This video features trumpeter Roy Hargrove performing “I Remember Clifford” with the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Band at the 2007 Burghausen International Jazz Week in Germany. Hargrove passed away yesterday at the age of forty-nine.
Benny Golson wrote the song in memory of Clifford Brown, who was killed in a car accident at twenty-five. Many, ourselves included, consider Clifford Brown one of the greatest trumpeters of all time.
Hargrove came out of the “Young Lions” movement of neo-bop in the late 80s and early 90s, but he quickly settled into a more innovative role, notably recording with R&B acts through the Soulquarians, a musical collective that met at Manhattan’s Electric Lady Studios. Hargrove’s smoldering overdubs warmed neo-soul classics by D’Angelo and Erykah Badu.
The earliest appearance of Hargrove we could find in our own jazz collection was as a sideman on a great Ricky Ford album released in 1989. The album is one of our favorites by Ford, because it marked his shift from being the youngest musician on the record to the one who is supporting the next generation of performers. Although his career quickly shifted away from the neo-bop movement, including a Grammy-winning Cuban collaboration and his hip hop heavy outfit the RH Factor, he was always great in traditional jazz settings. Hargrove’s second Grammy came for an acoustic album with Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker.
The loss of Roy Hargrove at such a young age is a tragedy for jazz, because he won’t have the opportunity to serve as an elder statesman of the art form and continue to help younger musicians.
This probably would have made a better post just before Halloween!
The Spider’s Banquet is the first and the most ingenious of Albert Roussel’s three ballets. It is brief and seeped in the impressionistic style of Debussy and Ravel, although unique in its simplicity of melody. Roussel completed the ballet in a few months in 1912 for the Teatre des Arts in Paris, where it was debuted by conductor Gabriel Grovlez.
In the beginning, the Spider is interrupted by a group of ants, who attempt to carry a rose petal. In order the worms and the butterfly appear, the latter quickly caught by the spider. While the spider celebrates his catch with a lively dance, the ants battle a cadre of praying mantises over a slice of apple. The spider snares the praying mantises in his web, and the next appearance is of a waltzing may fly who is captured with ease.
Having assembled his feast, the spider chooses to eat the butterfly first, only to find a praying mantis has beat him to the tasty snack. The other insects escape and prepare a funeral for the may fly, one by one leaving the scene.
The premiere of The Spider’s Banquet preceded the famously controversial premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring by only a few months. Both would achieve widespread fame for the ballets, although for very different reasons. Roussel was seen by critics as an exemplar of the French tradition, while Stravinsky became known as an iconoclast, pushing boundaries until he, like Roussel, embraced neoclassicism.
Roussel’s two additional ballets were of far greater scale, taking for their subject stories from classical mythology. The second of these, Aeneas, was one of his last works, completed in 1935. For Aeneas, Roussel augmented the orchestra with a large choir, much as Ravel had done with Daphis and Chloe. although he retained the compunctual time-keeping and functional tonality that distinguishes him in the French tradition. Roussel would never become as famous as Debussy and Ravel, and his later works are today performed and recorded far less often than The Spider’s Banquet.
The notes to a 1971 recording on France’s Erato Records report that Roussel was hesitant to take the commission to compose the ballet for the Teatre des Arts, and did so only at the urging of his wife, Blanche. Jacques Rouche, the Theatre’s director, had been inspired by the popular work of Jean Henri Fabre, today considered the father of modern entomology — which, of course, is the study of insects.
It often bothered the composer that the popularity of The Spider’s Banquet eclipsed that of his symphonies in the neoclassical style, but it did not prevent him from conducting a performance of the ballet for record, the only recording he would make, in 1928.
The Spider’s Banquet by Albert Roussel, performed by L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and conducted by Ernest Ansermet.
That’s the theme from Welcome Back Kotter, written by John Sebastian for the middle-70s television series. While with the Lovin’ Spoonful Sebastian had written seven top 10 hits, this TV theme was his only successful single as a solo artist.
Welcome Back Kotter was one of the first sitcoms to present a lighter version of the Norman Lear format established with All in the Family, and it ran successfully for four seasons on ABC. The show centers around Gabe Kotter, a teacher played by comedian Gabe Kaplan, who returns to his alma mater, James Buchanan High School in Brooklyn, to teach a group of outcasts known as the Sweathogs (because they have the hottest room in the building). While Kaplan was the star, the series is best remembered for having launched the career of John Travolta, who you might remember from such films as The Boy in the Plastic Bubble and Phenomenon.
Folks often have a laugh at the John Travolta’s tidily quaffed hair on LP jackets in the shop, assuming his musical career started with Saturday Night Fever or Grease — but in fact his first hit, “Let Her In,” was released when he was still starring on Welcome Back Kotter. His first ever appearance on an album was even earlier than that — he had a role in the 1974 Sherman Brothers musical Over Here! which also featured two of the Andrews Sisters.
Comedian Gabe Kaplan’s 1974 LP, Holes and Mello Roles, was the inspiration for the television series. It was first released by ABC Records with an image of popsicles crashing into the moon on the jacket. After the success of the series, the album was reissued with an image featuring Kaplan with the Sweathogs.
The Sweathogs made an goofy appearance on this 1976 TV-marketed oldies compilation, Fonzie’s Favorites. The back of the album (which includes a die-cut stand so you can put the Fonz on your piano next to the kids’ school pictures) promises “the Fonz has not taken to singing on this album. Better!! He has chosen his favorite 50s records to share with you.”
One side of this collection of familiar favorites by the likes of the Coasters, the Elegants and the Five Satins ends with a couple novelty songs — notably “The Fonzarelli Slide,” which inexplicably has the cast of Welcome Back Kotter meeting the Fonz, who would of course be older than Kotter by the middle seventies.
This wasn’t the only connection between the two hit sitcoms — when Pat Morita, who played Arnold, left Happy Days it was to star in a short-lived Welcome Back Kotter spin-off, Mr. T and Tina (which was, incidentally, the first sitcom to feature an Asian American as the lead). Sitcom spin-offs were all the rage and Happy Days itself produced six of them. Arnold’s replacement, Al, later married the mother of Fonzie’s cousin Chachi, who was played by Ellen Travolta, sister of actor John Travolta. Still with us? She first played Arnold Horshack’s mother on Welcome Back Kotter. And this concludes the least interesting paragraph ever posted on the Hymie’s blog.
Travolta’s albums were the most successful, but he was not the only of Kotter’s Sweathogs to make a record. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who played Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington not only sang back-up on Rick James’ Street Songs but made two albums of his own in the late 70s. A 1981 Halo single produced by Hilton-Jacobs is one of the rarest modern soul/boogie records you’ll never find (and is a pretty good party jam), selling for more than $1500 on any rare occasion when it appears online.
Hilton-Jacobs turned in a well-received performance as Joe Jackson in the 1992 TV movie based on Katherine Jackson’s autobiography, The Jacksons: An American Dream. He had a recurring role as a hard-nosed detective on the series based on Alien Nation, and has many screenwriting credits as well.
None of the remaining Sweathogs made records, although Ron Pallilo, who played Arnold Horshack, once portrayed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart off Broadway.
For Dia de los Muertes, a selection of a few songs about dead celebrities. There are, of course, many more. Some are sincere tributes, and some slightly satirical.
The celebration of a dead celebrity is one of my favorite thematic forms in pop music and today we’re going to listen to a small sampling that runs through most genres. Some of them are genuine tributes and some less sincere.
This first track is Gillian Welch’s “Elvis Presley Blues” from the 2001 album Time (The Revelator). It was ranked #2 on our “Top Ten Songs About Elvis” ages ago, falling behind “Elvis is Everywhere” by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper. There are a lot of tributes to Elvis Presley, but he is not the #1 subject of dead celebrity songs.
Our guess is that honor would go to Hank Williams. We have a whole section of entire albums dedicated to Hank Sr. in our shop. Some classic include the Waylon Jennings standard “I Don’t Think Hank Done it This Way” and Johnny Paycheck’s “Help Me Hank I’m Fallin’.” An obscure favorite of ours in Robert Earl Keen’s bizarre “The Great Hank.”
One of the earliest and most sincere tributes to hank was recorded soon after his death by Ernest Tubb.
“A Tribute to a King” by William Bell is an excellent follow-up to the Ernest Tubb track because each are exemplary within their respective genres. William Bell’s tribute to Otis Redding is great southern soul and our the best track on this playlist. Otis Redding is another frequent subject of tribute songs.
Not all songs about dead celebrities mourn their passing – Millions of Dead Cops spit on the grave of movie star John Wayne with this vitriolic attack. Its kind of hard to tell how much of John Wayne’s legacy is the interpretation of his admirers and how much was actually John Wayne. Was John Wayne a nazi? No. Is it difficult to reconcile some of the things he said? Yes. MDC took it too far with this track, but it remains a highlight of their first record.
Bauhaus’ first single, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” pioneered gothic rock, but also drew from from the dub influence common in UK pop at the time. The epic tune captures the enduring fascination with Lugosi, whose 1931 performance as Dracula seared the image of vampirism into the American psyche.
REM’s super-hit “Man on the Moon” was certainly the most successful tribute to a dead celebrity since “Candle in the Wind,” and unlike most pervasive radio hits of the mid-90s its aged pretty well. This is still a really great song. And Automatic for the People contained a second tribute to a dead celebrity, by the way – “Monty Got a Raw Deal” memorializes actor Montgomery Cliff, who really did get a pretty raw deal.
The members of Bauhaus would probably enjoy Nick Lowe’s gory tribute to silent film actress Marie Provost, who died at the age of forty in 1937. Nick Lowe takes a liberty with the sad circumstances of her death, however, as she did die along in her apartment but was not in fact eaten by her dachshund. Police concluded the dog nibbled at her leg in an effort to rouse her.
Kids in the Hall star Bruce McCollough probably summed it up in “Vigil”, from his obnoxious but surprisingly listenable debut musical performance, Shame-Based Man.
This may be an unusual place to end our collection of tributes to dead celebrities – After all, what about “Candle in the Wind”, and how can any collection be complete without “American Pie”? You’ve already heard them enough and unlike “Man on the Moon” they’ve gotten to be tired old radio standards. we usually change the station when we hear those tired 70s tropes.
This collection has also entirely omitted jazz, even though jazz artists reliably remember their predecessors. We think Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” (Dedicated to Lester Young) is among his finest melodies, and Duke Ellington’s album And His Mother Called Him Bill is a heartbreaking tribute to the recently-deceased Billy Strayhorn that is beyond comparison. Mingus also wrote a piece about Charlie Parker called “If Charlie Parker Had Been a Gun-Slinger There’d be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats”.
Anyway, here is Simon and Garfunkel’s “So Long Frank Lloyd Wright” which is a pretty simple farewell to the great architect.
[Yes, the image you see at the top of this post is Michael Jackson at James Brown’s funeral.]
We love Halloween! It’s one of the most uniquely American holidays, in no small part because it has evolved from a variety of traditions imported from around the world. We can thank the ancient Celts for the tradition of dressing in spooky costumes — their harvest festival, the Gaelic harvest festival Samhain was a time when the wall between the corporeal world and that of the spirits became permeable. Costumes were used to confuse the spirits.
From this same source we inherit the practice of mumming or guising, in which revelers dressed as the aos sí, the souls of the dead, would visit homes and perform to receive treats as an offering to the dead. In England this became known as souling, when mostly poor people would ask for food in exchange for saying prayers for the dead. Thanksgiving begging became a tradition here in America, but largely disappeared during the Depression. After World War II trick or treating was introduced to children at least in part to occupy them so they wouldn’t play Halloween pranks along the lines of Scotland’s Cabbage Day, on which spoiled produce was tossed at homes.
As the Catholic Church began to replace pagan celebrations such as Samhain with its own liturgical calendar, a three day celebration of the saints and remembrance of the recently lost called Hallowmas became the setting for these activities. It’s first night, All Hallows Eve, soon became Halloween.
The story of Jack of the Lantern also travelled across the Atlantic to find a home here in America — only instead of keeping his burning coal in a carved turnip, Jack used a pumpkin. The pumpkin, like all squashes, is an ancient New World food, believed to have first been cultivated in Mexico between 5,000 BC and 7,000 BC. It was the first of the foundational “Three sisters” — squash, beans, corn — of ancient Mesoamerican agriculture.
Our family carved our jack o’ lanterns last night!
Of course the real appeal of the holiday for our kids is the candy. According to the internet, Americans spend more than $2 billion on Halloween, most of that in the form of chocolate and *shudder* candy corn. Its worth noting that the fear of poisoned candy is almost entirely unfounded. Only a handful of cases exist — most famously that of Ronald Clark O’Bryan, who poisoned his son with cyanide in a pixie stick in hopes of collecting insurance money. O’Bryan attempted to cover up his horrible crime by distributing the poison to his daughter and three other children, but only eight-year-old Timothy ate his pixie stick. After a lengthy investigation, O’Bryan was charged, convicted and ultimately executed by the state of Texas. He is the subject of the song “Candyman” by Siouxsie and the Banshees.
The Dead Kennedys released “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” in 1981. The single came with an armband that featured a crossed-out swastika. It was written as a response to the appearance of neo-nazism and white supremacy in the punk rock culture in both the US and the UK.
After a neo-nazi coward ran his car into protesters last summer, killing 32 year old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens more, the band posted the anti-swastika image on their Facebook page to the delight of tens of thousands.
This weekend Jello Biafra wrote an editorial piece titled “Dead Kennedy Songs Weren’t Supposed to Age This Well,” which you can find here.
We certainly hoped we’d never have to post this song again.