YES! Weekly’s Ten Best dead MySpace friends

by Jordan Green

Townes Van Zandt

When MySpace burst on the scene a few years back it seemed like every 16-year-old emo go-getter with a guitar and a modem was ready to upend the established order of the music business, establishing fame through record-breaking plays and extensive friends’ comment rolls, and thereby short-circuiting the need to be signed to a label, major, indie or otherwise. Now everybody has a MySpace page -‘ even dead people. The MySpace profile of Townes Van Zandt, the Texas troubadour who died on New Years Day like his hero, Hank Williams, was set up by Rake Films to promote their documentary, Be Here to Love Me. As expected, the site is full of tributes and comments from lesser folksingers trying to hitch to Townes’ star.

Laura Nyro

The MySpace page for Laura Nyro exists as a sincere tribute to the New York songwriter who wrote for Barbra Streisand before venturing out on her own as a solo artist. Nyro died of ovarian cancer at the age of 49 in 1997, and her devoted fans lovingly attend to her legacy here. The site includes sound files of songs such as “A Wilderness” and “Blackpatch,” a brief biography, important concert reviews and the most personal kind of testaments, such as this comment from English folk singer Marcus Shelton: “It’s difficult to believe it’s been nearly a decade now. Your page is wonderful. A little magic, and a little kindness to a true original.”

Albert Ayler

The MySpace site for Albert Ayler should be a revelation to anyone unfamiliar with the free-jazz alto saxophonist’s work. Listening to the sound files of mid-1960s recordings like “Ghosts, First Variation” and “Prophet” -‘ cathartic, bold and beautiful proclamations – elicits feelings of tragic irony when experienced in conjunction with the narrative arc of the artist’s life. “I’d always wanted to come to the Scandinavian countries,” Ayler says in a spoken word recording referencing his move to Sweden in 1962. “When I come over here I feel quite free, really free. One day everything will be as it should be.” Then the final paragraph of the artist’s biography describes a chilling suffocation of the dream: “On Nov. 25, 1970, Albert Ayler’s body was found floating in the East River, at the foot of the Congress Street Pier, in Brooklyn.”

Sun Ra

Not nearly as majestic is the site put together for jazz space voyager Sun Ra, described in his profile as “male, 92 years old, Birmingham, Alabama, United States.” The site’s latest blog post is dated Dec. 7, 2005. Entitled, “The Dead Past,” with a current mood icon indicating “chipper,” it reads: “The past is dead and those who are following the past are doomed to die and be like the past. It is no accident that those who die are said to have passed since those who passed are past.” That aphorism is nicely complemented by a YouTube video of Sun Ra spinning behind his keyboard, maintaining seamless improvisation even as he plinks the notes behind his back.

The Carter Family

It might seem kind of counterintuitive that the first family of country music would seize the reigns of the new technology that is MySpace but, after all, they were instrumental in establishing vinyl as a medium of choice back in 1927. With the slogan, “Keep on the sunny side of life,” the Carters’ stats list as follows: “Maces Spring, Virginia, United States, 9,160 profile views, member since 11/10/05.” Among their top friends are fellow Bristol sessions alum Jimmie Rodgers, and second generation country artists Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, all likewise deceased. Thankfully, Johnny and June’s son, John Carter Cash, is around to keep the MySpace party going, as are Marty Stuart, Mason Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver.

Friendster profile for Española, NM

Española, while certainly not dead, makes the cut as a profile because it’s not by any means a living, breathing hominid. And let’s put aside that the fact that this profile is hosted by a competing social networking host. For those who have never visited “the lowrider capital of the world,” you might not know that Española gets dumped on a lot. But the town has personality to spare. That personality tends to be expressed in Spanglish, with equal measures of dark humor, menace and vitality. About me: “First off, it’s fuckeen Spaa, aright? It’s not fuckeen Espa, or Es-pan-yola, or whatever you jodidos are fuckeen sayeen. Spaastyle por vida jodidos.” Testimonial from Lucretia, dated Nov. 16, 2005: “Oh, Española, sometimes you make me so damn proud, and other times you just disappoint the hell out of me. I still love you, though.” And as a former staff writer for the Rio Grande Sun, I like to think that this entry for “people I’d like to meet” was written with me in mind: “That puto who wrote that article about me in the Rio Grande Sun – say that shit to my face jodido! Wha’, are you a-scared to get jumped or wha’?”

Edith Piaf

The lady known as “France’s greatest popular singer” doesn’t list her age, but she’s been a MySpace member since Sept. 18, 2005. The sound files on Edith Piaf’s site grace visitors with the majesty of “Vie L’Amour” and “Non Je Ne Regrette Rien.” Among the singer’s top eight friends are personages such as Baby Hotness Le Long (a cat, judging by the photograph), le Art Throb (who is online as I write), someone known as “Biggest Garbage Fan. Ever!” and Pere Lachaise (the cemetery).

Hunter S. Thompson

We like to consider ourselves journalists around here, but we would never claim to be quite this cool. The entry for “about me” at the MySpace site for the author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reads as follows: “Sometimes I worked for three newspapers at once. I wrote ad copy for new casinos and bowling alleys. I was a consultant for the cockfighting syndicate, an utterly corrupt high-end restaurant critic, a yachting photographer and a routine victim of police brutality. It was a greedy life and I was good at it. I made some interesting friends, had enough money to get around, and learned a lot about the world that I could never have learned in any other way.”

Orson Welles

One of Thompson’s top-ranked MySpace friends is Orson Welles, but a Google search for the famous film director actually turns up several Orson Welleses. Is it the 90-year-old male from Beverly Hills who receives comments from Frank Sinatra and Jiminy Cricket? Or is it the “true Orson Welles” who resides in San Francisco? We’ll take the one who consorts with Thompson, is located in Ronda, Spain and claims to be friends with Robert Johnson, Charles Bukowski and the Weather Underground.

William Shakespeare

Perhaps the coolest dead guy is the bard himself. Wouldn’t you know that a lot of his friends are also dead, famous literary artists. At the top of the comment list is a post from Oscar Wilde dated Oct. 6, which reads, “I never get tired of your brilliance.” Vincent Van Gogh doesn’t write; he just posts an image of this painting called “Sunflowers.” On Oct. 5, Simone de Beauvoir writes: “Hamlet has to be my favorite’… existential crises, difficult choices, questions of identity’… it rocks my socks.” Then there are comments from PB Shelley, Pythagoras and Martin Luther. And some guy named Mercury McCall blathers: “Sisyphus called and he wants to rock and roll.”