It was a sad weekend for rock music, and a tale of two very different reactions on social media.
On Friday, September the 13th at around 11 AM, we learned that Eddie Money, many of whose hits in the 70s and 80s remain timeless evergreen staples on radio stations across formats, passed away of complications from a heart valve replacement at age 70. Money had revealed his diagnosis of esophageal cancer just one month earlier.
Two days later, on Sunday the 15th at around 8:30 AM, the more surprising news broke that Cars vocalist and guitarist Ric Ocasek was found dead at age 75.
The reverberation of both deaths was felt around the world and certainly on social media.
While one could argue the Cars have a longer and more impressive resume (over 20 million albums sold and last year’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), Eddie Money had an intangible quality.
He was a really nice guy.
As I scanned my social media feeds on Friday, the reaction from radio people was of genuine loss—as if a close friend had died.
“He was SO nice.”
“Eddie Money was a class act.”
“He was so radio friendly.”
“Eddie Money was the goods. He was hilarious and always willing to help.”
Contrast this to the reactions I read of Ocasek’s death, which were also mournful but tended to be more about the music.
“They were one of my most-listened-to bands.”
“A true original.”
“His influence will always stay with me.”
This isn’t to say there was anything wrong with the reaction to Ocasek’s death, and it’s not to say he wasn’t also a nice guy.
It’s that the reaction to Eddie Money’s death stuck out because it was so emotional.
It’s worth noting because radio’s ties to artists is a powerful point of differentiation from other entertainment options and has been a cog in the machine that has driven its success.
Radio has historically been brilliant at creating unforgettable in-person moments between artist and listener. These moments help create memorable brand depth for well-positioned stations, but as any program director will tell you, artist access is often not exactly easy.
And frankly, sometimes they’re not worth it. Just as a good artist experience provided by a radio station can inspire a listener to share with their friends, the bad ones can have the opposite effect. And you know, if you’ve ever worked at a radio station, there are plenty of bad ones.
Eddie Money was a rare breed—the kind of artist that had such a nice streak, even his negativity could be sugar-coated. Once when I was interviewing him after we had spent quite a bit of time talking about influences and artists he enjoyed listening to, he said, “Jay, I love the Foo Fighters but when are we going to talk about the Money Man?”
When I asked him to play a festival for Y94 in Syracuse in 1994, his band wasn’t available. Instead of saying “no,” he offered to host the entire thing and brought his family.
Eddie Money was known for coming into the lobby to sign everyone’s autographs and pictures after his shows. Money told interviewer Gary James, “People who come to Eddie Money shows are not always the richest people in the world. Sometimes their wives are working or they’re pulling double shifts. It’s hard to get a (baby) sitter. For people to take the time and the energy to get out there and hear some great Rock & Roll, I gotta tell you I love the people who come to my shows. They’re really, really great people.”
Money played countless shows for radio stations, phoned in for interview after interview and appreciated the mutually beneficial relationship.
When your brand is music, it’s always nice to have the ones on the front lines there to help you build that brand—and Eddie Money did his share of that for so many radio stations.
His perspective on life, shared with Rolling Stone in a 2018 interview, is one we can all learn a bit from. “The kids aren’t in jail, they’re not in rehab, nobody’s wrecked the car this week and there’s still milk in the refrigerator. I’m having a good month.”
Right on the money.