VISIONARY (Johnny Nash, R.I.P.)

You can get the facts about the soul singer, discoverer of teen pop, producer of Bob Marley, reggae pioneer, on Wikipedia. Then again, there’s the truth:
 
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
         “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
John Keats

DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY (Eddie Van Halen, R.I.P.)

Not many guitarists could put David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Eddie Van Halen was that rare player who could shred or solo with the best while never losing track of the basics, could play maestro or riff-master according to what the moment needed.

You know me. I loved the beat and in his age, nobody kept it better.

Yes, he was “historical.” His solo on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” was one of the last great crossover moments and the combination almost single-handedly opened up MTV for black artists. His band invented hair metal. No matter how you felt about all that, he and they deserved their iconography.

But for me, it never got further than the record that broke them open in the Spring of 1979…..and never needed to:

JUST KEEP IT FRIENDLY…(Mac Davis, R.I.P.)

Mac Davis was relaxed even for his own time. He couldn’t have had a career in this time. Our loss.

As the composer of “In the Ghetto,” “don’t Cry Daddy,” “Memories” and “A Little Less Conversation” his importance to Elvis Presley’s late 60’s comeback was incalculable and second to none. Same for his Elvis stories, which were invariably warm but believable, the stories of an authentic friendship as opposed to dining out on a brush with greatness.

But when he passed (the same day as Helen Reddy), my immediate memories were of the happiness he delivered on his short-lived variety show where he seemed both more relaxed and less likely to take a wooden nickel than anyone on television. That combination always infused his own best records, some of which were heard by all…

some by quite a few…

and some by almost no one….

Hey Chris, that last one’s for you and Big Mac and the memories.

THE ROAR (Helen Reddy, R.I.P.)

When I was in junior high and high school (1972-78), if a kid came in and told the class “Dad threw a shoe at the TV last night” nobody had to ask who had been on. Not Johnny Rotten, not Mick Jagger, not David Bowie or Alice Cooper or some politician.

The only person who drew that kind of response in my part of the world–the only real threat to order–was Helen Reddy. I always thought that made her the truest rock ‘n’ roller since Elvis. After 1978, my local oldies’ stations did not agree, because they never played her records again and by “never” I mean not once. She was dropped down the memory hole. I’m sure they played her somewhere. Just nowhere I was.

I pity those who missed her. There was no combination of sights and sounds to quite match Ms. Reddy in a bare midriff halter and hip huggers belting “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore” on one TV show after another, so ubiquitous you couldn’t miss her, even at my house, which seldom had a functioning television set.

I assumed she would be a permanent fixture in my generation’s lives. Instead she was kicked to the curb as soon as she stopped being a force on the radio. Some of this may have been by her own design…but surely the larger part of it was due to other forces. The same forces that spent the last forty years screwing up literally everything else.

Nothing damns our present more than memory-holing the feminist who had the best idea of where it all might have gone.

And yet, if I listen close, I still swear I can hear a roar, like a seashell held right next to the ear, intimate and epic in equal measure:

 

REGGAE DONE GONE NOW (Toots Hibbert, R.I.P.)

I don’t have anything like the energy to pay a just tribute to Toots Hibbert, leader of the Maytals, who passed away while I was in the hospital on Sept. 11.  Suffice it to say he came as close to defining reggae as any one man could, right down to naming it on his 1968 hit “Do the Reggay” and making its greatest record (see below).

I confess I never heard the strong resemblance to Otis Redding often noted by others. But Toots was as central to the soul of Kingston as Otis was to the soul of Memphis and I trust they are finally playing that killer double-bill we never got to hear in this place in some better land tonight.

THE LATEST….

Whoo boy…let me take it in order:

The week before Labor Day I was peacefully recovering from a triple by-pass I received Aug 4. Wednesday of that week I visited a hematologist and learned quite a bit about my long-term condition, regarding diabetes and anemia There was a small incident where my knees buckled while they were measuring my height. Nurses caught me and I spent the rest of the visit in a wheel chair. I attributed it to being overextended by the long walks in the doctor’s office. In any case there seemed no particular cause for immediate alarm.

Come the weekend, however, I began to become noticeably weaker. i fell in my house on Sunday afternoon but decided I could make it to Tuesday morning when the doctors’ offices opened to call for advice

Then, on Monday evening around 10:00 p.m., while standing in front of the recliner in my den, attempting to urinate in the bottle they had given me at the hospital, I essentially passed out and face-planted into my flat-screen television. Miraculously, I was unhurt, though the tv was shot and it took me a good thirty minutes to collect myself and call an ambulance. When I got to the hospital, it turned out the lump in my rear end, which I had taken for either a pulled muscles or a growth/tumor of some kind was a severely infected cyst. The infection had already reached my bloodstream so I was scheduled for surgery which was successfully performed on Tuesday afternoon.

After three more days in the hospital I was transferred to a rehab facility on a Friday afternoon. The actual rehab began on Monday. I told the first therapist I saw that my goal was to go home in a week. He and the nurse who was in the room at the time both got a good laugh out of that.

I went home eight days later and am doing well so far (have driven myself, gone grocery shopping, albeit with the handicap cart, done a load of laundry, etc. and worked three days). I’m still moving very slowly but, absent further setbacks, I expect to be  well-recovered in about six weeks.

When I’ll be back to normal regarding blogging and other on-line activities is still anybody’s guess. Suffice it to say I hope to become a little more engaged week-by-week.

Lastly, my apologies to everyone who follows me here for the site being down so long. It went off-line the weekend before I went back to the hospital and I didn’t have the energy to deal with it until yesterday afternoon.

It’s good to be back!

 

MY BROTHER LEFT THIS MORNING….

He had been here since Aug. 7, six days before I got out of the hospital. I want to thank him and his family for the sacrifices they made to take care of me. For various reasons no one else who would have, could have. One thing I’ve learned, if I’ve learned anything, is that the road really is long and really does have many a winding turn. And it’s an extraordinarily lucky man who can count his brother as the best human being he knows:

 

ONE WEEK AT HOME….

I came home from the hospital a week ago yesterday and things are progressing nicely. I was able to shave myself a couple of times this week, the first time sitting down, the second time standing up. I’m still using a walker as a precaution but I’m moving around a bit without it. Baby steps. I expect to resume work-at-home part time on Monday, which is also when my brother plans to return to North Carolina. I’ll have more to say about his special qualities then. I consider myself very lucky.

Meanwhile…

AND NOW FOR THE LATEST….

Short take is I’ve been in the hospital for the last two weeks and have just arrived home. They found blockage in my chest arteries that required a triple-coronary bypass. Then it took a number of days to drain the fluid from my system which I was told was considerably more than usual. It’s been an ordeal but I look forward to a full recovery.

I have good health insurance, good doctors, plenty of sick time, and a company that understands my situation. My brother is here to take care of me until I am truly back on my feet which I hope will be in a couple of weeks. Thanks to everyone for their well wishes and concerns. I’ve missed blogging as much as anything….But you know how that goes: