'Should Old Aquiantance Be Forgot and Never Brought To Mind...'
I've never understood that line. Why should we forget those who have passed? "And never brought to mind?" It's too depressing to think those whom we have loved who have passed over will never come to our minds. Like most, I want to be remembered. But somehow this forgetting song will prevail.
That said,while journalists are here, at least most of those whom we know will be remembered, and I'd like to remember them now.
2012 was a year of death in almost all categories of entertainment.
In music, the best known, though not the most important to music, was Whitney Houston. With her background in gospel, and her mother Sissy Houston and her aunt Dionne Warwick already known, one could say Whitney was destined to be a singer, though no one could predict she'd be a superstar.
With her beautiful chocolate eyes, and a voice like an angel, some say this angel married the devil when she married rap "singer" Bobby Brown. Brown, a known substance abuser, according to Whitney's family, said it was Brown who brought Whitney down and got her into drugs, which ultimately caused her demise. In fairness to Brown, no one can say he forced her to use drugs, and who's to say had she married another drug user she wouldn't have used with him?
She will be most remembered for Dolly Parton's song. 'I Will Always Love You,' which she not only made her own, but even Dolly can't sing her own song now. (Miss Parton, however, has made over 25 million in songwriter royalties since Whitney recorded it)
Another musc maker, though not nearly as famous, especially to the current generation, but just as important to music, is Ravi Shankar, who just died at age 92., grew the Beatles the way Brian Wilson grew the Beach Boys. The Beatles became 10 times the band they were after meeting Shankar.
The Beatles had gone to India to grow spiritually with Marharishi Yogi, and in the process, Sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar took George Harrison under his wings, and after one of many visits to India, George Harrison came back to London to record 'The Rubber Soul' album, but insisted this weird instrument the rest of the Beatles didn't want Norwegein Wood be the introduction of it, as well as the filler. If you are a Beatles fan, when you hear the first note or two of Norwegein Wood, the sitar is THE instrument in the intro, turning an ordinary intro into a classic. The sitar is used in the turn arounds as well, and the song would be just another song without the sitar. It was Ravi's mentoring of George that caused an immediate evolution in the Beatles. Ravi's daughter is also a sitar virtuoso, and will hopefully carry out Ravi's unfinished work.
Robin Gibb of the BeeGees died just a couple of years after his twin Maurice Gibb died. How can that be? They were only in their 60s, leaving one greiving brother, Barry Gibb, to carry on the name, but can no longer play as the BeeGees. In the late 70s, their youngest brother, also a sucessful singer, Andy Gibb, died of drug related heart problems.
The BeeGees, first had a hit in the 60s, reinvented themselves as Disco Kings in the 70s. Their music will be remembered.
And speaking of disco,we lost the undisputed queen of disco, Miss Donna Summer. What would disco be without 'Last Dance,' 'She Works Hard For Her Money,' a duet with the reclusive but diva of all music and theatre, Miss Barbara Streisand. In 1979, the two ladies recorded 'Enough Is Enough.' In 1980, Miss Summer married a very down to earth gentleman and enjoyed a peaceful life in Nashville where she could record and be left alone. It was a happy time for her and she died with a man she loved living the life she wanted. If one has to go, that would be the way to do it.
In country music, we lost two giants, though again, not to the current generation of listeners, and even some brilliant older songwriters who willingly "dumb down" their "country" to get a cut on a record and not out of love of country music. It's sad, because they can write it better than anyone, but are 70 going on 7 to get a 3 chord, souless sound that is somewhere between pop music...bad pop music, and 3rd grade rock and roll. It's pathetic. Miss Kitty Wells, the who recently passed, is turning in her grave. She was an important contributor to country music as one of the first women performing her own songs and playing guitar, on top of her vocals. She memtored numerous women. This year also saw the loss of Earl Scruggs. I think most of us think of Flatts and Scruggs, a duet, when we think of one of them, we think of the other. When I think of them, I think of 'Tennessee Stud.' As a musician and writer, I always think of their bluegrass, and 'Tennessee Stud' a song about a racehorse that made you feel good and brought country music into a whole different relm. And the marriage was great;enhancing country, not selling it out.
Going back to the 6os, we lost Davy Jones of the Monkees! How can that be? He was only 66!
The Monkees were supposed to be a one off spinoff of the Beatles, but their charm, talent, choice of songs,(I'm A Believer written by legendary writer Neil Diamond) as well of it all turning into a weekly show, made them legends. And songs like 'Im A Believer," 'Daydream Believer,' 'Pleasant Valley Sunday,'(written by Carole King) and 'Last Train To Clarksville, solidified their place in feel good pop music.Jones, also being of small size, was a jockey, and loved his horses second only to music. He would groom his horses, clean them, ride them, and loved them as his own children. He maintains a ranch in England and in America for his four legged "kids."
Perhaps the most important in music who passed in 2012, is not even a musician. "America's Oldest Teenager," Dick Clark, did more for pop music than anyone else. Starting as a disc jockey in the 1950s, he was one of the first to play black music and groups, without mentioning their race when on radio, thus getting the support of white America without white America, still racist idiots at that time, not knowing the music they were listening to was the luscious sound of black America and voices such as The Platters, Little Anthony and others. It was only when Clark went to television did America know those great songs were being performed by people of color. And it was good. This is around the time in America where music help white America understood racism was hate and ugly, and white and black people not only sat together, but danced togather. That alone would have been enough to accomplish, but it was only his beginning.Clark often gave singers their break, and the Jackson, the Osmonds, the Supremes,the Turtles, the Seeds and a plethora of others got their break on Dick's show. Dick was also a television mogol, producing game shows like 'The Pyrimad and later on, to numerous award shows. Last, but not least, in 1974, he became the host of ringing in the New Year from Time Square every new year, and after his stroke 5 years ago, he tried to continue, but he was too hard to understand. The irony of his moniker being "The oldest teenager" on earth, and the way he went is too painful to bare. This New Year's Eve, there will be a pane in the ball with his name. His widow helped install it over the weekend.
The other person not a musician but equally important to music was legendary Don Corneilius. Don was the hostof 'Soul Train' from 1971 until 1993. 'Soul Train' could be called 'The African American' American Bandstand, not only remembered for all the talent and dancing, but promoting new acts, commercials geared for people of color and all and all, yet another musical notch in getting rid of the racist belt. He died very tragicly, committing suicide in February. It has been reported he suffered from depression for years, and though he is physically gone, his spirit is floating around music and will continue to do so as long as there is music.
It's no coincident that 'At Last' is last on this list. The incomperable Etta James sange this song at every concert, and sang it at every show. Certainly, it was her signature song. So when Beyonce' sang it for the President and the First Lady for their first dance in 2008/2009 inuguration, Etta James did not take kindly to not being asked to sing it for the President and First Lady. It does pose a good question, when Etta was still alive for his first inauguration, he didn't have Etta sing it but Beyonce.' I understand the youonger voters had a lot to do with President Obama getting elected, and Beyonce and Jay-Z are more popular with young people, but I understand why Etta felt dissed.
OTHERS WHO PASSED IN 2012
Writers Ray Bradbury, Nora Ephron, MikeWallace.
Actors Ernest Borgnine, Michael Clark Duncan, Sherman Hensley.
AstronautsNeil Armstrong, Michael Clarke Duncan
And so, all these people we didn't know, managed to affect us in different ways. It's rather unique and wild that so many we never met were the sountracks to our lives. I can't tell you where I was and what I was doing in 1965, but I can tell you one thing about that year, and that is where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard a Sitar.1966? I was still a little girl, and don't remember much from that year, but I remember some guys singing, 'Hey Hey We're The Monkees....' Music. I don't want to think what my life would have been without it. I would have been a completely different person.
And some of you became actors or writers I am reading now. Maybe you saw the first woman astronout and became an astronut. But each one of the people above affected at least one person, some millions, but even if you saved or inspired one person, you life was well lived.
Thank you. We will remember.