvis Costello, not personally, obviously. But I follow his career, I buy his albums. I try and understand him behind the music. I’ve got his book. And he really means something to me. Seeing someone in the public eye going through a hard time seems to make us open our eyes to the possibility that it could also happen to ourselves. If Elvis Costello can get ill then a mere mortal like myself definitely can, and more than that, because the news affects more people, it spreads the message quicker. It’s not that we wouldn’t be empathetic about anyone else going through it, its just if we’re not connected to them in any way then there’s no context to share the news.
As Elvis alludes to at the end of his post, if you notice something get it checked out. Talk to someone, go to the doctors. Its not just your physical health but your mental health too. Take care of yourselves.