R.E.M. Farewell Marks the End of the World as I Knew It

Michael Stipe of R.E.M. R.E.M. is one of those bands that defined my youth. From utter devotion to Michael Stipe to saving my babysitting money to see them in concert (they actually came to Lincoln, Nebraska, and answered my dreams in 1986), their songs like few others bring me back to junior high, high school, and beyond when I was convinced they could see into my angst-ridden soul.

So when they announced today that they're calling it a day and ending the band's 31-year run, I felt a wave of nostalgia. There's some speculation that the abrupt news came after the strange nude video and photos of Stipe surfaced yesterday (which were kind of weird), and if so, then the news is a pretty good diversion tool to offset something like that. But I prefer to believe the sentiment Stipe expressed in a statement:


A wise man once said -- "The skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave." We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it. I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.

There are few things sadder than an aging rock star trying to rock it up on stage despite arthritis, so it's nice to see them bow out gracefully on their own terms. I haven't followed much of the band's newer stuff as my CD player has been taken over by the crooning of Laurie Berkner and The Wiggles since having children, but in honor of the many tears and drinks I've shared with this band over the years, here are five of my favorite memory-inducing R.E.M. songs:

"Shiny Happy People": Despite any intended meaning, to me this is a party song in which everyone is dancing, partying, and sweating profusely. I always thought it would make a good theme song for oil-blotting papers or some such product.

"Everybody Hurts": See teenage angst above. It's the perfect song to cry to over and over again.

"The One I Love": Oh how many different "ones" there were through the years to whom I sang this one (never in person). 

"Superman": I hear the echoes of drunk slurring when I think of this song, but love it nonetheless. Lines like, "If you go a million miles away, I'll track you down, girl" always got to me.

"It's the End of the World as We Know It": Musically, this isn't my favorite, but I will never forget how proud I was when I finally learned each and every word of the lyrics -- singing along without flaws was a great party trick. "Leonard Bernstein!"

What are your favorite R.E.M. songs? Are you surprised to see them call it quits?

Image via YouTube

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