A Better Way of Living: Marillion

Who is Afraid of Marillion?

Yesterday, prog queen Gianna Englert (and liberal arts demi-goddess) reminded us that today is the twentieth anniversary of Marillion’s album, AFRAID OF SUNLIGHT.  For what it’s worth, it’s my favorite Marillion album, rivaled only by MARBLES.

Every time I bring the band up, someone tells me they love Fish or Hogarth more.  I have no problem with either Fish-era Marillion or Hogarth-era Marillion.  I love both.  Marillion is Marillion.  I actually buy into their own understanding that they represent a better way of a life.  Perhaps I’ve just been taken in by great PR and marketing.  The band seems the true inheritors of those who once cried for peace, love, and happiness.

What convinces me?  Marillion understands better than almost any one in the musical world that it’s ok to promote what is beautiful and not do it tongue-in-check or with irony or with cynicism or with a wink.  They actually mean it.  When I listen to Marillion, I feel as though I’m with Sam, somewhere in Mordor, seeing a white star beyond the reach of all evil.

Another important—well, perhaps, critical—point.  It’s arguable that AFRAID OF SUNLIGHT is the very first album of third-wave prog.  But. . . .

Let me get personal for the rest of this post.  If you’re not interested in reading, I totally understand. . . this is NOT a proper review or a retrospective.  Merely a reflection and an appreciation.

Day-Glo Jesus
Day-Glo Jesus


Here’s the hard part.  On August 8, 2007, my wife and I lost a daughter.  My wife had come full term in her pregnancy, and Cecilia Rose was due on August 6.  Rather than induce labor on that day, we decided to go all natural and wait for the baby to arrive when she was ready.

Sometime early on the morning of August 8, Cecilia Rose became entangled in her own umbilical cord.  She suffocated on the very thing that had given her life.  We didn’t know until later that day that Cecilia had passed away.  Just before midnight, my wife (the strongest person I’ve ever met) gave “birth” to our deceased daughter.  Long story, short—the following week was the absolute worst of my life.  Every minute seemed like a month, and every hour a year.  It was horrible.

The first week was the worst, but nothing really improved over the next year.  In fact, life was pretty miserable.  I was on sabbatical and working on my biography of American founding father Charles Carroll of Carrollton.  Thank God.  I needed something.

As it turns out, we live across the street from the main cemetery in Hillsdale, and we buried Cecilia Rose across the street.  I visited her grave every day, miserable and confused.  Frankly, I felt like an absolute failure as a father—after all, I have one real duty in this world: to protect my children.  I realize how irrational I was—but the feelings were sincere, nonetheless.

A lot of things got me through that year—my wife, my kids, my friends, my writing.  I would sit at Cecilia’s grave, wondering why her death had to happen?  Almost daily, I listened to AFRAID OF SUNLIGHT.  It brought me immense comfort.

I know the album is actually about surviving fame. . . but for me it was just about surviving.

Day-Glo Jesus on the dash

Scorch marks on the road ahead

Friendly fire in hostile waters

Keep the faith, don’t lose your head

Don’t lose your head

The power of music.  The power of Marillion.

P.S.  If you made it this far, thank you.