Over the festive period, we lost 3 brilliant creative souls — Terry Hall, Vivienne Westwood, and Pele. Each will be missed for different reasons.
Hall came through a nightmarish childhood…
… to find his place as the frontman for The Specials, a genuinely important, racially diverse ska group that found itself standing squarely against the far-right leaning politics of the ’70s and ’80s.
In Vivienne Westwood’s obituary in The Guardian…
… she was described as ‘behaving as an eternal student’, having no idea how to make money from art but becoming the original, anti-establishment enfant terrible of the fashion scene, and alongside Malcolm McLaren a key driver in the style aesthetic of punk.
Pele took the idea of what a footballer could do with a ball and turned it on its head
Power, grace, touch, and an abundance of bravery place him quite rightly at the top of any conversation about the best to ever step over the white line. It was Pele and his great Brazil team of that era that led to the ‘beautiful game’ being known as such.
None of Hall, Westwood or Pele were born into situations where success was guaranteed, or even thought of as much of a possibility. Yet all went on to not only challenge perceptions of their own disciplines, but to be part of real cultural change. They all threw out notions of acceptance, none wanted to conform to how the world was. They wanted to move it on, to evolve it, and make it better.
And whilst their respective partings will leave a hole in the fabric of world culture, they have paved the way for the next generation of creative rebels to take the stage. Would there have been a Maradona, Messi or Zidane had Pele — having been literally kicked black and blue out of the 1966 World Cup — reigned in his creative instincts to become like other ‘hard men’ of the era?
Would Alexander McQueen or Virgil Abloh have had the belief in their creative visions for high fashion revolutions, had it not have been for Vivienne Westwood’s vision and commitment to it?
And would we have a continued raft of multigenre, multiracial bands, social-commentary-as-standard bands such as The Libertines, Sleaford Mods, or The Streets have existed were Terry Hall and The Specials to have given up in the face of the presence of Nazis at their gigs?
The best creative minds are born of a unique blend of vision, restlessness, resilience, and bravery. And whilst it is tempting to utter words such as ‘we’ll never see the likes of them again’, it is more hopeful to think of the lasting legacy of their work and their actions as a springboard for the next generation to push things forward, rip up convention and bring newness into the world.
From their song ‘Friday night, Saturday morning’, Hall — as ever — sums it up best.
‘I like to venture into town
I like to get a few drinks down
The floor gets packed the bar gets full
I don’t like life when things get dull.”
Me neither brother, RIP.
Featured image: The Specials