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Archive for the ‘Obituaries’ Category

Adam West

Posted by purplemary54 on June 10, 2017

When I saw the news that TV’s favorite Batman Adam West had passed today, I was sadder than I thought I would be.  The 1960s television version of Batman is often ridiculed for its cartoonish action, ham-handed moralizing, and general silliness.  People of my generation grew up on this version, but we were indoctrinated into the Dark Knight school of Batman characterization in the 80s and 90s; our then-teenaged psyches found more to love in the troubled, vengeful version that is so ubiquitous today than we did in the brightly-colored uprightness of our childhoods.  But Adam West’s portrayal of Batman as a decent man who fought crime because it was the right thing to do became a pop culture touchstone, and made West an icon.

Adam West did a lot of other acting besides Batman, but that character is what he will be most remembered for.  One of the things I loved is how he embraced it and how he in turn used it as a base for much of his recent work.  West did voice acting for a number of cartoons, and he used the same cadences and phrasings he did as Batman.  It made him easily recognizable and, I think, brought a lot of warm feelings to those who remembered that voice from Saturdays in front of the TV.

So I bid a fond farewell to West with the Batman theme, a tune almost as iconic as his portrayal of the Caped Crusader.  Composed by jazzman Neal Hefti, the catchy “na na na na na na na na” riff runs throughout and is really what makes it such an effective ear worm.  (Seriously.  Try to get it out of your head.  I dare you.)  Because this version of Batman relied so heavily on the comic book version of the character that was popular at the time, this is exactly the kind of music you’d expect to hear if a comic book could play music when you opened it.  With its jazzy and surf undertones, it was perfect.

So long, Mr. West.  Thank you for bringing so much happiness to so many people.

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Gregg Allman

Posted by purplemary54 on May 27, 2017

In yet another blow to Rock & Roll, Gregg Allman has passed from this plane at 69.  He had a long career but he was at his best as the singer and organist for the Allman Brothers Band.  They were blues and rock and psychedelia rolled into one rollicking package.  While it can be argued that Duane Allman’s mythic guitar had a more lasting impact on music, you can’t say that Gregg didn’t help shape the Allman Brothers’ sound in equally crucial ways.

You also can’t say that Gregg Allman didn’t live the Rock Star persona to the hilt.  He was as hard-living as the characters he sang about, and he paid that price in more ways than one.  Losing Duane and ABB bassist Berry Oakley in eerily similar motorcycle accidents within a year of each other were not only a huge personal losses but ones that changed the sound of the Allman Brothers Band.  His tumultuous marriage to Cher and years of substance abuse made Gregg tabloid fodder.  And those years of drugs and alcohol led directly to the health problems that plagued him in his final years.  He spent much of the last few years playing as often as his body would allow him to.  His voice had grown ragged, but I’m sure the music gave him some measure of peace.

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“Please Don’t Bury Me”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 19, 2017

I memorialize a lot of musicians and other pop culture figures here.  I do it because I think it’s important to note their passing into the next plane.  I also do it because, like most living people, death scares me.  It’s a natural fear, although one uniquely human.  I’m pretty sure mole rats don’t sit around in their burrows obsessing over the inevitability of their deaths; they’re probably too busy hunting for food or making baby mole rats.  It makes me wonder if our big brains and the commensurate level of self-awareness are really worth it.

What this boils down to is that I take death pretty seriously.  I hurt a little for everyone who is left behind when someone they love passes.  (The person who died is actually okay at that point; whatever fear, pain, or suffering they experienced while alive is gone.)  I grieve along with them.  I also grieve for all those I’ve loved who are no longer here, people and animals alike.  (We lost a beloved kitty just a few days ago, and I can’t tell you how much Mom and I miss her.)  It all adds up to a lot of heartache.  Sometimes it is easier, sometimes it’s better, but it never really leaves you.  But suffering over that pain is a choice.  And while I feel that pain and grief, I don’t wish it gone.  I don’t revel in it, but I try to accept those emotions and feel them.  It’s okay to hurt; just don’t make it the only thing you feel.

Which leads me back to today’s song.  My extended family recently became a little smaller in number and a lot less fun.  My mother’s cousin, Mike Foster, died several weeks ago.  It is still a raw wound, but I know that he’s not really gone from the Universe.  (Mike and his family are Christian, but I don’t think my beliefs conflict too much with their vision of heaven.)  He’s not here physically and that’s what hurts, but his energy is still part of everything else.  Mike was generous and open and loving with everyone.  And, like my much missed Daddy, he never met a corny joke he didn’t tell to everyone within hearing distance.  Mike had a wonderful sense of humor, even if it did make you groan occasionally. For whatever reason, his passing made me think of this wonderful old John Prine song.  (I know I’ve probably posted this one before, but I’m too lazy to look it up right now.)  I know Mike wouldn’t want people to be sad about his death.  He’d want them to celebrate his life and have a good laugh in his honor.  And for people like me who take death a little too seriously, this is a great antidote for that.

Have fun in the next plane, Mike.  Love you.

Posted in Music, Obituaries, Singer-Songwriters | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Chuck Berry

Posted by purplemary54 on March 18, 2017

I’ve got two or three other posts I’m working on right now, one of them a much more personal remembrance, but this news today has to come first.  Dammit.

The passing of Chuck Berry at age 90 isn’t really a surprise; his health had been slowly failing for years.  But it is sad to see one of the original Rock & Roll greats leave us.  Even though I now concede Elvis Presley’s undeniable talent and status as the King, for many years I argued that Berry was the true King of Rock & Roll.  He did so much to create and shape the sound so many of us love so much.  He made some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard, and I never get tired of hearing it.  His guitar style was iconic.  His performances were magnetic and charismatic.  Yeah, he was kind of a jerk as a human being (and more than a little problematic for this feminist), but he was a legend.  The world is a slightly poorer place without him.

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Al Jarreau

Posted by purplemary54 on February 12, 2017

You might only remember Al Jarreau if you are a person of a certain age or if you were a huge Moonlighting fan.  A consummate singer and performer, Jarreau had pretty much dropped out of the spotlight in the last couple of decades.  In fact, I think the last pop culture hit he had was the theme to Moonlighting.  At 76, Mr. Jarreau has moved on to the next plane of existence.

Take a minute to familiarize yourself with Mr. Jarreau if you don’t already know his work.  He was originally a Jazz singer, but he crossed into so many genres that he was impossible to pigeonhole.  And wow, was he smooth.  No.  Not just smooth.  Al Jarreau was smooooooooooth.  His voice was silky and pure and clean.  There were no missed notes, no extraneous flourishes, no gratuitous posturing. There was just music, and it was good.

Now all the smooth leaves no room for rough edges, which means Jarreau was never quite to my taste.  But this, singing his 1981 hit “We’re in This Love Together” is how I will always remember him.  Another great voice is just a memory, but it’s a pretty fine one.

Posted in Jazz, Music, Obituaries, Pop, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

John Wetton

Posted by purplemary54 on February 9, 2017

Real life has been a little hectic, and I neglected to note the passing of Asia frontman John Wetton last week.

Asia was always one of those reliably catchy bands that I listened to on the radio, but never really thought too much about.  I’ve got a few of their songs on the iPod, and I’ll sing along when I hear them.  I guess my relationship with this band can be described as casual, an acquaintance I’m generally happy to bump into but not someone I seek out for anything special.  But they were responsible for one of those songs that is inexplicably special to me: The 3 AM Song.

So thanks for that, John Wetton.  I’m so glad you shared that little bit of musical serendipity with me.  Considering the state of my life right now, I can use the inspirational boost I get every time I hear “Days Like These” more than ever.

“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.  And today I am strong enough, and anyway I love the rain.”

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Mary Tyler Moore

Posted by purplemary54 on January 25, 2017

Not that long ago, I posted the theme from The Mary Tyler Moore Show as interpreted by Minneapolis Punk band Husker Du.  Now I’m posting it because Mary Tyler Moore has left this plane of existence.  (I hate saying “died.”  Yes, her physical body has died, but her spirit and energy will always be a part of the Universe.)

I like this clip because it includes just a bit from the final episode.  You can here the rest of the WJM gang singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” as Mary takes one last loving look at the newsroom before turning out the lights and closing the door.  It was a great good-bye then, and it’s a great one now.  So long, Mary.  I’ll be sure to laugh as hard for you as your TV namesake did for Chuckles the Clown.  (And please, jukebox listeners, for your own sakes track down the episode “Chuckles Bites the Dust” if you haven’t seen it.  You will never be sorry.)

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Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds

Posted by purplemary54 on December 28, 2016

I don’t really have any words for this.  Losing Carrie Fisher was hard on her fans, but I knew it was a million times harder for her family.  And a little part of me knew that losing her would kill Debbie.  I really fucking hate being right.  They were so devoted to each other.  When Eddie Fisher left her, Debbie Reynolds really made her life about Carrie and Todd.  Yeah, she got married a couple more times (to real asshats), and she spent a great deal of their childhoods working away from them.  But they were a complete little universe those three.  I’m just so sad and sorry right now.  I can’t imagine the grief Todd Fisher must be feeling, or Billie Lourd.  (Gary the dog will be living with his human sister now, so I think he’ll be okay.  After a while.  Animals mourn, too, after all.)

So here’s a little bit of Debbie and Carrie singing and loving.  The next plane of existence is a far more witty and sparkling place today.

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George Michael

Posted by purplemary54 on December 25, 2016

I shouldn’t be posting this after so much wine, but goddammit, I’m just so tired.

George Michael has passed at 53, presumably from heart failure.  Carrie Fisher had a massive heart attack at 60 just a couple days ago, although she is still hanging on (and will hopefully recover).

No one should die at Christmas.  I know that there is a statistical increase in deaths this time of year, but my heart tells me that no one should die during a time of celebration.  Logically, that would mean no one would ever die anywhere because there is always a celebration of something happening somewhere on the globe, but the heart wants what the heart wants.  In this case, the heart wants no one to suffer or feel pain during a time of joy in my world.  Self-centered maybe, but there it is.

I was never a Wham! fan, and had little patience for most of Michael’s solo work.  I did like “Faith,” though.  It was one of those perfect little Pop songs that burrowed into your consciousness and never let go.  It is a relentlessly catchy song, with an irresistible hook.  And Michael delivers it with the ease and charisma of a true Pop star (in spite of the fact that he used a butt double at the beginning of the video).  I always thought his pussyfooting around his sexuality was kind of wimpy.  (It took him a very long time to confirm the fact that he was homosexual, something everyone already knew–and no one is ever going to convince me that Wham! didn’t break up because he and Andrew Ridgely ended their affair.  Facts be damned!)  But he had style and popularity, and he could sing with the best of them.

It’s just been so bad that it’s hard to follow the dictum of George Michael’s song and have faith.  There have been some small victories and minor miracles on the personal front in recent days.  I have hope that there are better times, a light at the end of this really long dark tunnel, etc, etc.  I do still have faith in the Universe.  I try to be accepting of the pain that seems to be unending these days, because I know in my head that you cannot have yin without yang, dark without light, enlightenment without suffering.  But my heart still says that all of this is wrong, that the balance of good and bad is desperately out of whack.  Like the song says, I need a little time to pick my heart up off the floor.

Posted in Music, Obituaries, Pop | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

John Glenn

Posted by purplemary54 on December 8, 2016

Losing Greg Lake was a blow for the music world (now two-thirds of Emerson, Lake & Palmer live on another plane).  But losing John Glenn was a blow for the entire world.  I can’t speak of him any better than anyone else.  He was just great.  So I’ll let Elton John do the talking for me.  So long, Rocket Man.

Posted in Music, Obituaries, Rock | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »