I can't let this year end without paying my long overdue tribute to four young musicians who died a sad and untimely death in New York last November, Soroush Farazmand, 27, Arash Farazmand, 28, Ali Eskandarian, 35, and the perpetrator, Ali Akbar Mohammadi Rafie, 29.

The range of emotions I have experienced over this incident has been wide and unexpectedly personal. First the disbelief at the horrific story, then sadness about the young men, their hopes and dreams, and their families, and then the shock of reading on conservative Iranian websites about them, about the kind of music they played and whether they qualified as “artists” in order to be allowed to be buried in Tehran’s Artists Cemetery!

Those boys were artists alright, and damn good ones, too! They wanted to sing for the world. They said they sang in English so that "everybody in this entire world understands us," and they dreamed about “traveling and playing everywhere in this world." The whole world is a huge place and it holds a lot of people in it, and 27 and 28 years of life may not have been long enough to realize this dream, but they did get their own audience and their own following when they were alive, and now they are eternal.

I wrote a small poem for Arash and Soroush Farzamand, who lived short lives, but who stepped on a long journey to compose, play, sing, and share their music with the entire world, and went home to their parents to rest where they rightfully belonged, where Iran's very best artists rest now. They were the best of the artists, full of hope and aspiration. They were artists not just for us, but for the entire world.


They said, "Don't sing!"
You sang songs
They said, "Don't play!"
You played the instruments
They said, "Don't compose!"
You composed melodies
They said, "Don't tell!"
You told stories
They said, "Get out!"
You left
They said, "Don't be!"
You didn't return
They said, "Don't come back!"
You came back
They said, "Don't be!"
You became eternal
They said, "Don't stay!"
You are now home forever.

Photo shows a memorial service for Yellow Dogs at Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg, NY, on November 18, 2013, from The Wall Street Journal.