Zayn Malik leaves One Direction: Take heart, Directioners – the band may even get better

From Pink Floyd to Genesis, the departure of a band member can be transformative

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Calling all Directioners! Answer me this one question: are you floating through space? I mean literally, not figuratively. No? Still here? That’s because Planet Earth hasn’t stopped turning. Zayn Malik may have gone off in search of a happier life, but One Direction are still a fully functioning powerhouse of pop. Let them entertain you.

Most importantly, as disturbing reports begin to emerge that some desolate followers are self-harming, and are taking to social media to urge others to do the same, take note of these wise words from Rachel Burrows, of the website Netmums: “It isn’t what Zayn or the band would want - they want their fans happy and healthy.” The best tribute you can pay to Zayn is to take what life throws at you.

Find solace in history: when Robbie Williams left Take That there was no apocalypse (though they were, I’ll grant you, a somewhat lesser force in consequence). When Syd Barratt, Pink Floyd’s original guiding genius, retreated inside his head for the rest of his life, the band gradually mutated from peddlers of cult psychedelia to global superstars.

In fact the departure of a band member can be remarkably transformative. When the ethereal, Bowie-inspired singer John Foxx left art-rockers Ultravox, it looked like the end – until Midge Ure along came, straight outta Rich Kids, Visage and Thin Lizzy, to lead the rest of the lads out of art school and into the Top Ten mainstream.

And when Peter Gabriel, who liked to dress as a daffodil for Genesis gigs, left to go solo, drummer Phil Collins leapt over his kit and took centre stage as lead singer, and the band was converted from exquisitely tuneful Home Counties prog-rockers into anthemic arena-fillers.

Of course, you’ll point out, such transformations often depend on a dominant newcomer, like Ure, providing the momentum to soar off on a new course. 1D have said they plan to carry on as a four-piece – but look to the past again for consolation: when singer Ian Curtis hanged himself in 1980, there was no way that Joy Division could carry on. So they didn’t. Instead they hid themselves away for a while, re-emerged as New Order, recruited the drummer’s girlfriend to play keyboards, and became chart habitues.

 

But if all that is not enough, ponder instead the nature of love. We can all agree, I hope, that love doesn’t come with strings attached, that it’s at its best when it’s unconditional.

Well, you love Zayn. You want him to be happy. And like doting parents seeing their offspring take flight, you have to let him go. Would you rather he stick around and be miserable, possibly crack up - or worse? Do you want another pop-star casualty, another celebrity funeral? Thought not. Let him go.

During the Beatles’ fractious Let It Be sessions, George Harrison said he was quitting the band at one point and stormed out saying, “See you around the clubs, then.” As soon as he was out of the door John Lennon said to the others, “That’s all right. We’ll get Eric Clapton in.” 1D may not have that option, at least not last time I looked (that would be a turn-up– “God joins One Direction”), but life, and 1D, will go on. And so will you.

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