Reading obituaries on a regular basis introduces me to all sorts of people of local, national and international renown who have lived interesting/riveting/extraordinary lives. I have blogged about reading obituaries before (see link to post below). I find them so instructive and inspiring that I read a book about obituaries, The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson.
Rose Marie McCoy is one such person.
She was a lyricist who “composed or collaborated” on over 850 songs during her life. She on January 20 at age 92.
Imagine recording 850 songs recorded by singers in many genres including Sarah Vaughn, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, , James Brown and Elvis Pressley.
Obituaries in The Boston Globe and New York Times acknowledge that she “was largely unheralded, recognized only belatedly in a nationwide radio documentary.”
All Things Considered on National Public Radio remembered her. You can also find a story and interview they did with Ms. Johnson called Lady Writes the Blues: The Life of Rose McCoy.
I’ve composed a few lyrics waiting for music and a singer to find them. Reading Ms. McCoy’s obituary, George Clinton’s memoir, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You? (which I’m half-way through), and comments from an interview I saw once with Dolly Parton, it’s clear that being a lyricist with a proper contract pays dividends beyond what singers alone get.
So, hat’s off to this lovely lyricist. I’ve got work to do and have to get back to my muse.
Rest in Peace and Glory Rose Marie McCoy.
If you like this post, you might also like:
At first I thought, “Ah-oh, another maturing person who has begun reading the obituaries.” I’ve heard my mother’s friends jokingly say, “I read the obituaries every day and say to myself, ‘Thank God I’m not in here.'” Yours is a new perspective about the obits that brings my attention back to what the original purpose is, to celebrate the lives of the people contained within it. This makes me realize that for all these years I’ve simply focused on the death aspect of an obituary rather than the celebration and historical documentation of a person’s life. Thanks for sharing this perspective and he information about an amazing lyricist of whom I hadn’t heard. Now I too can say, “Rest in Peace Rose Marie McCoy and thank you for sharing your gift with the world.”
I so agree. Again, thanks for sharing.
Thank you for this blog. I will look for Marilyn Johnson’s Dead Beat book. I, too, often read obituaries – fascinated by the details of people’s lives.
Having just lost my mother and posted her obit in the Boston Globe, I relate on all points you make, but especially the following from A Good Death:
“This is hard to hear, but important to know: When caring for an aging relative, you are helping a family member die well. The process of helping someone to die well begins early on in your caregiving journey. It begins when you first hear a diagnosis. Or, when you first notice that your mother just isn’t able to keep up the house as well as she used to. Or, when you celebrate your grandmother’s 95th birthday and wonder: Where did the time go?.”
I was laid off from my job nearly a year ago and I was able to spend such quality time with my 91-year old mother who just passed away. It’s been a blessing to me to have had a role in giving my mother a good death. I am so grateful.
Thanks for our thoughtful response. I am glad you were able to spend good time with your Mom – a comfort to her and a comfort to you. You write so well and thoughtfully. Have you considered writing your own blog?
Hello Candelaria, I too like to read obits. Didn’t know that there might be a club to join! I’m wondering if you liked to read obits from an earlier age…..I did…..I think that some folks might say that they read them later in life, looking for people you know! But, I too, am often inspired by the lovely legacies that remain after people die. Thanks for sharing. Donna
I read them from my thirties. I take pleasure when the ones I read are all of people in their 90s. I am saddened when I read of a child or young person whose life has been cut short so quickly. Unfortunately, each year, there are more people I know or am only two degrees of separation from. But, that’s the human condition. The cost of having lived is that you are going to die, whether you believe in an after-life or existence.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments.