A few days before he fatally overdosed on some particularly strong heroin, Sid Vicious wrote what appears to be a suicide note. Sid’s mother, Anne Beverley, found it in the pocket of his jeans after his death. The note makes one wonder whether or not Vicious knew exactly what he was doing when he injected that smack into his arm.
We had a death pact. Please bury me next to my baby. Bury me in my black leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots.
Sharon Tate takes Merv Griffin on a tour of swinging London’s Carnaby Street, in August 1966.
A poignant piece of TV history capturing much of the innocence, idealism, and happiness that seemed to infuse the sixties. All of which is usurped by our grim knowledge of what happened to Sharon Tate only a few years later.
Reggae singer/session keyboardist/producer Lloyd Charmers’s death in London a few days ago brings into sharp focus the steady passing of musicians from a generation that saw Jamaica become independent during their 20s. But it also sees the passing of one of the island nation’s premier producers of the dirty reggae song artform.
Charmers was born Lloyd Tyrell in 1946 in the Trench Town district of Kingston, Jamaica, and very little is documented of his early life. After getting his feet wet in Jamaica’s late-‘50s shuffle R&B scene, Charmers started his first group, the Charmers in 1962 with Roy Wilson, and after they split, he kept using the Charmers name for many of his subsequent records.
When The Charmers split, he joined Slim Smith and Jimmy Riley in The Uniques, a group that unleashed a crucial clutch of hits like “My Conversation”…
…and others which in true Jamaican style would be redone and revived as a “riddim” countless times to generate a bunch of other hits for the dancehalls, as represented by this mix…
Feverishly prolific New York graf-based expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat would have turned 52 today. That fact jars us because of the inevitable Peter Pan myth that accompanies the premature death of any young artist in any discipline.
Though I hate to pursue it, does it depress us to imagine a middle-aged JMB? Would he be still cocooned and slickly dressed, and now entrenched and heavily sponsored downtown, or maybe bugged-out HR-from-Bad-Brains style, redolent in gray dreads, pursued often and obtained for the occasional commission in order to keep up his paranoid existence in who-knows-where?
Of course, Basquiat’s influence dwarfs the downtown New York art scene in the way that he embodied the New York mix of hip-hop, post-punk, and fashion. But our culture also tends to rely on him in an unspoken way as a kind of purified representation of redundant cliches like doomed youth, avant-garde blackness, and the price of fame. We do best to remember each of those features as part of him—and separately, we do best to remember Basquiat as Basquiat.
Ravi Shankar died earlier today at the age of 92. He had been suffering from upper respiratory and heart problems and had undergone heart-valve replacement surgery last week. He died in a hospital near his home in Southern California.
Ravi Shankar was a musician that not only introduced many of us to new sounds but also to a new kind of consciousness, a state of mind and heart in which music clearly revealed its spiritual nature.
Rumi wrote “we rarely hear the inward music, but we’re all dancing to it nevertheless.” Ravi Shankar brought the “inward music” outward and suffused popular culture with his sweet celestial sound and in it we found that part of ourselves that was dancing, now and forever.
In celebration of the beauty of Ravi Shankar’s life and influence, here is an excerpt from his historic and groundbreaking performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967. The audience’s ovation at the end of his four hour set says it all: this truly was a moment for the ages.
The clip is from D.A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop.
A lovely feature-length documentary on Ravi Shankar and interviews with Ravi and George Harrison plus footage of The Beatles in India after the jump…
Mr. Skin has died at the age of 89. At this time, cause of death has not been disclosed.
Ed Cassidy was a big reason that Spirit has always been one of my favorite American rock bands. The guy was bigger-than-life, a musician whose formidable skills were matched by his theatricality. And at a time when kids distrusted anyone over 30 and longhair was a symbol of how cool you were, here comes this old bald dude who was hipper than they were. It shattered some stereotypes. As sad as it is to see him go, the fact that he lived until the ripe old age of 89 is the equivalent of an astonishing 178 in rock ‘n’ roll years.
Cassidy played with some jazz cats like Roland Kirk and Cannonball Adderly but didn’t get into rock until he was well into his forties. He formed Little Red Rooster in 1965 with stepson Randy California, Mark Andes and Jay Ferguson. In 1967, they changed their name to Spirit and became a monolithic presence on the Southern California rock scene and eventually a world wide success. Cassidy and California were terrific musicians as well as showmen. They delivered the goods.
Here’s Cassidy and California playing in Germany in 1978.
Luckily we have BBC4’s 2009 documentary, 1959: The Year That Changed Jazz to do just that. Produced by documentarian Paul Bernays and UK jazz DJ Jez Nelson, 1959 scrutinizes the impact of Brubeck’s classic Time Out album alongside three others from that year: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, Charles Mingus’s Ah Um and Ornette Coleman’s The Shape Of Jazz To Come.
The main Brubeck segment starts 12 minutes in, and the doc explores both the racial politics inherent in the Brubeck phenomenon, and the influence of his band’s groundbreaking 1959 tour of the Soviet Bloc, Mideast and South Asia on Time Out. But the whole hour is worth watching, if only for the compelling close-readings of masterpieces like Davis’s iconic “So What,” Coleman’s intense “Lonely Woman,” Mingus’s firey “Fables of Faubus.” The doc’s juxtaposition of Brubeck’s ascendance to Mr. Cool-ness against Coleman’s Cold War-tinged urgency is also a nice touch.
With an interview roster that includes Hal Wilner, Lou Reed, Stanley Crouch, Charlie Haden, Sue Mingus, Herbie Hancock and Nat Hentoff, 1959 offers up some crucial background as to what made Brubeck and his contemporaries what they were.
Dave Brubeck claimed he had 2 ambitions when he first started out as a Jazz musician - “to play polytonally and polyrhythmically.”
He also said his inspiration for rhythm was the heart beat, for this was what we heard first, and last.
Brubeck was a giant of Jazz, whose passing at the age of 91, brings an end to one of the greatest eras of American Jazz.
He popularized Jazz like few other composers/musicians of his day, becoming a household name and the first million-selling Jazz musician, who also made the cover of Time magazine in 1954. The purists didn’t like him, and many classed his brand of Jazz as “easy listening”, but this is to do him and his music a great disservice.
Take a listen to the Dave Brubeck Quartet (Brubeck - Piano, Paul Desmond - Alto Saxophone, Joe Morello - Drums, Gene Wright - Bass), filmed in concert in Germany, November 6th, 1966.
01. “Take the ‘A’ Train”
02. “Forty Days”
03. “I’m in a Dancing Mood”
04. “Koto Song”
05. “Take Five”
Gilda Radner, in character as Candy Slice, a perpetually strung out rock star who bore a striking resemblance to Patti Smith
After her death from ovarian cancer in 1989, comedian and actress Gilda Radner’s husband Gene Wilder started “Gilda’s Club,” a support group for cancer patients and their loved ones. Gilda’s Club operates under the credo that “no one has to live with cancer alone.” The title was a bit tongue in cheek; in Radner’s book, It’s Always Something, she described cancer as “membership to an elite club I’d rather not belong to.”
Now, however, many local Gilda’s Clubs are dropping her name for fear that it might date the organization or “confuse” possible beneficiaries. The Executive Director of the Madison Wisconsin Gilda’s Club says,
We want to make sure that what we are is clear to them and that there’s not a lot of confusion that would cause people not to come in our doors.
One of the realizations we had this year is that our college students were born after Gilda Radner passed, as we are seeing younger and younger adults who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis,
I’m in my 20s, and to me, it seems pretty tacky to drop the name of the person your organization was created in commemoration of. You have a history and legacy rooted in the life of a human being, and this just underscores how people who die of cancer eventually become nameless.
I might be biased, though. I love Gilda, and while comedy (even great comedy) rarely has a strong shelf life or intergenerational resonance, her influence and talent still have spark for me.
For those with an interest in the charismatic actor, there’s an exhibition called Eternal James Dean, which opens at the Indiana State Museum from November 23, 2012, until June, 3rd, 2013.
Eternally young, sexy and intense. That’s the image of James Dean. But who was James Dean the man? Born in Marion, Indiana, Dean made just three films before his death in 1955 at age 24. Eternal James Dean will take a look at his Indiana roots, his brief time as an actor in California and New York, his films and his passion for motorcycles and racing.