The new single from the Chili Peppers was first performed live back in March on the opening night of their US I’m with You tour but hasn’t been performed since for unknown reasons. It’s an acoustic ballad with an obvious sombre atmosphere around it and the Californian rockers are paying tribute to Brendan Mullen, founder of The Masque, a small punk club in LA.
Mullen was one of the first promoters to give the band a chance and was working on the band’s biography when he died suddenly from a stroke in 2009 on the first day of rehearsals for their latest album I’m with You. Singer Anthony Kiedis has said of the song:
“It does have a sort of death march feel to it but the song is more of a celebration than a bummer. My favourite part of the song came much later -which is the bridge section where it gets quite dark there for a moment and there’s this feeling of falling into the unknown abyss of dying. So yes, we lost a good man, but he had a very full life.”
The video depicts the band leading a funeral parade, which has a retro jazz style. The band asked fans to send in their details in order for a chance to appear in the video, which the chosen few do. A carnivalesque element and the drum beat kickstarting reminds the listener that it is indeed a celebration of a life rather than a focus on his loss.
With lyrics that are very personal to Mullen, including the mention of Kateri, his girlfriend, it’s a track that cannot be used easily as a generic death song. The most profound lines are “let me live, so when it’s time to die, even the Reaper cries. Let me die so when it’s time to live another sun will rise”, which is a frank but tear-jerking sentiment.
The Chilis are telling us that death happens to us all and we have to celebrate the great people that we lose. Remaining positive is key and expressing emotions through music, while telling the story of the deceased to the world is an empowering and touching way of dealing with grief.