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Posts Tagged ‘David Bowie’

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There is an electric fire in human nature tending to purify – so that among these human creatures there is continually some birth of new heroism. The pity is that we must wonder at it, as we should at finding a pearl in rubbish.

–John Keats

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I find myself nodding in agreement with the above words from the poet John Keats. It seems that there is ample evidence that humans have the desire and capability for living heroic lives. Yet to do so is a rare and wondrous thing.

A pearl in rubbish, as he says.

Maybe our failure is that we only see heroism defined in epic terms, not in the bravery of the responsibility that comes in making everyday decisions that opt for doing what is right and not expedient or self-serving. Not every hero wears a cape or jumps from buildings.

It’s a matter of perspective.

I think of when my mother was dying from cancer many years ago now. In her final months, she had a picture next to her bed of my father in a small cheap frame with press-on letters on the bottom leg of it that spelled out the word hero.

Now, hero is not a term I have often equated with my father, a man who is deeply flawed in many ways. I confess that, in this aspect, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

But this was especially evident when it came to his relationship with my mother. Most of their life together was loud and contentious. They were always one word or a single side glance away from their next battle royale, the horror shows of mine and my siblings’ childhoods.

But somehow through the years of anger and adversity she still saw something in this man that she recognized as being heroic. Maybe it was that he had simply stayed, had maintained a sense of responsibility and caring for her that became very obvious in her last days.

I will never know for sure. The psychology of it all evades me. But that cheap frame on a dying woman’s bedside table with that word hero on it still lingers with me and always will.

It’s a matter of perspective.

I didn’t plan on writing this for today’s post, didn’t seek to be so personally biographical. It just came and I guess I can live with that. I only wanted to jot down a little something to introduce the song below for this Sunday morning music. It is one of my favorite David Bowie songs, Heroes, performed by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. I know it sounds like it should be a joke or a parody but it’s a wonderful version. I think my mom might well understand it.

Have a good day. Be a hero to somebody.

 

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gc-myers-995-125-party-lights-small1I saw a short segment on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) that they run between their films at this time of year.  It’s their look back at  all of the people associated with filmdom who have died this past year. Every year it seems that I find myself being surprised at the number of well known actors, directors, composers, etc who have passed away in that year.

This year was no different.

But they flashed a shot of David Bowie and it reminded me of the musical talents that passed away this year.  Bowie. Prince. Leonard Cohen and so many more that some were lost in the shuffle.

One who slipped away somewhat unnoticed in those surreal days after the election [sic] was musician and songwriter Leon Russell.  A wonderful writer and a gifted pianist, he collaborated with just about everybody in the recording industry in a career that spanned almost 60 years.

I never thought he got his rightful appreciation after his death so I thought I’d share a Christmas song of his that also goes under the radar in the great flood of holiday music that overwhelms every year at this time.  It’s called Slippin’ Into Christmas and has a bluesy edge that kind of fits this year.

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PurpleIn the last few months we lost two of the most unique and transcendent musicians of our time, David Bowie in January and now Prince.  Luckily for us, both had long and prolific careers and left large musical legacies behind.  I admired Prince greatly and I think that is all there is to say, especially after the millions of words written and spoken over the past few days.  I don’t think I can stand to see another tweet on one of the news channels form some celebrity saying that this is how it sounds when doves cry.

So, instead of trying to dig up some Prince that you might not have heard in the last few days, I thought for this Sunday morning music I would go in another direction and play someone who was one of Prince’s early influences, Sly and the Family Stone.  It’s his performance of I Want to Take You Higher at Woodstock in 1969. I’ve played this clip here before but I am going to play it again just because I think it is a great performance and a great piece of film.  I think you can see how Prince took elements of Sly’s work and made it into something distinctly his own.  That synthesis is part of artistry.

Have a great Sunday.

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Bing and Bowie 1977Well, it is Sunday morning and that usually means that it is time for some music here.  Since it is the last Sunday before Christmas a little holiday music is called for.  This is a song that I have played here before.  It’s that odd pairing between Bing Crosby and David Bowie and the song The Little Drummer Boy/ Peace on Earth.

The story behind how it came about is pretty interesting.  In 1977, 73 year old Bing Crosby was in the midst of  what would be his last British tour.  While there , producers put together Crosby’s annual holiday special for American TV, this time with an English theme, a Merrie Olde Christmas.  It was filmed in September with a number of British celebrity guests, including the 30 year old rock star David Bowie.  Bing actually introduced and showed the video to Bowie’s song Heroes on the special.

On the day of shooting, Bowie learns that he is scheduled to sing Little Drummer Boy with Crosby.  He balks, telling producers that he hates the song and if that’s the song they wanted he might as well leave.  He said he was only there because his mother was huge Crosby fan.

Producers and composers went to work.  In just over an hour, they produced an original tune, Peace on Earth, that would be sung by Bowie as a counterpoint to Bing’s Little Drummer Boy.  The two singers both liked the new addition and the arrangement and ran through it together several times in less than an hour before recording the final version.

Bing Crosby died less than a month later and the special ran as scheduled in December of 1977.  The pairing of Bing and Bowie was considered an oddity then and producers of the show and song thought that was the end of it.  But bootlegs of the song circulated for several years, gaining in popularity to the point that RCA decided to release it as single in 1982.  It has become one of the most popular holiday songs in the intervening years.

I know it’s one of my favorites.  Have a great Sunday…

 

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Fran Jeffries Meglio Stasera The Pink PantherWe got in last night just before 9 PM and I saw that the movie The Pink Panther had come on TCM at 8 PM.  That meant that we were just in time for the song Meglio Stasera which appears in the film about an hour in.  There are scenes from some movies that I always try to see even if I can’t watch the whole film, scenes that capture some deep emotion in the film or at least make me smile every time.  This is one of those.  Another is Dick Shawn as the hipster LSD in The Producers when he sings Love Power.

The funny thing about this scene is that it does nothing for the movies story line, doesn’t move the story ahead in any direction.  It is simply a musical interlude meant to entertain.  And it does that very well, at least for me.

Meglio Stasera, which translates as It Had Better Be Tonight, was written by Henry Mancini who wrote all of the music for the soundtrack including, of course, the hugely famous Pink Panther theme.  The alluring Fran Jeffries performs the song in a European ski chalet setting with a cast of early 60’s euro-jet set types dancing along as the song progresses.  I always watch for the end when she is joined by a lady in a golden boots, a shimmery jumpsuit and a stacked hairdo that makes her look like she could be David Bowie’s or at least Ziggy Stardust‘s mother.

Anyway, I thought this would be a good pick for some Sunday music.  Hope you enjoy.  Have a great Sunday!

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Fourth of July Parade of ScoutsAnother Fourth of July.

Parades.  Picnics. Fireworks. Red, white and blue.  That’s the shorthand version of this day.  The actual meaning of this day is much harder to capture, probably more so for Americans than for those from other countries who view us from a distance.  I think we sometimes lose sight of the idea and ideal of America in our day to day struggle to maintain our own lives.  But even that struggle is symptomatic of the basis of our nation, reminding us that anything worth preserving requires work and maintenance.

For me,  America is not a static ideal, a credo written in granite that will always be there.  It is vaporous and ever changing, like a dense fog.  But it is an inviting fog, one that is warm on the skin and invites you in with hazy promises of possibility.  And maybe all America is– possibility.

Maybe it is the sheer potential of a better and safer life, the possibility of remaking one’s self, that defines our ideal America.  We are at our best when we are open and inviting,  offering our possibility and empathy to all .  We are a long way from our ideal when we close our doors and try to capture the vapor  that is  America all for ourselves.  It is not ours to hold– we are simply caretakers of an ideal, one that brought most of our ancestors here.

Maybe this doesn’t make any sense.  Since it is such a hazy ideal, we all see it in different ways.  This is just how I see it.

Here’s a video of the song America from Simon and Garfunkel, as performed by David Bowie during the Concert For New York City in the aftermath of 9/11.  This is not a flag waving , chest thumping anthem but it speaks as much to the ideal of  the American ideal in that simple chorus — all gone to look for America— as the very best Sousa march.

Have a great Fourth!

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Richard lindner Double PortraitI’ve been going through some books on my shelves that I haven’t looked at for some time and came across a smallish book on the work of Richard Lindner, who was  a German born  (1901)  painter who moved to New York during World War II.  He taught at the Pratt Institute then later at Yale before his death in 1978.

His work was obviously a big influence on the Pop Art movement of the 60’s.  If you remember the artwork for the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film,  you can easily see how Lindner’s work Richard Lindner The Coupleguided the hand of the film’s  artist who most people think was Peter Max.  However, the artist was Heinz Edelman .  This misconception probably shows Lindner’s influence on Max as well.   I also can see Lindner in some of Terry Gilliam‘s animations for Monty Python.  The Beatles  paid tribute to Lindner  by inserting his image  in the group of figures on the cover of their classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.  He’s  between Laurel and Hardy in the second row.

I am really attracted to Lindner’s colors and use of forms.  His colors have gradations and complexities that give his work added dimension.  His shapes and lines are strong and sure.  It’ demands an immediate response, even if it’s negative, and I really respect that.

Richard Lindner  FBI On East 69th StreetOne of my favorites is shown to the left here,  FBI On East 69th Street.  I have no idea whether he was influenced by Lindner’s work (although I wouldn’t be surprised), but when I look at this painting I can only think of  David Bowie, especially in the early 70’s in the Glam era.  Again, the strength of the color and shape,s as well as how his figures fill the picture frame, excite me.  How I might take this excitement and make it work within my own work is something that remains to be seen.  It may not be discernible but seeing work that makes your own internal wheels spin will show up in some manner.  We’ll have to see if this comes through in the near future.

Richard Lindner The Meeting

Richard Lindner Rock-RockRichard Lindner Telephone

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