Poetry | The rock stars are dying

Paul Simon says


the Mississippi delta

is shining like

a National guitar


which is an apt simile

but if you want my reflections

on rock and roll


     the rock stars are dying

soloing their way up the fretboard

toward the afterlife


           there’s stars on 45

    & ash in Paisley Park

admittedly I’ve not ziggied

any stardust

in a while

but if Keith

              who once snorted his

            own father (!)

                  says he is clean, man

then what the hell

so am I


Mick says

this a poem I’d like to read for Brian


we decay / like corpses in a charnel


older than bong water

or that crusty Led Zeppelin poster

in the shed above the drum kit

  covered in dust


you only had to be able to keep a beat

   & 30 pints of lager in your gullet

to be a drummer in the 70s

racing to an early death


like hate-reading

On The Road because we owe it to America

to stick our fingers down its chauvinistic guts

and marvel at the vomit of words


rock remains as age appropriate

as dating a thirteen year old groupie

(Jimmy Page) 

– in that sense

    rock and roll royalty

is more Prince Andrew than Prince


should this serve as a symbol?

    a sign o the times?

should we not be toppling statues

out the front of concert venues too?


you want it darker?

     asks an album cover

masquerading as an epitaph


before punk

before emo

there was The Rolling Stones

shouting ‘paint it black!’

 ~ from a time when

        perhaps they meant their faces ~


before the Stones there was

the blues

black music


and before that only

black musicians tuning up

waiting to invent music


you can’t ignore the erasure

 the damage

     or the war

but at the very least I guess

you can change the name

like Lady Antebellum

          following a lawsuit


I am following the river

Down the highway

Through the cradle of the civil war


I’m going to Graceland


if male musicians treated women

      half as well as they treated their guitars

          rock wouldn’t be so synonymous

             with misogyny 


(this poem, not much of a requiem mass I’ll admit

   but what do you expect for a genre typified

     by a bunch of teenagers dutching out a rec room?)


rock and roll

I gave you

all the best years

of my life


don’t fear the reaper

    death comes quietly

you’ll hardly hear it over the tinnitus


rock music didn’t teach us




Q: what’s the difference between a zombie

            and a deadhead?

A: the money for a concert ticket


popular opinion suggests

rock and roll died years ago

but the music lives on

in dorm rooms

reclining on a beanbag

coughing, holding a spliff up

like a torch above an unwashed head

as pentatonic riff

follows pentatonic riff


I will always admire the way

Leonard Cohen

took a knee to bow

before the talent

of one of the musicians he employed

as they played a solo

      all class


whereas Ryan Adams fed on the souls

and careers of younger female artists

both phyrric and vampiric




& that’s how

the whole thing ended

sleeping upside down

like that roadie in Wayne’s World


long live rock and roll


or maybe

let it live and let die


rock and roll is dead



the post mortem

post Malone


Dominic Symes

Dominic Symes lives quietly in Naarm. He writes poetry, some of which has been published in Australian journals and anthologies, and the best of which appears in his debut collection I Saw the Best Memes of My Generation (Recent Work Press, 2022). He was recently shortlisted for the 2023 David Harold Tribe Award.

More by Dominic Symes ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Related articles & Essays

Contribute to the conversation

  1. yes & nice poem! however:

    wasn’t rock and roll 50s

    sixties brit pop

    & seventies glam rock or

    country sans the western

  2. Sharp and funny and sad.
    I feel pain for the people, edging towards the ends of their lives now, who grew up in the 60s, who rebelled for freedom and justice, but are only now being confronted by the effects of the darker excesses that resulted from those liberties being taken and twisted by those whose gluttony and vanity were unchecked.
    They must feel as though the lives they thought they knew are being torn off and away and really wonder what they lived for. I hope we will remember what they fought for, and try, ourselves, not to fall into the other, puritan and vindictive, even deadly, extreme.

  3. You’ve nailed it Dominic.
    The corparasites have sucked the marrow from the bones of rock music.
    Only a carapace remains.
    And it’s crumbling.
    (Check out the work of Conor Oberst and his band/s.
    Good stuff).

  4. This could be called ‘male musicians behaving badly’ and be written about blues, hip-hop,EDM, cumbia, norteño and any other male-dominated music genre…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *