Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away Sunday at age 46, leaving behind a legacy of work including an Oscar-winning star turn in the titular role of "Capote." But music fans no doubt remember him in his brief but standout role as iconic rock writer Lester Bangs (another genius gone way too soon), in Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous."
Bangs, who died at age 33 from an accidental overdose of Darvon, Valium, and NyQuil in 1982, was more than almost famous for his gonzo articles for Rolling Stone and Creem in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. His radical, confrontation, often-hilarious critical style inspired a generation of admirers to take up music journalism, just as Hoffman surely inspired so many young actors. And by all accounts, Hoffman completely embodied Bangs when he took on the role in Crowe's 2000 rock 'n' roll epic.
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"When Philip Seymour Hoffman died Sunday of an apparent overdose in his Greenwich Village apartment, it was like losing Lester Bangs all over again," wrote veteran music journalist Jaan Uhelszki, a colleague of Bangs at Creem from 1971-77, in Spin this week, recalling Hoffman's eerily accurate portrayal of her old friend.
"Philip Seymour Hoffman certainly got it right when he played Lester in 'Almost Famous,'" Uhelszki wrote. "And maybe tonight I'll go to sleep and bump into Lester and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Lou Reed arm wrestling and arguing about whether Jim Morrison is really a drunken buffoon posing as a poet and the Guess Who, who had the courage to actually be drunken buffoons, are the real poets. Or maybe the three of them are the real poets."
Hoffman's key scene in "Almost Famous" depicted a late-night phone call between Bangs and naïve teenage journalist William Miller, as Bangs proudly declared himself and men of his ilk "uncool." But both Hoffman and Bangs were truly two of coolest artists in their respective fields. Today, the music industry misses them both.