Eighty-year-old country singer Porter Wagoner died last Sunday, Oct.28. Though he performed on the Grand Old Opry for decades and had 29 top-ten records, Wagoner never achieved the star status of others like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and George Jones.
In fact, he was best known for launching the highly successful career of Dolly Parton, his former duet partner.
It seems odd to suggest that a lanky man who wore well-shined boots and ornate jackets with rhinestone-formed wagon wheels could be overshadowed. But, even in death, that seemed to be the case.
Mainstream media hardly mentioned his death while continually showing clips of the more handsome, polished and successful baritone Robert Goulet who died two days later. “Camelot” trumps the Opry, I guess.
Perhaps there is such a thing as an untimely death.
The death of Groucho Marx, a comic genius, on Aug. 19, 1977 received much less attention than it deserved. His 15 feature films with the Marx Brothers and his solo career as host of the radio and television versions of the game show, “You Bet Your Life,” established a foundation for future entertainment.
However, the man who once said, “I intend to live forever, or die trying,” picked a bad time to expire. His death came three days after Elvis’.
Television, radio and print media focused almost exclusively on the King with little attention to the funny-face comic with the cigar.
I have even humored myself when noticing famous people on flights I take. Most recently I’ve seen sharp-tongued political commentator Ann Coulter and University of Georgia football coach Mark Richt boarding the same flights I’ve been on.
Had the 737 gone down in flames, I imagined the headlines reading something like: “BAPTIST EDITOR PIERCE DIES IN PLANE CRASH! Right-wing commentator and football coach also lost.”
Of course, the important issue for all persons — whether a comedian, a country singer or lowly Baptist journalist — is not how the press will record our deaths. It is in the hope found elsewhere.
“He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 25:8 (NAS)