Bigger Than I Thought
05.18.12 11:07 AM ET
A1-Worthy Musical Deaths
Nothing against her, but I kinda can't believe that Donna Summer's obit made A1 of the Times. Not teased on A1, with a little picture and a caption. It starts on A1and takes up nearly half the acreage below the fold. I'd love to see a transcript of the editorial discussions on that one.
Who really deserves that space? It used to be politicians, people of great distinction in science and high culture, only the most memorable and influential innovators; the big prize winners; and like that. I just found this fascinating little thing at the Times site called The Times Machine, on which you can look at a facsimile of any front page from the 1950s to 1922.
So I looked up a few biggies. Tolstoy's death, November 21, 1910 (all dates are the day after the actual death, to reflect the edition of the paper they would have made)? Not only front page--lead story!
Edgar Degas, September 28, 1917--stiffed. Of course it was wartime.
Enrico Caruso, August 3, 1921--above the fold, the off-lede, as we call it, on the far left-hand column. And not just an obit, but a sidebar under the hed "Caruso Kept Hoping He Would Return." Incidentally, the same front-page carried the news that "White Sox Players Are All Acquitted by Chicago Jury." Of course it's worth remembering that in those days, almost no stories started below the fold.
I'm not sure many people would say Summer was Caruso, but okay. I accept this as precedent, I suppose. She was iconic in her field in much the way he was. Before today I'd have thought only the big big biggies would get that kind of splash when they go--McCartney, Dylan, Sir Mick, etc. But I guess this gives hope to Paula Abdul. Don't laugh. She made something like eight singles, and seven went to number one.