Over the weekend Kanye West's mother sadly passed away to that great big home for celebrity mama's in the sky. At the tender age of 58, and at a time when her son is enjoying the peak of his professional career, Donda West clearly left us too soon. But inspired by the way Ms. West and her relationship with her son touches Kanye's fans as much as the music or Kanye himself, I've put together a little guide to coping with the loss of Kanye's (or your favorite artist's) mama.
Their Mama Is Your Mama: I didn't spot this news on my own, a friend told me about it. And when she told me she said, "that makes me sad, as annoying as he can be, he was really close to his mom. :(" My initial reaction to that email was cynicism, like, how silly and ridiculous is it to feel sad about strangers kind of thing. You don't know them, you're not their friends. But then I came around to thinking it wasn't weird at all. You are friends with your favorite celebrity. Of course you're supposed to acknowledge that they're humans also, not all dreamy and perfect and stuff. And I think a few years ago, pre-reality television, you probably had a bigger gap between the perception of celebrity artists and the reality. But now anyone still deluded on that is just an idiot. So yeah, Kanye's not perfect, but neither are your friends. And it's likely Kanye through his music, or entertaining personality, has done a lot more to help you get through tough times than a lot of folks you call friends. So that gets you in the loop. The rest is the Transitive Property of Motherhood; any good mother is going to act like she's your mother also, which might mean you get Sunny D and finger sandwiches after playing outside, but could also mean you get a spanking for using that foul language in her mouth. In any case when a friend's mama passes, it's one of the great tragedies in a person's life, and it makes total sense to feel their pain. So have no qualms about that.
Revisit The Work: There's little consolation for Kanye in the heat of the moment, but at some point he can think that at least he got Graduation out before she passed. It is his best work to date, and more to the point, you can feel her influence on him in his all his music. He's so raw and transparent as an artist, I sometimes wonder if he's a new breed. Like Jay-Z is an infinitely more satisfying lyricist and technician .... but artist? I don't know. Jay fronts more -- oddly enough despite his whole image being about cool and authentic -- but he's clearly about image. And when he lets on about insecurities or doubts a la Kingdom Come it doesn't feel right. It runs contrary to Urban Superhero identity. It makes me think Jay-Z is kind of like ARod if ARod could actually get it right.
Anyways, the passing of your favorite artist's mother allows you to re-visit their oeuvre and say awwwwwwwwwwwww. Which adds a nice element of poignancy to everything.
Pick Your Favorite Pull Quote/Story: If an artist's mother passes, there has to be some quotes or anecdotes or something that conveys the personal intimacy and bond between mama and child. Here's my favorite from the current round of Ms. West articles:
"We were coming back from a short vacation in Michigan when he was 5, and he composed a poem in the back seat," Ms. West said in the interview. "The one line that sticks with me is 'the trees are melting black.' It was late fall, and the trees had no leaves. He saw how those limbs were etched against the sky, and he described them the way a poet would."
Awww. It's even cuter because Kanye might be the least "poetic" emcee in hip hop. That was surely a poem only a mama could love.
Call 'em if you got 'em: It's not always easy to be sappy and sentimental, that's where artists can help sometimes. And with a mother passing, life essentially becomes art right before your eyes, hearing of such a moment can touch you just like music or a painting or a movie with Jessica Biel. So put on some Stevie Wonder and call yo mama and tell her you luh her.
Respect the "need for space": The standard celebrity line is "we'd like some space so family can mourn in private." But famous artists and celebs belong to the public now, so they can say that all they want, but it's up to us whether we want to abide by these proclamations. That said, Dear Mama dying is the one you respect. Like if Britney Spears' baby dies, you might still feel ok poking and prodding for more information on what happened. But not when Kanye's mama passes.
Moving On: You can't grieve longer than the artist, so abide by these notes and guidelines in a small window. You're allowed to feel terrible, but if you overextend you might be using this to mask some of your own problems. Don't do that. This is about Kanye and his mama, not you. Have some respect and get out of the zone in a timely fashion.
Kanye West's mom dies [Chicago Tribune]