Two Men, One Destiny

Two Men, One Destiny

Folklore abounds with stories about inevitable destiny, not just individual destiny but collective as well. For instance, a person may be doomed to repeat certain life sequences (such as in the film Groundhog Day), or some events are simply doomed to reoccur at the same location or even house (as in the film The Shining).

Nowadays people are comforted by the notion that one can in some way be living more than one life simultaneously, perhaps in parallel universes. Any mistake we make in one timeline may be corrected in another, or any missed opportunity can be fulfilled. Jorge Luis Borges explored such an idea in his short story, The Garden of Forking Paths. In this story the eponymous garden is actually a labyrinth in which every possible permutation of one’s life and destiny exists simultaneously. This idea is rather the opposite of the first. Instead of repeating an action over and over, we simply possess an infinite number of doppelgangers who perform infinite acts all at one time.

Is time long, or is it wide? – Laurie Anderson, Same Time Tomorrow

I’ve run across a few instances where, instead of one person acting out infinite alternative futures, it appears that two (or more) people are fated to share just one future. For instance, in 2002 a man riding his bike in Finland was hit by a truck and killed. Within two hours, his brother (who was unaware of his brother’s accident) was also hit and killed by a truck while riding his bike on the same stretch of road.

One of the more interesting cases I’ve heard of is as follows:

Two Country Music Legends

Hank Williams was an American singer-songwriter and musician regarded as one of the most important country music artists of all time. In 2004 Rolling Stone ranked him number 74 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.  Johnny Horton was an American country music and rockabilly singer most famous for his semi-folk, so-called “saga songs” which began the “historical ballad” craze of the late 1950s and early 1960s. With them, he had several major successes, most notably during 1959 with the song “The Battle of New Orleans“.

Hank Williams

Hank Williams was born in 1923 in Alabama; Johnny Horton was born in 1925 in Los Angeles. Both men travelled frequently in childhood with their families, and had no formal musical education. Both men decided to pursue professional musical careers after winning talent contests.

By the end of 1951, Horton moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where he became a regular on the Louisiana Hayride, a radio show for country music. In 1952 Hank Williams rejoined the show and became acquainted with Horton, even introducing him to his new wife Billie Jean (Williams and Horton were both recently divorced).

On December 28th, 1952, Williams gave his last live performance at the Skyline Club in Austin, Texas. He died an alcohol-related death in the back seat of his Cadillac while being chauffeured to a concert in Ohio on New Year’s Eve. Horton subsequently married Williams’ widow, Billie Jean, in September of 1953. Horton had a premonitory fear of an untimely death, and in fact told his band members he thought he would be killed by a drunk. On November 4, 1960, he died in his Cadillac in an accident driving home to Shreveport after a concert in at the Skyline Club in Austin, Texas. He had been hit by a drunk driver. The accident occurred in Milano, Texas, and it is reported that it was in Milano seven years earlier that Horton had heard of Williams’ death on the radio. Billie Jean became a widow for the second time, at the age of 28.

Johnny Horton

These two men were contemporaries, successful country music artists who lived in the same town, worked on the same show, gave concerts at the same venues, married the same woman, and died remarkably similar deaths. It appears that they both somehow were walking the same invisible line of fate. Or perhaps we could look at it another way and say that Billie Jean was fated to marry a country music star who would die young, at the peak of his career, in a car accident involving alcohol while on a concert tour. And somehow Fate made a clerical error and dished it out to her twice!

Come here little girl. Get into the car. It’s a brand new Cadillac. – Laurie Anderson, Same Time Tomorrow

As a postscript, I would add that Horton’s biggest hit, “The Battle of New Orleans,” was written by a schoolteacher who wanted to help his students remember history. Interestingly, Horton recorded a second version of the song which was rewritten so that the British won the battle. This alternative version was intended for British audiences, after the BBC banned the original song. So, while Horton himself was fated to live and die exactly as another man he knew, his greatest song actually had two fates, two alternative renderings of a past event!

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One response to “Two Men, One Destiny

  1. Pingback: A River of Time | Mythosphere

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