Great Moments in Pedantry: Fact-checking "Don't Fear the Reaper"

Buck Dharma talked about this in an interview with Performing Songwriter:

tl;dr, by invoking Romeo and Juliet he wasn’t trying to encourage suicide, but rather as a couple who had faith that they would be together in the afterlife since they weren’t allowed to be together in this life.

AAAAAND he says that the 40,000 number was just a guess.


Theory 1:
We could get them a lot closer by interpretting what they are saying slightly differently. Maybe by 40,000 men and women they weren’t thinking of “men and women” as a thing, but of men and women as totally separate things, both of which are dying every day. So that’s 80,000. Then we can give them a percent or two more based on people who don’t identify with either gender (maybe more, bear in mind that 1976 was the age of David Bowie).

So it we can get the 140k down to 128k and then get the 40k up to 81k or 82k, we are getting pretty close for an off-the-cuff figure.

Theory 2:
Let’s go with the lovers idea, but they aren’t talking about lovers dying on the same day, merely saying that about 40k people who are in love or who are loved die every day. Knowing that only about 2 in 7 people at any time have any love directed towards them at all would definitely support the song’s “Come on commit suicide” lyrics.

Theory 3:
Maybe they are terrible racists and only regard white people as actual people? (Sorry, sorry, but it probably makes the numbers a lot closer)

Always thought it was 40,000 Men and women falling in love every day.
The idea being that you have killed off your old life of solitude.

Another 40,000 coming every day

Seasons don’t fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
(We can be like they are)

Love of two is one,
Here but now they’re gone

Like, the 40,000 people are turning up, not checking out. Seasons die and do not die, are reborn. The love of two people makes one thing.

Isn’t this song just a subtle reference to La Petit Mort?


Well forty thousand fits the meter much better than an estimated 1 million. Artistic license.

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40 Thousand, every day?


Needs more cowbell.

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well, as mentioned, this was pre-internet. as a kid, i didn’t have ready numbers at my fingertips in the 1970s for this sort of thing. but the romeo & juliette angle made me just conclude that it meant suicides.

They meant 40 000 BOC fans.

Or perhaps 40 000 Americans?

“… knock out 6k/day infant mortality (birth rate 31/1000, inf mort
16.5/1000 births), same again for child mortality maybe? So about

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Well, what’s wrong with a little poetic license? I mean, One hundred and forty thousand every day doesn’t exactly fit, and doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

That’s like telling Van Gogh he sucked because he didn’t get the colors exactly right.

I’m enjoying the discussion over whether Blue Öyster Cult’s words could have some special interpretation that fits with known statistics, or whether forty thousand was just a figurative way of saying a very large number. I think what we really need to complete the scene, though, is one person insisting that forty thousand is the literal value and so any figures that contradict it must be lies.


Do we have enough money to buy a politician?

Half-Life 3 comfirmed!

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I think it should be assumed that any post with a title like “Great Moments in Pedantry” is written with the tongue firmly planted in the cheek.


I always thought he did just fine on the colors. Dude could not stay between the lines though.


Clearly, the Reaper is only responsible for the first 40K… the rest are subcontracted out. It’s in the contract ever since that “death takes a holiday” imbroglio.


140,000 is the death rate of the world, for today. What was it in 1976?

Sez you. It’s serious business.