Category Archives: The News Blues

Hail, Hail, Chuck Berry – The King Is Dead… Long Live The King.

I do not like writing these posts… especially in such quick succession… But this week witnessed the loss of some musical giants, like James Cotton, and now Chuck Berry.

Why does 2017 want to take up where 2016 left off? I guess that’s the somewhat evil nature of time.

“The King is dead, long live the King.” For someone fairly smart, it took me a long time to figure that phrase out…

Clearly the King died, and it is being announced… and then the new King is being praised and people are wishing him a long life. I know… don’t ask. Sometimes my brain is sluggish.

Some might argue that Elvis Presley was the King of Rock N’ Roll. I’m not so sure about that. I’ll go with Chuck Berry.

And so… the King IS dead… and I am not sure there is anyone ready to take his place. You can’t replace a legend… a Founding Father of Rock N’ Roll… one of the first inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame… You know… back when they were actually putting rockers in!

I have one bad ish story about Chuck… not about him, but a concert of his…

I had just moved out to California and a bunch of us hauled out to Temecula for the Wine and Balloon Festival… one of those all day food and music things… None of us were adequately prepared with clothing or sunscreen… or water… The food and water there was too expensive for us young kids… and so we were sunburned and wiped… and by the time the end of the day rolled around, everyone wanted to leave before Chuck Berry, the headliner, came on. But I got selfish and stubborn and mad that we came all the way out to see Chuck and convinced my friend Amy I think, to stay and that we’d drive home alone… She did NOT want to stay, even though I said I’d drive her car… but I basically threw a young adult tantrum… sorry… and it worked… and so I got to see Chuck for the one and only time.

I feel bad for the way I acted, but happy I got to see this amazing rocker!

And also, there was a couple on the grassy hillside behind the stage, totally getting it on… In full view of all of us concert goers… so yes half our binocular viewing was on them! Sex, no drugs (no water) and Rock N’ Roll!

What Chuck Berry meant to Rock N’ Roll is profound. He was the ambassador, he was a true pioneer… he was a showman… he WAS Rock! The way he wrote… the way he played… the way he sang… He influenced so many more to come and crafted an art form… a rollicking, rowdy art form.

Think about just these classics…

“Maybellene”
“Roll Over Beethoven”
“Rock and Roll Music”
“Johnny B. Goode” 

To quote the great Muddy Waters…  or was it Bo Diddley? “The blues had a baby and they called it Rock N’ Roll”!!!

Check out NPR and Wikipedia!

RIP to the Father, the King and guitar riff master!

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For John Wetton… From A Child Of The ’80s

It’s been a while… I miss you! I realized my Best Of 2016 never posted, so in honor of the Grammy’s I’ll post that soon.
Heck, sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward… and no, that is NOT a political reference… Or is it???

So 2016 sucked… on many levels… but especially at the sheer number of artists, musicians and musical icons we lost… Devastating, really.

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And 2017 is not starting off any better… Yes, you can read that any way you like…
But on this occasion, I am talking about today’s loss of John Wetton.

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I am a true child of the ’80s, having grown up on ’80s rock… MTV and the birth of the Super Band…
Asia was one of my favorites. The band got me through some tough times… and when I need a pick me up, I still turn to them…

And even their album art kicked ass!

1990’s rocking “Days Like These” continues to inspire me to find joy… to celebrate the great days and use that energy for good.

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One of my college roommates and I… Barry Flanik… would blast Asia from our frat room. We loved those guys… Were those CDs or cassettes, Myron???

Asia in 1982 hit # 1 and still gets a regular rotation for me… “Heat Of The Moment” and “Here Comes The Feeling” were frat boy Rock N’ Roll anthems… Right, Barry?

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Alpha in 1983 hit #6 and “Don’t Cry,” “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” and “The Last To Know” were part of the background soundtrack to a few breakups…

I had the pleasure of seeing their unbelievable arena shows at least twice… Elevating drum stand… a gong set on fire… pyrotechnics… and yet the music was ALWAYS THE STAR… and more recently saw them in small venues like my local haunt, The Canyon Club!!!  And yes, they still rocked.. truly… and sounded so frickin’ good.

I’ll let Wikipedia give you his history and stats… but suffice it to say that I will miss this man… and this band… and I am yet again, seeing my musical youth pummeled, bruised and battered… Enough!!!  Seriously… and 67… way, way, way too young to go.

“John Kenneth Wetton (12 June 1949 – 31 January 2017) was an English singer, bassist, and songwriter. He was born in Willington, Derbyshire, and grew up in Bournemouth. He rose to fame with bands Mogul Thrash, Family, King Crimson, Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry, Uriah Heep, and Wishbone Ash.

After his period with King Crimson, Wetton formed UK, and later he was the frontman and principal songwriter of the supergroup Asia, which proved to be his biggest commercial success. Their self-titled debut album sold eight million copies worldwide and was Billboard magazine’s No. 1 album of 1982. He later formed the duo Icon with Geoff Downes (ex-Yes, ex-Buggles), and since the 1990s had a successful solo career releasing a large number of studio and live albums.

Wetton had a long career as an in-demand session bass player, and collaborated with many members of progressive rock bands such as Yes (including Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, Geoff Downes, Alan White, Billy Sherwood and Peter Banks), Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry, and Genesis (Steve Hackett).”

 

RIP John Wetton, and thank you for the music. Sigh…

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Hineni… Here I Am… A Hallelujah For Leonard Cohen

I was all set to write a very rare political post on this page. Normally, I avoid that like the plague, as I want this blog to be about music, but the world changed two days ago and there are things that need to be addressed… spoken about… shared… or at least cleared out of my head. Brace yourselves… that post is coming. It has to… If nothing else, for me. And believe me, I know what politics does to people… to friends… to families… I get it. I see normally sweet people fight on my Facebook page in the most vicious ways when it comes to politics… and this election was the most disgusting, depressing and divisive I have ever seen.

But silence is death and speech is our inalienable right. So speak out we must. And speak out we will… Or at least I will.

11cohen_leonard_web1-master768For now, I am in a different kind of mourning. It was announced that Leonard Cohen passed away today at the age of 82. Not a lot of details are coming forth… yet… so I cannot help but think there may be a Bowie-type revelation… Meaning he was sick for a while… knew death was coming.

One need only listen to the first and title song off his amazing new album, You Want It Darker to sense this…

“Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker

Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord.”

When I first heard this song a few days ago, I had a profound, but very different reaction. Like so many of Leonard’s songs… I seem to find them when I need them most, and this album has been hitting me hard.
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“Hineni” is a Hebrew word that means “Here I Am.” It is used in the Torah when G-d calls to Abraham, and he answers “Hineni.” It’s more than just saying I am here… acknowledging one’s presence and location… It is “Here I Am”… I am ready for whatever is needed of me… I am willing to do what is necessary…
“Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord.”

This idea has been something I have even been studying for a while… but it came up in two amazing ways within the last few days… which made this song even more powerful for me… coincidental… remarkable…

Hineni is a Jewish and philosophical point of view… being ready to serve… ready to give of yourself… to make sacrifices and help a family member, friend or community… which is why so many Temples have Hineni groups… volunteers who help people when they are sick, or in mourning or for whatever. It is an unbelievably human and powerful idea.

And here’s the thing about Leonard Cohen… He was, essentially, a brilliant, a Jewish philosopher. There is so much about Judaism you can learn from his songs. And yet he was also ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1996, after living in a Buddhist monastery for five years. Both religions, as well as Christianity, find their way into his songs… because he writes about human beings… all human beings… universal human beings…

And one thing that is abundantly clear to me, is that we are all, essentially… at our core… the same.

We need a roof over our heads… food and water in our belly… and love and kindness in our hearts.

Ironically, the other recent connection to the phrase Here I Am came up in Day 4 of the Deepak Chopra/Oprah 21-Day Meditation Challenge. Deepak talks about how we must be there for those we are in relationships with… our light must go out into the world… our love must cause freedom… we must be open to give… and we do so by saying, “Here I Am.” For our lovers… for our family… for our friends… and yes, if you believe, for our G-d… “Here I Am.”

Leonard was here… Leonard was present. And while I initially did not care for his voice (much the same as my initial reaction to Tom Waits) as I grew more wise and sophisticated and more learned in the ways of music, I came to love him deeply… to appreciate his sounds and words… his poetry and song… the stories he told and the worlds he revealed… the humanity he enlightened and shed light on.

I am so grateful I was able to see him at the Nokia Theatre on his last tour. He moved me and entertained me and made a soul searing impression.

And yes, I still want one of his hats!
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He had a deep yearning for understanding and knowledge… amazing insight into the human condition… He was a poet and story-teller… psychologist and philosopher… a singer/songwriter on another plane.

“Hallelujah” almost always brings me to tears… Jeff Buckley’s version… k.d. Lang’s… Rufus Wainwright… and of course Leonard’s… So many of his songs move me that way… And we will need them now, more than ever before.

Thoughts out to Elliot, his road manager… and to his family and friends and fellow musicians.

Let us honor him… Let us honor human beings… and Let us honor the world, by saying “Here I Am”… I am ready to help… to serve… to take care of… “Hineni. Hineni.”

Thank you, Leonard… Thank you…

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For Jerome, For Gene, And For Mr. Willy Wonka… A Loving Tribute To Gene Wilder

14107871_10154037627924613_8514646103482544632_oThis is a hard one to write…
All for a man I knew… and yet, did not.

I have the soundtrack to Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory playing in the background… and when “Pure Imagination” came on I lost it… all of it.

“Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to three.”
“Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world of pure imagination.”

Tears… Lots of them… Wow…

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I remember heading over to Jeff G.’s house after junior high school (yeah, that’s what we called it back East) or maybe high school… and watching Blazing Saddles on some fancy contraption his dad had. It wasn’t a Beta Max or Reel to Reel or VCR… but something that I had never seen before. The key, however, was that it allowed us to watch movies at home. And if I recall there were some first run movies… Maybe… Hmmm. Amazing technology back then… and he had it in his house!

We laughed our asses off those afternoons… and yes, part of it was that we were young and silly… and so cuss words and fart jokes made us roll on the floor… or ROTFL as the kids say now.

That was actually my re-introduction to Gene Wilder… and yet another film that would be placed high on my all-time favorite movie list. It’s still way up there for me.

Those who know me… and by default, know my email address, know how much the film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory means to me.

It is my most favorite movie… my comfort film… my go to when I’m sad or when dreams seem too far away and a happily ever after seems unattainable.

I saw it when it first came out, and like my daughter, was “creeped out” by certain things… Though for her it is the Oompa Loompas… and for me it was Slugworth and the “Acid trip” tunnel. I have seen the movie countless times… on the big screen… on the small screen… and on any screen in between. It is, in a word, magical.

Obviously the credit goes to the wonderful story by Roald Dahl, the writer of the screenplay, David Seltzer and the film’s director Mel Stuart. The cast is so spot on and absolutely perfect and I will never forget having Roy Kinnear sign an autograph for me backstage after a National British Theatre production in Chicago, and look at me so inquisitively as I told him that Willy Wonka was my favorite film.

Sorry… tears…

I cherish and adore this film… and of course, the main reason is the merry prankster, Gene Wilder.

His performance here… and so many of his performances are wild and bold… daring and provocative… hilarious… and funny to the point of gut laughter, nose snorts and tears… and yet always… ALWAYS anchored with a deep soul and a gentle heart.

The very notion that life could change for the better, that dreams could come true and that a good, sweet and innocent child could live happily ever after was empowering. The movie actually gave me hope that nice guys could finish first and that anything was possible.

I remember many years ago going on a quest… One I am still on, I might add… to find a copy of the original screenplay. I did not want a transcription… but a shooting script… a copy of something the very cast and Gene may have actually held in his hand.

I called his production company and had a great conversation with the very talented director Andy Fickman, who was working development for Gene at the time. It seemed that back then, people did not keep things like that… and while I did not get to actually speak to Gene, Andy did reach out to him on my behalf… but no script.

They put me in touch with Mel Stuart, and while he also did not have a copy of the script to share, we had a most amazing conversation about the film. He was not at all surprised that my love of the movie had grown each year… and that with each viewing I saw new things… discovered nuances and subtleties… and understood a heck of a lot more… jokes, innuendo, etc.

He told me that he made the film for his children, with the idea that they would watch it and grow up with it… and then share it with their own children… and on and on. He made a point, like Roald Dahl’s writing, never to talk down to kids… which is part of the reason the film holds up and is so timeless. It literally grows along with us… alongside of us… It expands and develops, and each viewing brings me something new and undiscovered… Amazing!

While I have yet to get my hands on an actual script, I can quote the movie verbatim… and “We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams” is not only my favorite quote ever… but my go to mantra when times get tough.

And to give full credit, the quote is from the amazing poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy, who actually coins the term movers and shakers right here!!!

“We are the music makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams
World-losers and world-forsakers
On whom the pale moon gleams
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever, it seems.”

THIS is the kind of film Willy Wonka is!

So that started my love affair with Gene Wilder. From there it went backwards and forwards, in terms of the chronology of his movies…

I watched him in The ProducersBonnie And Clyde (his first film role)… Young FrankensteinBlazing SaddlesThe Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter BrotherSilver StreakThe Frisco KidStir Crazy, and on and on…

And not just once… I watched all of those movies over and over and over! I still do!

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Young Frankenstein is my second favorite Gene Wilder film… and may very well be my all-time favorite comedy. His performance is stunning and riveting and absolutely hysterical. Wild and manic, yet always in control. And with Gene, there was always a kindness… a gentle quality… In a way, he reminded me and reminds me of my Dad… funny as hell, but so sweet and gentle… kind and caring…

Part of Gene’s remarkable skill is that you get lost in his characters and in his films, and yet as I started to realize I wanted to be an actor, I studied those films… intensely. I wanted to see what he was doing… figure it out, if I could.

Listening to Gene talk about how he worked with the sheep in Woody Allen’s Everything you always wanted to know about sex* should be required for anyone studying acting and film acting. That is more than a brilliant comic… that is a wise, thoughtful and methodical actor working out a role.

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Jerome Silberman was born on June 11, 1933. He had a rough childhood and was bullied and assaulted at school for being the only Jewish boy there. But at age 13, his study of theatre and acting began and he went off to study the same at the University of Iowa.

Getting cast in Mother Courage and Her Children, starring Anne Bancroft, was probably “the” moment of his career, as she introduced him to her boyfriend Mel Brooks, who promised Gene that they would be working together.

Three years later he read with Zero Mostel, to co-star with him in Springtime for Hitler, which of course would become 1968’s The Producers.

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My favorite Gene Wilder story is the one he tells about his one condition for taking the role of Willy Wonka. When Mel Stuart offered him the part, he said:
“When I make my first entrance, I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I’m walking on and stands straight up, by itself… but I keep on walking, until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.”

Mel Stuart asked him why this was so important, and he said: “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”

That my friends, is an actor and a story teller working at the height of this craft… and why Gene Wilder was, quite literally, a genius.

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When a celebrity passes away, especially one we idolize, and one who works in a business or industry that we work in or strive to work in… it comes with a mixture of emotions. I have stopped several times to tears and crying and a sad, lonely feeling of emptiness and loss… and also regret… regret for not fulfilling my desire to be like Gene… to have that kind of career… to create some of the same magic he did. And while it is not too late… it is NEVER too late… so much time and life has already passed me by.

And I regret never having met him. I came close… so close. I once saw him on the streets in NYC and could not muster the courage to approach him. I so wanted to say hello… but I was in awe… and it seemed like he was focused on other things, so I chose to respect his privacy. I would have loved to have had some time with him… a conversation… even a handshake… but alas… I did not.

I so wish I could “Strike that, reverse it…”

But life goes on and we all need to remember:
“If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world
There’s nothing to it.”

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On August 29, 2016 at the age of 83 we lost a legend… a most gentle and kind soul…

“But don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted…
He lived happily ever after.”

Gene Wilder made so many of us happy… his films continue to provide the happily ever after… and he certainly gave each and every one of us a Golden Ticket.

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RIP to my favorite actor in the world… and tell Gilda and Anne, Marty, Madeline and Richard, and anyone else you see hello and thanks from me.

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From Purple To Blues – More Of Music’s Colors Fade With The Loss Of Lonnie Mack

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I still cannot believe Prince is gone… but even worse, because it is my own personal demon… I cannot believe I never saw him live. This is somewhat tragic for a true lover of music. People are shocked when I tell them… disappointed… surprised. Hey, so am I.

It is eating me up right now… torturing and tormenting me… And it happened with a few artists I had the chance to see… Roy Orbison, David Bowie, Merle Haggard… and now Prince. Heck, if I had been a more adventurous rocker at a younger age, I probably could have seen Zeppelin… and I certainly would have come to Bruce way before the Born In The USA tour.

But I wasn’t, and I didn’t and here I am and so it is.

Regret is a bitch, and yet, too often, we do not learn from our mistakes. Is missing a concert the worst thing in the world? Of course not… but the experience and subsequent memory of such an event is… well… priceless. It measures and defines our time on earth. Concerts and music, that is. Our favorite artists and albums help define our lives… or at least give them meaning and insight… understanding and comfort. They accompany us on our journeys and road trips… our arrivals and our departures.

We dance and sway… we swoon and spoon… Music is our everything.

As I have said many times before… and yes, I will vainly quote myself… Okay, less for vanity and more for posterity and to mark this as mine… “A life without music is a life not worth living.”

Music is everywhere… We just need to open our ears and our hearts. It is in the breeze… the rustling of leaves… the chirping of birds… in a conversation… in a laugh… in words…

We can feel music… the beat of a drum, the strum of a bass… Our chest and core literally shake…

The world is filled with music.

Music is with us from the moment we are born, to our very last breath. My daughter literally came out of the womb to Lyle Lovett’s “Here I Am”.

We can mark time and certainly highlighted events with a song… an album.

From a prom and a first dance…
To a first declared love (Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell)…
To a break up… Genesis’ “Throwing It All Away” was playing on the stereo in the frat, when that same, first love called to say we were done.

To albums so depressing, they would help get me out of my own depression… Tears For Fears’ The Hurting.

To those records who force us to dance and sing at the top of our lungs…

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Damn fine rules to live by.

And to playlists designed specifically to seduce and help members of the opposite sex fall for us… See my series of posts Music To Make Love To… (Started on 9/15/2011).

Music…

In the midst of the world losing one its musical heroes… an icon of music and style and fashion… we lost another legend yesterday as well, but one who will certainly fly under the radar a lot more. Lonnie Mack passed away at the age of 74…

Guitar World pays tribute here.

And while I will let that article put his life and music into context and understanding… I will say that I was lucky enough to see him play live… lucky enough to be in the city of Chicago when the Blues were still filled with stars and legends and the diplomats and musical missionaries spreading the Gospel… the names that put that music on the map.

The Blues and Jazz clubs I once spent so much time in are gone… like my beloved Biddy Mulligan’s, where I saw Albert Collins walk himself and his guitar and his 300 foot guitar chord out of the club and onto the corner of the street without missing a note or a beat.

The musicians I saw live formed a living, breathing book… a book on the history of music.

Albert Collins, Albert King, Lonnie Brooks, Lonnie Mack… Koko Taylor, Willie Dixon, Junior Wells… Buddy Guy… The list is staggering. And how lucky was I? There are shows I missed… yes… But oh man, there were shows I saw… lived… breathed…

I remember when my friend Rachel was working for Alligator Records… she brought me down into the basement… and it was still like a business run out of the house, at this point… CDs stacked on foldable tables… organized by artist and title… and she told me to take what I wanted… Say what? I did some damage, sure… but I was way too polite and held back…

A kid in a candy shop? Better! So much better.

I still have every one of those CDs, including Lonnie Mack’s Strike Like Lightning!

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How I love the blues… it got me playing harmonica… it got me moving… and it got me through.

So while we mourn Prince… let us not forget Doris Roberts… and certainly not Lonnie Memphis Mack (thanks, Patrick).

I guess Stevie Ray Vaughn needed some more tips and influence from you.

Stretch it out in Heaven, boys! Cause the Blues had a baby and they called it Rock n’ Roll!

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And FYI here is the exact quote…
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
                                       ― William W. Purkey

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The Blues Have The Blues – Goodnight And G-d Bless, B.B. King

Just so you know… in the background is B.B. playing the Newport Folk Festival on July 27,1968. The blues have a way of just piercing the soul. Mmm… I wish you could hear what I am hearing… Well, I guess you can… Go to Wolfgang’s Vault or just Google it… Even though I am downhearted… there is joy in the Blues!

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From the field hollers to the work songs, the Blues were quite literally born out of a harsh, frustrating and difficult life. They took that tragedy and made it into something artistic… made it into music..

Riley B. King was born on a cotton plantation on September 16, 1925. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, received the National Medal of Arts in 1990 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006… and in between, he played a hell of a lot of music… a hell of a lot of shows… and made a hell of a lot of us happy. He became a legend, an icon, a true ambassador of the Blues… and he will be missed… a lot.

I had the good fortune of going to school just outside of Chicago… and while I am not pleased with my university at the moment (something political that won’t be discussed here), I was exposed to some of the best Jazz and Blues you will ever hear… and I got to see some of the best names in music. I learned how to blow Blues harmonica in Chicago.

I will never forget Kingston Mines, Biddy Mulligans, Blues, etc., Mama Rosa’s… and I will never forget the greats I got to see… Albert King, Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Fenton Robinson, Lonnie Mack, Albert Collins, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and of course B.B. King!

I saw him many times… I saw him standing… I saw him sitting, which sadly he had to do a lot at the end… and I saw him last year at The Greek, where he spoke for almost the entire time, with barely a guitar lick here or there… Many people were pissed… and I was a bit disappointed myself… He spent so much time talking about someone’s popcorn in the front row… but is what it was… and he was 88 years old at the time… 88!!! I likened it to holding court with royalty… with the King… We were literally having an audience with the King. When Peter Frampton came out to play with him, that was the highlight… and it really seemed to rejuvenate him. There was so much mutual love and respect… and I will keep that image in my mind for a long time.

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The fact remains, that this man was a true legend… and one of the last of his kind. Who is left? What Bluesman can take this mantle? Buddy Guy perhaps? Perhaps a woman will lead the way… Are you ready Bonnie Raitt?

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And so Lucille is put away in her plush case… The man who made her cry and sing is no more… But we are here… singing… and now crying… Because that is the Blues. Goodnight and G-d bless, B.B. King. You get to rest now… until your next concert upstairs!

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The Music And Silence Of Laughter – Remembering Robin Williams

The news of Robin Williams’ death hit hard, with almost immediate tears, shock and heartbreak. Then anger and confusion, which I think is normal and appropriate. I make no judgment, far from it… and am absolutely horrified by these idiots pontificating and saying the most horrible things online and in the press… and directing a lot of it to his very innocent, grieving family. How dare you?

The house you live in, Rush Limbaugh, is a dirty, blacked-out glass, very shaky and questionable dwelling, and one that should never be a place to throw even the tiniest pebble from.

For the rest of you posting such self-serving and disgusting commentary, you have just judged yourselves… so stop… crawl back under your self-righteous, delusional rock and let us live our lives without you. You will not be missed. (While harsh and not great PR, one can ALMOST understand Adam Richman’s “Twitter rampage.”) Some people can just be cruel and ignorant. Just watch the news every night.  What we need now is compassion and understanding… grief and healing.

Robin Williams made me laugh like no other, moved me to tears, entertained me, and got me through some dark times. I applauded his gift and skill and was envious of his brain and the sheer speed with which it worked. How can someone come up with such true comical genius so damn fast? How can someone know so much about so many things?

He was musical in his comedy and his comedy sang… It was a melody, a bass line and chords all tossed into a blender.  It was joyous and irreverent.  It could be loud or quiet… a solo or an orchestra. It moved like free form jazz, and created a symphony of laughter!

Part of my pain comes in knowing that from now on, every viewing of every clip or film or TV special will hold for me, in addition to enormous laughter and joy… a pain, a gravitas and a sadness. While many of us watch these things to escape, this will show all of us, that there is no escape… that life is always around us, challenging us, testing us… and while laughter and happiness are essential and key components to a happy life… so are dealing with issues and problems head on.

When I was much younger and John Belushi died, I remember how angry I was, how betrayed I felt. Why would someone with so much success and talent do that to himself? Why would he do that to me? It was really hard for me to understand, partly because I was very naïve… about Hollywood… about drugs… about that kind of lifestyle. I was not raised in a bubble, but my life was fairly innocent and idyllic

With Robin, the anger was still there, but I understood so much more… Understand so much more.

I grew up with Robin Williams, and while he was not physically in my household, he was there, in some kind of actual, alien, linear plane. Happy Days… Comedy Specials, Mork & Mindy, Comic Relief, The World According To Garp, Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, Mrs. Doubtfire, and The Birdcage to name only a few indelible and memorable moments.

Celebrity deaths are strange, in that most of the time we do not REALLY know the people who pass, though with some, we have an almost familial relationship. And so it was with Robin. The pain in my gut was on par with losing a family member. Not as deep or profound. But a gut punch nonetheless.

I remember sitting at dinner in Encino with my parents who were in town visiting. I always told my daughter not to have a cell phone at the table, but I was texting with my brother when he told me Clarence Clemons had died. I just lost it… to the point where my parents freaked out, thinking some tragedy had befallen a family member or me. I had to walk from the table, hiding my tears and sadness. And when I returned to address their concerns and tell them what happened, they looked at me like I was crazy. They could not understand how I could react like that to a stranger. But Clarence was no stranger, and he and Bruce and the rest of the E Street Band were a vital and very real part of my life.

What makes Robin’s death so disturbing for me is the very sad realization of what depression can do. It is not anything that was ever part of my life, until recently. And while I hope and pray and think I am very far away from a place so dark, I get it… I mean I REALLY GET IT… and it scares me. And I think THAT is what makes so many of us nervous. How do we stop what we already have from getting so deep and paralyzing? How do we stay away from the inescapable grip of deep, depression?

For those of us in the business, still pursuing the dream… wishing so hard to have even a tenth of the success and life that Robin did, this is also a major blow. Does none of that mean anything? Is all of it so easily thrown away? These are major questions that now pop up… and confused and befuddle us.

But it is a wake up call… a light… a sign that there is so much more… and that enjoying even the most minor of accomplishments and finding true bliss and happiness is so essential. Success, praise, awards, wealth, a stellar family… friends and loved ones can all fall victim to the disease that is depression and anxiety. That is how real and destructive mental health issues can be.

So instead of calling someone weak… instead of being so negative, I beg all of us, once and for all, to acknowledge the power of depression and anxiety, to give weight and serious consideration to mental illness, to work in a real and productive way to combat it, to help people who are sickened by and with it… and to always remind ourselves and others that there is a light, a friend, help a call or a note or an e-mail away.

You are not alone. We are not alone.

G-d bless Robin Williams… I hope you find your peace and can truly rest in it… And thank you for the laughter and the joy and the awakening… for showing us so much… both uproarious and tragic.  That is life… and we must all find our way through it.

 

 

 

 

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