Lesson Plan: The Fame Game

Josephmooon often wants to talk about fame. What does it mean to be famous? Who is more famous than so-and-so? When will Josephmooon be famous?

Once again, Ronan opened a recent session with questions like, “Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?” “Who’s more famous, Donald Trump or Albert Einstein?”

Of course, he already knows that I consider Beatle drummer Ringo Starr to be the most famous person I’ve ever met. He also is well-aware that rhymes-with-Garbage Dump is (regrettably) the only POTUS I’ve ever met, and that despite his current status globally, I consider Einstein ultimately the more famous figure. That doesn’t stop him from asking, however.

This week I was able to share a tragic example of what it means to be famous – but not really.

Marilia Mendonça

On November 5, a small plane crash claimed the life of Marilia Mendonça. Never heard of her? Neither had I, and I do my best to keep up with musical trends around the globe. But the acclaim and devotion afforded this 26-year-old Brazilian pop singer, “known as ‘The Queen of Suffering’ for her angst-filled ballads” (according to The New York Times) had totally escaped my attention as a music fan.

Mendonça was a social media superstar – 38 million followers on Instagram; 22 million YouTube subscribers, and nearly eight million Twitter fans. She was celebrated for a style of Brazilian country music called sertanejo, which told stories of flawed characters and encouraged women to escape abusive relationships. In fact, Mendonça’s music had inspired a subgenre called “feminejo” – music by and for women – that offered a perspective largely absent in sertanejo’s machismo culture, according to a National Public Radio report.

Mendonça perished along with her producer, Henrique Ribeiro, as well as her uncle (who also worked as her assistant), and the private plane’s pilot and co-pilot. The wreckage was found near a waterfall in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, near Caratinga, where Mendonça was scheduled to perform. Brazil’s embattled president Jair Bolsonaro called her “one of the greatest artists of her generation.”

Indeed, Mendonça enjoyed a huge army of fans, but could scarcely be considered a “household name” on par with, say, Columbian superstar, Shakira, or the late queen of Tejano music, Selena, who died in 1995, eight months before Mendonça was born.

So, do we consider Marilia Mendonça “famous?” What do you think?

Published by billpaige

Interested parties are first directed to my memoir, “Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars” (Eckhartz Press). While I have taken music therapy classes and read extensively about music’s effect on the brain, I am NOT professionally trained -- just a music lover who recognizes that everyone benefits from music. Giving that gift to special needs youth is highly rewarding, but again, my process is intuitive, not academic. I draw largely on personal experience. I’ve spent most of my 67 years observing a wide world of music, from working as a music critic professionally for 20 years, and holding positions in music companies in the 1970s and 1990s. Since 1990, however, I have focused on learning more about music and improving as a singer, guitarist, and performer, both solo and in ensemble settings.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: