Irving Berlin (born Israel Isidore Beilin, May 11, 1888 – September 22,
1989) was a Russian-born Jewish-American composer and lyricist. Widely
considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history, his
music forms a great part of the Great American Songbook. He published
his first song, "Marie from Sunny Italy", in 1907, receiving 37 cents
for the publishing rights, and had his first major international hit,
"Alexander's Ragtime Band" in 1911. Composer George Gershwin called him
"the greatest songwriter that has ever lived," and composer Jerome Kern
concluded that "Irving Berlin has no place in American music- he is
American music." (Click here for full
After you get what you want you don't want it.
Everybody ought to have a lower East Side in their life.
I got lost but look what I found.
Life is 10 percent what you make it, and 90 percent how you take it.
Music is so important. It changes thinking, it influences everybody,
whether they know it or not. Music knows no boundary lines.
Never hate a song that's sold a half million copies.
Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working
twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance
that we know how to harness and control this great force.
Talent is only a starting point.
The mob is always right.
The reason American composers have done nothing highly significant is
because they won't write American music.
The toughest thing about success is that you've got to keep on being a
The world would not be in such a snarl, Had Marx been Groucho instead
There is an element of truth in every idea that lasts long enough to be
Some of you young folks been saying to me, "Hey Pops, what you mean
'What a wonderful world'? How about all them wars all over the place?
You call them wonderful? And how about hunger and pollution? That ain't
so wonderful either." Well how about listening to old Pops for a minute.
Seems to me, it ain't the world that's so bad but what we're doin' to
it. And all I'm saying is, see, what a wonderful world it would be if
only we'd give it a chance. Love baby, love. That's the secret, yeah. If
lots more of us loved each other, we'd solve lots more problems. And
then this world would be better. That's wha' ol' Pops keeps saying. Spoken
intro to "What a Wonderful World" (1970 version)
(Biography of Louis
Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971) at PBS' "Jazz" site.)
Bob Dylan (b. Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) is an American
musician, singer-songwriter, artist, and writer. He has been an
influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five
decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when he
was an informal chronicler and a seemingly reluctant figurehead of
social unrest. A number of Dylan's early songs, such as "Blowin' in the
Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'," became anthems for the US
civil rights and anti-war movements. Leaving behind his initial base in
the culture of the folk music revival, Dylan's six-minute single "Like a
Rolling Stone" radically altered the parameters of popular music in
here for full Wikipedia article)
A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at
night, and in between he does what he wants to do.
All this talk about equality. The only thing people really have in
common is that they are all going to die.
And don't criticize what you can't understand.
Behind every beautiful thing, there's some kind of pain.
Chaos is a friend of mine.
Colleges are like old-age homes, except for the fact that more people
die in colleges.
Come senators, congressmen Please heed the call Don't stand in the
doorway Don't block up the hall For he that gets hurt Will be
he who has stalled There's a battle outside and it is ragin' It'll
soon shake your windows and rattle your walls For the times they are
Don't matter how much money you got, there's only two kinds of people:
there's saved people and there's lost people.
Everything passes. Everything changes. Just do what you think you should
I believe strongly in everyone's right to defend themselves by every
I have no message for anyone. My songs are only me talking to myself.
I once loved a woman, a child I am told I gave her my heart but she
wanted my soul. But don't think twice, it's all right.
I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of
responsibility that comes with his freedom.
Just because you like my stuff doesn't mean I owe you anything.
Money doesn't talk, it swears.
Morality has nothing in common with politics.
People dissect my songs like rabbits but they all miss the point.
People today are still living off the table scraps of the sixties. They
are still being passed around- the music and the ideas.
Sometimes it's not enough to know what things mean. Sometimes you have
to know what things don't mean.
The cost of liberty is high, and young people should understand that
before they start spending their life with all those gadgets.
The first way to answer the questions in the song ('Blowin' in the
Wind') is by asking them. But lots of people first have to find the wind.
To live outside the law, you must be honest.
We may not be able to defeat these swine, but we don't have to join them.
You can't be wise and in love at the same time.
You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
How many roads must a man walk down Before you call him a man? Yes,
'n' how many seas must a white dove sail Before she sleeps in the
sand? Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannonballs fly Before
they're forever banned? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind The
answer is blowin' in the wind
How many years can a mountain exist Before it's washed to the sea? Yes,
'n' how many years can some people exist Before they're allowed to be
free? Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head Pretending
he just doesn't see? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind The
answer is blowin' in the wind
How many times must a man look up Before he can see the sky? Yes,
'n' how many ears must one man have Before he can hear people cry? Yes,
'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows That too many people
have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind The
answer is blowin' in the wind
We were living in Philadelphia in the summer of 1985, and the television
was on as background noise. A "Miami Vice" rerun was airing. I'd caught
a few minutes of the series earlier in the year and, frankly, it wasn't
on my must-see list. Anyway, I was working on something when I heard a
car engine gunned, followed by a hard cut to Tommy Shaw's driving "Girls
I looked up to see a tracking shot of speeding convertible. After a few
seconds, it became obvious the tracking vehicle was a helicopter,
perfectly matching the speed of the auto. I slowly became aware that
there weren't any edits... this was one long honking aerial shot.
It runs for a total of 79 seconds, an eternity in a filmed television
series. I couldn't find many details. The episode, "Glades," was the
ninth in the series' first season. It originally aired on November 30,
1984; I apparently caught the rerun on June 21, 1985. The show was
directed Stan Lathan (who would later go on to direct 122 episodes of
"The Steve Harvey Show"), and the director of photography was Duke
Callahan, who was also the D.P. on the motion picture Conan The
Barbarian. The helicopter pilot and cameraman were uncredited.
The segment starts on the west side of Miami and continues along the
Tamiami Highway. My guess is the director told the stars to drive
themselves to the location that day, and he told the DP to grab a
camera, get a helicopter, and get him some filler because the episode
timed out short.
Or, it could have been a deliberate attempt to create a shot so
impressive an old fart like me would remember it nearly 30 years later
when he accidentally encountered it on the web.
video: Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel and The Roots perform "Let It Go" on
The song as it appears in the film was undoubtedly assembled from
multiple takes and enhanced electronically- a necessity when you're
planning to exhibit it in huge IMAX venues with several thousands watts
of audio amplification.
video: Idina Menzel performs "Let It Go" in "Frozen.")
Frankly, her Oscar performance wasn't her best... having John Travolta
mangle her name didn't help. Think about it- you're following Bette
Midler, you're the last musical performer of the night, singing what
everyone expects to win the Oscar for Best Song, the live
orchestra is in a recording studio over a mile away, and "Let It Go"
(which its authors say was specifically written to be "Idina's Badass
Song") is the Power Ballad from Hell, ranging from F3 to
Go ahead... follow along...
video: Let It Go arranged by Larry Moore)
Anyway, it was nice to see her actually enjoying herself with Fallon and
"Some people, when they're slightly feverish and taking strong
antibiotcs, have exotic dreams. I dream of digital rights management."
"Not the way we implement it."
They used a text-analysis program to measure the tone of articles in USA
Today between 2007 and 2009, and found that especially positive
articles predicted a downturn in the Dow Jones Industrial Average
between a week and a month later. The researchers also analyzed all
twenty-one U.S. Presidential inaugural addresses between 1933 and 2009,
and found that Presidents who waxed optimistic about the future saw a
rise in unemployment and a slowdown in economic growth during their
terms in office. It’s perhaps too strong to suggest that positive
thinking, alone, produced these large macroeconomic changes, but the
staggering results in this most recent paper are consistent with more
than a decade’s worth of studies in Oettingen’s lab. (The
Powerlessness of Positive Thinking)
Just a reminder- Abe
Vigoda's birthday is tomorrow. Get your party supplies today.
When the next crisis happens, and by the nature of markets, it will
happen again, the government will do the only rational thing it can, and
once again step in and save the institutions with taxpayer money. The
economy will again be wrecked and the average family will again pay the
Published Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 6:17 AM EST
Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 - August 16, 1977) was an American
singer, musician, and actor. One of the most significant cultural icons
of the 20th century, he is often referred to as "The King of Rock and
Roll", or simply, "The King". Presley is one of the most celebrated
musicians of 20th century. Commercially successful in many genres,
including pop, blues and gospel, he is the best-selling solo artist in
the history of recorded music. He was nominated for 14 Grammys and won
three, receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36. He has
been inducted into multiple music halls of fame. (Click
here for full Wikipedia article)
Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.
Don't let your head get too big, it'll break your neck.
Don't criticize what you don't understand, son. You never walked in that
I believe the key to happiness is: someone to love, something to do, and
something to look forward to.
I don't feel I'll live a long life. That's why I have to get what I can
from every day.
I don't know anything about music. In my line, you don't have to.
I have no use for bodyguards, but I have a very special use for two
highly trained certified public accountants.
I was training to be an electrician. I suppose I got wired the wrong way
round somewhere along the line.
I'd never do anything vulgar before an audience. My mother wouldn't
Music should be something that makes you gotta move, inside or outside.
My voice is ordinary. If I stand still while I'm singing, I might as
well go back to driving a truck.
Rhythm is something you either have or don't have, but when you have it
you have it all over.
Singers come and go, but if you're a good actor, you can last a long
Talent is being able to sell what you're feeling.
The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to
live up to an image.
The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep
The only thing worse than watchin' a bad movie is bein' in one.
There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time, when
he was an old man, to learn music and dancing, and thought it time well
Those movies sure got me into a rut.
Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't
When things go wrong, don't go with them.
When you're a celebrity, people treat you nicer. The bad part is, they
also tell you what they think you want to hear, which ain't always the
You only pass through this life once; you don't come back for an encore.
Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century.
He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it's a
whole new social revolution- the 60s comes from it. -Leonard
We're the Axis of Elvis. -John Lileks
America is Elvis Presley- the most beautiful, talented, rebellious
nation in the history of Earth. And now, you're in your Vegas years.
You've squeezed yourself into a white jumpsuit, you're wheezing your way
through 'Love Me Tender' and you might be about to pass away bloated on
the toilet. But you're still the King. -John Oliver
He was a unique artist… an original in an area of imitators. -Mick
A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man's music,
when in fact almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage
mannerisms from Elvis. -Jackie Wilson
On a scale of one to ten, I would rate him eleven. -Sammy Davis,
(YouTube video: "It's Bigger," the opening number from the 2013 Tony
Patrick Harris' jaw-dropping performance at last night's Tony Awards
show- eight minutes of stunning perfection that includes singing,
dancing, a ten-second costume change, an acrobatic leap through a hoop,
nearly having his ear bitten by Mike Tyson, a trick that mystifyingly
transports him in under ten seconds to the back of the cavernous Radio
City Music Hall, plus the choruses from every musical currently on
Mr. Harris is unique. I know of no other performer with these stellar
abilities, in addition to being intellectually brilliant,
self-deprecating and dedicated to his family.
He turns 40 this Saturday- at 40, I began having difficultly bending at
Baritone Frank Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was
indisputably the 20th century's greatest singer of popular song. Though
influenced by Bing Crosby's crooning, and by learning from trombonist
Tommy Dorsey's breath control and blues singer Billie Holiday's rhythmic
swing, Frank Sinatra mainstreamed the concept of singing colloquially,
treating lyrics as personal statements and handling melodies with the
ease of a jazz improviser. His best work is standards- Cole Porter,
Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and the Gershwins- but Sinatra, despite his
1957 denunciation of rock & roll as degenerate, recorded songs by the
likes of Stevie Wonder, George Harrison, Jimmy Webb, and Billy Joel. Not
only did his freely interpretive approach pave the way for the
idiosyncrasies of rock singing, but with his character- a mix of
tough-guy cool and romantic vulnerability- he became the first true pop
idol, a superstar who through his music established a persona audiences
found compelling and true. (Click
for full article.)
Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy.
Being an 18-karat manic-depressive and having lived a life of violent
emotional contradictions, I have an overacute capacity for sadness as
well as elation.
Cock your hat- angles are attitudes.
Fear is the enemy of logic. There is no more debilitating, crushing,
self-defeating, sickening thing in the world- to an individual or to a
For years I've nursed a secret desire to spend the Fourth of July in a
double hammock with a swingin' redheaded broad... but I could never find
me a double hammock.
Hell hath no fury like a hustler with a literary agent.
How can a free people make decisions without facts? If the press reports
world news as they report about me, we're in trouble.
Hunger is inexcusable in a world where grain rots in silos and butter
turns rancid while being held for favorable commodity indices.
I believe that God knows what each of us wants and needs. It's not
necessary for us to make it to church on Sunday to reach Him. You can
find Him anyplace. And if that sounds heretical, my source is pretty
good: Matthew, Five to Seven, The Sermon on the Mount.
I like intelligent women. When you go out, it shouldn't be a staring
If you possess something but you can't give it away, then you don't
possess it... it possesses you.
I'm gonna live 'til I die.
I'm not one of those complicated, mixed-up cats. I'm not looking for the
secret to life... I just go on from day to day, taking what comes.
I'm not unmindful of a man's seeming need for faith; I'm for anything
that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers, or a
bottle of Jack Daniel's. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing
in which man and God go it alone together, without the witch doctor in
I'm supposed to have a Ph.D on the subject of women. But the truth is
I've flunked more often than not. I'm very fond of women; I admire them.
But, like all men, I don't understand them.
I've always had a theory that whenever guys and gals start swinging,
they begin to lose interest in conquering the world.
People often remark that I'm pretty lucky. Luck is only important in so
far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After
that, you've got to have talent and know how to use it.
Put your sunglasses on, because you ain't going home 'til the morning
Stop worrying about communism; just get rid of the conditions that
What I do with my life is of my own doing. I live it the best way I can.
Whatever else has been said about me personally is unimportant. When I
sing, I believe. I'm honest.
When lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on
Wednesday and absolution on Sunday, cash me out.
You can be the most artistically perfect performer in the world, but an
audience is like a broad- if you're indifferent, endsville.
You gotta love livin', baby, 'cause dyin' is a pain in the ass.
The first Canadian commander of the International Space Station, Chris
Hadfield, is scheduled to return to earth this evening with U.S.
astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko.
Hadfield's been in orbit for 148 days, and during that time he's not
only done whatever it this they do on the ISS, he's maintained constant
contact with the people of this strange little blue ball via Twitter
and other media. But he obviously saved the best for last.
(YouTube video: "A Space Oddity," from the ISS.
Godspeed, guys. May you have a safe and uneventful landing.
Published Saturday, February 09, 2013 @ 7:41 AM EST
The Beatles made their first appearance on
The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.
The show was watched by 73 million people.
Trivia: The Beatles' performances and recordings of "Till There Was You," the love ballad from the
Broadway musical "The Music Man," earned writer Meredith Willson more money than all of the
show's royalties combined. The Fab Four wanted something in their repertoire that would appeal
to parents and critics. Sir Paul McCartney now owns the publishing and performance rights to
Meredith Willson’s music catalog.
Published Wednesday, October 24, 2012 @ 8:28 AM EDT
It's the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Allan
Sherman's first record album, My Son, The Folk Singer, which
broke sales records and hit number one on the 1962 Billboard pop album
I was eight when I first heard Allan Sherman.
I memorized all of the songs on all his albums.
That should explain a great deal.
Sherman is best known for his hit single Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.
My favorite Sherman pieces aren't even complete songs, but medleys
comprised of two or four lines, or a single verse, concatenated,
recorded before a live audience, and positioned as the last track on the
Herewith are Shticks and Stones from My Son, The Folk Singer,
and Shticks of One and a Half a Dozen of the Other from My
Son, The Celebrity.
For those of you not familiar with early 60s culture, you may need to
click the links which following to appreciate the references to Levittown,
Sol, and Metrecal..
As for the Medicare reference, the songs were recorded prior to the
program's creation in 1965.
Also note my cats were fascinated by the pigeon in the second video.
Turn down the sound, put it on an endless loop, and watch the ensuring
Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997),
known professionally as John Denver, was an American singer/songwriter,
activist, and humanitarian. After traveling and living in numerous
locations while growing up in his military family, Denver began his
music career in folk music groups in the late 1960s. His greatest
commercial success was as a solo singer. Throughout his life, Denver
recorded and released approximately 300 songs, about 200 of which he
composed. He performed primarily with an acoustic guitar and sang about
his joy in nature, his enthusiasm for music, and relationship trials.
Denver's music appeared on a variety of charts, including country and
western, the Billboard Hot 100, and adult contemporary, in all earning
him 12 gold and 4 platinum albums with his signature songs "Take Me
Home, Country Roads", "Annie's Song", "Rocky Mountain High", and
"Sunshine on My Shoulders".
Denver further starred in films and several notable television specials
in the 1970s and 1980s. In the following decades, he continued to
record, but also focused on calling attention to environmental issues,
lent his vocal support to space exploration, and testified in front of
Congress to protest censorship in music. He was known for his love of
the state of Colorado, which he sang about numerous times. He lived in
Aspen, Colorado, for much of his life, and influenced the governor to
name him Poet Laureate of the state in 1974. The Colorado state
legislature also adopted "Rocky Mountain High" as one of its state songs
in 2007. Denver was an avid pilot, and died while flying his personal
aircraft at the age of 53. Denver was one of the most popular acoustic
artists of the 1970s. (Click
for full article.)
Perhaps love is like a resting place A shelter from the storm It
exists to give you comfort It is there to keep you warm And in
those times of trouble When you are most alone The memory of love
will bring you home
Perhaps love is like a window Perhaps an open door It invites you
to come closer It wants to show you more And even if you lose
yourself And don't know what to do The memory of love will see you
Oh, love to some is like a cloud To some as strong as steel For
some a way of living For some a way to feel And some say love is
holding on And some say letting go And some say love is everything And
some say they don't know
Perhaps love is like the ocean Full of conflict, full of change Like
a fire when it's cold outside Or thunder when it rains If I should
live forever And all my dreams come true My memories of love will
be of you.
And some say love is holding on And some say letting go And some
say love is everything And some say they don't know
Perhaps love is like the ocean Full of conflict, full of change Like
a fire when it's cold outside Or thunder when it rains If I should
live forever And all my dreams come true My memories of love will
be of you.
Published Wednesday, October 03, 2012 @ 2:44 AM EDT
(YouTube video: "Lydia the Tattooed Lady,")
Yesterday was Groucho's
birthday, and every other year or so I post this clip of him singing Lydia,
the Tattooed Lady from the classic Marx Brothers film At The
I was just about to re-post the video when I remembered an e-mail I had
received from a reader the last time I published it. A 21-year-old
college student asked if Lydia was a "gibberish" song, because
many of the lyrics made no sense to him.
Lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg was at the top of his form when he wrote Lydia.
It's fiendishly clever, invoking historical and contemporary references,
and he effortlessly blends them with oblique asides describing Lydia's
impressive physical characteristics. The result was an instant classic.
I watched the video again, and then it dawned on me... if my young
reader had failed to pay attention during his history, literature, and
geography classes, he just wouldn't get it.
So, if you've listened to Lydia and found yourself not only
tapping your toes but scratching your head, here are the lyrics. With
There will be a quiz later, so please pay attention.
Lydia The Tattooed Lady (music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by
E.Y. Harburg, the guys who also did "Over the Rainbow.")
Ah, this meeting brings back memories. Childhood days... Lemonade!
Romance! My life was wrapped around the circus... Her name was Lydia. I
met her at the World's Fair in 1900 (marked down from 1940). Ah, Lydia...
She was the most glorious creature under the sun... Thaïs!(1) du
Barry!(2) Garbo!(3) Rolled into one...
Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia? Lydia The Tattooed Lady She
has eyes that folks adore so, And a torso even more so. Lydia, oh
Lydia, that encyclopedia.(4) Oh Lydia The Queen of Tattoo. On
her back is The Battle of Waterloo,(5). Beside it The
Wreck of the Hesperus(6) too. And proudly above waves the
red, white, and blue(7). You can learn a lot from Lydia!
When her robe is unfurled she will show you the world, If you step up
and tell her where. For a dime you can see Kankakee(8) or
Paree(9), Or Washington Crossing The Delaware.(10)
Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia? Oh Lydia The Tattooed
Lady. When her muscles start relaxin', Up the hill comes Andrew
Jackson.(11) Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopedia. Oh
Lydia the queen of them all. For two bits(12) she will do
a mazurka(13) in jazz, With a view of Niagara(14)
that nobody has. And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz.(15) You
can learn a lot from Lydia!
Come along and see Buffalo Bill(16) with his lasso. Just a
little classic by Mendel Picasso.(17) Here is Captain
Spaulding(18) exploring the Amazon(19). Here's
Godiva,(20) but with her pajamas on.
Here is Grover Whalen,(21) unveilin' the Trylon.(22), Over
on the West Coast we have Treasure Island.(23) Here's
Najinsky(24) a-doin' the rhumba.(25) Here's her
social security numba.
Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopedia Oh Lydia the champ of them all. She
once swept an Admiral clear off his feet. The ships on her hips made
his heart skip a beat. And now the old boy's in command of the fleet, For
he went and married Lydia!
I said Lydia... He said Lydia... I said Lydia... We
said Lydia... La la!
(1) Thaïs, a stunningly beautiful and rich fourth
century courtesan who lived in Roman-controlled Alexandria, Egypt. She
eventually saw the error of her ways, converted to Christianity, gave
her money to the church, spent three years immured in a convent cell as
extreme penance, and died 15 days after her release.
(2) Jeanne Bécu, a.k.a. Madame du Barry
(August 19, 1743 - December 8, 1793), the stunningly beautiful and,
alas, final Maîtresse-en-titre (chief mistress) of King Louis XV. She
was convicted of treason for helping people flee the French Revolution
and was beheaded on the guillotine.
(3) Greta Garbo, born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson,
(September 18, 1905 – April 15, 1990), the stunningly beautiful Swedish
film actress and international star. She made fewer than 30 films during
her 1920-1941 career, retired at the age of 36, and spent her remaining
years shunning publicity.
(4)A book or set of books containing articles on
various topics, usually in alphabetical arrangement, covering all
branches of knowledge or, less commonly, all aspects of one subject.
(5)The military engagement in which an imperial French
army under the command of Emperor Napoleon was defeated by the armies of
the Seventh Coalition on June 18, 1815.
(6)The Wreck of the Hesperus is a narrative poem
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describing... well, bottom line, we're
talking about a tattoo of a wrecked, ice-covered ship on a reef with a
dead little girl tied to a broken, floating mast.
(7)The colors of the U.S. flag, a reference to the flag
itself, or a reference to the country.
(8)Kankakee, Illinois, a city about 60 miles south
southwest of Chicago.
(9)Paree (Paris), France's capital and largest city.
(10)German-American artist Emanuel Gottlieb's 1851
oil-on-canvas painting depicting, with numerous inaccuracies and
anachronisms, then-General George Washington standing in a boat, leading
his troops in the Christmas 1776 sneak attack against Hessian
mercenaries stationed in Trenton, New Jersey.
(11)Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson (March 15, 1767 –
June 8, 1845), the seventh President of the United States, serving two
terms from 1829 to 1837. He's best known as the guy on the $20 bill and
the first President someone tried to assassinate. Prior to entering
politics, he was a noted military leader whose exploits included leading
his troops up a steep hill near Tohopeka, Alabama on the March 27, 1814
Battle of Horseshoe Bend during the War of 1812. (The War of 1812 lasted
until 1815.) The reader is encouraged to learn more about Jackson.
His presidency makes the current situation in Washington look like a
60s' hippie love-in. Old Hickory was ill-tempered, unforgiving, and the
target of vicious personal attacks. During the 1828 election, his
opponents called him a jackass. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast later
used the jackass to characterize members of Jackson's then newly-formed
Democratic party, a symbol that remains to this day. Jackson had been
involved in numerous duels and had so many bullets lodged in various
body parts that it was said he "rattled like a bag of marbles."
(12)25 cents. The etymology is left as an exercise for the
(13)An upbeat Polish folk dance.
(14)Niagara Falls, the three cataracts located on the border
of New York state and the province of Ontario, Canada.
(15)The island in San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz Federal
Penitentiary operated there from 1933 to 1963.
(16)William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (February 26, 1846
– January 10, 1917), whose eponymous wild west shows toured the U.S. and
(17)Either badly-punctuated references to geneticist Gregor
Mendel and artist Pablo Picasso, or lyricist Harburg coupling the last
name of a world famous artist to a funny-sounding Jewish first name. You
know, like Shlomo Warhol. Come to think of it, Shlomo Picasso is
(18)The character Groucho portrayed in the stage play and
film Animal Crackers.
(19)The river in South America, not the website.
(20)In 1028, Lady Godiva repeatedly asked her husband Leofric
(the Earl of Mercia) to not pass along to the impoverished citizens of
Coventry the taxes levied on him by the King of England, Edward the
Confessor. ("Trickle down" had a different meaning then.) Leo told Lady
G that if she'd ride naked through the town market on a horse, he'd nix
the tax hike. The next day she did just that. Leofric kept his promise
and eliminated all taxes in Coventry except for those related to
boarding horses. The bits about her covering her, uh, bits, with her
long flowing hair- and the story that Tom the Tailor was struck blind
when he took a peek as she passed by his shop (the origin of "Peeping
Tom")- are later embellishments.
(21)President of the New York World Fair Corporation.
(22)One of two large structures located at the center of the
1939 World's Fair in New York.
(23)A man-made island in San Francisco Bay between San
Francisco and Oakland.
(24)Vaslav Nijinsky (March 12, 1889 or 1890 – April 8, 1950),
considered by many to be the greatest male dancer of the early 20th
(25)A style of ballroom dancing based on the Cuban
bolero-son. Not to be confused with the terminal emulation software. Or
the autonomous robot vacuum cleaner.
Late Night with David Letterman observed the 30th anniversary of
the iconic disco tune It's Raining Men yesterday with a big
end-of-show production number featuring surviving Weather Girl Martha
Wash; Paul Shaffer on keyboards; an augmented CBS orchestra; six(!)
backup singers; three female dancers; and three male acrobats suspended
from ceiling-mounted silk streamers.
No wonder it's Homer Simpson's favorite song.
Why Letterman, you may ask? The song was co-written by Shaffer, the late
night host's sidekick/bandleader, and was featured early in the run of
Letterman's late night show on NBC- episode 174, which aired on January
Originally written in 1979 by Shaffer and Paul Jabara, the song was
rejected by Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Cher, and Barbra Streisand. Martha
Wash and the late Izora Armstead, originally performing as "Two Tons O'
Fun," became "The Weather Girls" and released "Men" in October, 1982.
An international hit, it sold 6 million copies worldwide. While it
reached #1 on the US disco chart, it only climbed to #46 on the
Billboard Hot 100. In April 2001, Geri Halliwell released a cover
version that was used in the film Bridget Jones' Diary. It was a
big hit in the UK and Europe, but received little airplay in the US.
Used for decades in dozens of films and television episodes, "Men"'s
most recent reincarnation is in the Broadway production of the stage
musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert- The Musical. It was
performed by the show's cast, plus Wash and Shaffer, at the 2011 Tony
The clip from last night is at the bottom of this post.
My all-time favorite version remains this one. The quality leaves a bit
to be desired and the audio is slightly out of sync for the first minute
or so, but it's, well, two tons o' fun. Watch the audience, especially
when Martha heads into their midst and intimidates those in the aisle
seats with her powerful gospel soprano. As Letterman commented later in
the show, "They ripped the roof off the joint."
(YouTube video: The Weather Girls perform live on NBC's "Late Night
with David Letterman" in January, 1983.)
(YouTube video: Martha Wash and Paul Shaffer lead a lavish (for late
night TV) 30th anniversary performance on CBS' "The Late Show with David
Published Saturday, September 22, 2012 @ 8:36 AM EDT
(YouTube video: Martin Short sings "It's Raining Mitt")
He likes firing people
("I like being able to fire people...")
Doesn't care about the very poor
("I'm not concerned about the very poor...")
He's wealthy and good-looking
("My name is Mitt Romney...")
Yes, that's I guy I'm for
When campaigning in the Deep South
He pretends to like eating grits
Rick Santorum's gone post-mortem 'cause
It's gonna start raining Mitt
It's raining Mitt
Everyone needs a hit- of Mitt
There's a future in sight
Where all our trees are the right height
It's raining Mitt
What a wager
I'll make you a ten
Thousand dollar bet
So white, rich and fit
It's stormin' for a moment Mitt
Mitt Romney says you're to blame
For too much federal spending
Though your healthcare plans look the same
I don't know economics
But when Mitt mentions income tax
Then I guess he must know something
Since his wife drives two Cadillacs
(She drives two Cadillacs!)
It's raining Mitt
I ain't lyin'
It's raining Mitt
It's raining Mitt
Let's show the kind of Mitt that we are
And tie the dog to the roof of our car
It's raining Mitt...
Good God it's raining mitt, yeah...
Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was one of the
most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he
is commonly known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as
the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".
Presley is regarded as one of the most important figures of 20th-century
popular culture. He had a versatile voice and unusually wide success
encompassing many genres, including country, pop ballads, gospel, and
blues. He is the best- selling solo artist in the history of popular
music. Nominated for 14 competitive Grammys, he won three (surprisingly,
all in the gospel genre), and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement
Award at age 36. He has been inducted into four music halls of fame.
Presley was scheduled to fly out of Memphis on the evening of August 16,
1977, to begin another tour. That afternoon, he was discovered,
unresponsive, on his bathroom floor. Attempts to revive him failed, and
death was officially pronounced at 3:30 pm at Baptist Memorial Hospital.
Presley's funeral was held at Graceland, on Thursday, August 18. Outside
the gates, a car plowed into a group of fans, killing two women and
critically injuring a third. Approximately 80,000 people lined the
processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery, where Presley was buried
next to his mother. Following an attempt to steal the singer's body in
late August, the remains of both Elvis Presley and his mother were
reburied in Graceland's Meditation Garden on October 2.
Graceland was opened to the public in 1982. Attracting over half a
million visitors annually, it is the second most-visited home in the
United States, after the White House. It was declared a National
Historic Landmark in 2006. (Click
for full Wikipedia article.)
It was one of the handful of "where were you" moments that occur in a
lifetime. In August, 1977 I was working in a now-defunct typesetting
shop in Bethel Park, less than two miles from my current home. At the
time, though, we were living hand-to-mouth in West Mifflin, with a
17-month old baby and another due in about two months.
I was getting reading to leave to catch the trolley to downtown when the
phone rang. This could not be good news. A bill collector? A baby
deciding to arrive ahead of time?
No- the voice on the line said The King was dead.
The trolley and bus ride home, usually a solitary activity, was instead
a rolling conversation with fellow riders about Elvis' unfortunate
demise and how a major contributor to the soundtrack of our lives was
That was 35 years ago, and Elvis- who paved the way for all the one-name
wonders that followed- is still The King.
James Lee Jamerson (January 29, 1936 - August 2, 1983) was the
uncredited bassist on most of Motown Records' hits in the 1960s and
early 1970s. He is now regarded, along with fellow Motown bassist and
Pittsburgh native Bob Babbitt, as one of the most influential bass
players in modern music history. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame in 2000.
Starting in 1959, Jameson found steady work at Berry Gordy's Hitsville
U.S.A. studio, home of the Motown record label. There he became a member
of a core of studio musicians who informally called themselves The Funk
Brothers. The small, close-knit group performed on most Motown
recordings during the 1960s. Jamerson's earliest Motown sessions were
performed on double bass, but in the early 1960s he switched to a Fender
Precision electric bass
Jamerson, like most of the other Funk Brothers, were jazz musicians who
had been recruited by Gordy. For many years, they maintained a typical
schedule of recording during the day at Motown's small garage "Studio A"
(which they nicknamed "the Snakepit"), then playing gigs in the jazz
clubs at night. They also occasionally toured the U.S. with Motown
artists. For most of their career, the members of the Funk Brothers went
uncredited on Motown singles and albums, and their share of record sales
was considerably less than the artists or the label received.
Eventually, Motown placed Jamerson on a $1,000 per week retainer.
Jamerson's discography at Motown is a catalog of the major soul hits of
the 1960s and 1970s, including "Shotgun" by Junior Walker & the All
Stars; "For Once in My Life", "I Was Made To Love Her" by Stevie Wonder;
"Going to a Go-Go" by The Miracles; "My Girl" by The Temptations,
"Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas; "I Heard It Through
the Grapevine" by Gladys Knight and the Pips, and later by Marvin Gaye;
"Reach Out I'll Be There" and "Bernadette" by the Four Tops; and "You
Can't Hurry Love" by The Supremes. According to fellow Funk Brothers in
the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Gaye was
desperate to have Jamerson play on "What's Going On", and went to
several bars to find the bassist. When he did, he brought Jamerson to
the studio, who then played the classic line while lying flat on his
back, a feat prospective Motown bassists had to duplicate if they wanted
to join the Funk Brothers.
Some sources claim Jamerson played on roughly 95 per cent of Motown
recordings between 1962 and 1968. He eventually performed on nearly 30
number one pop hits— surpassing the record commonly attributed to The
Beatles. On the R&B charts, nearly 70 of his performances went to the
top. (via Wikipedia).
This YouTube video consists of just the vocal and bass track of the
Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell hit "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." The
complex bass line was improvised by Jamerson during the recording
session, and is one of the best examples of the bass countermelodies
that helped to give Motown its distinctive sound. The recording isn't
the best, but it reveals Jamerson's talent and personality.
From the mid to late 60s, Jamerson split recording duties with native
Babbit, who died on July 16 of this year.
Bob Babbitt, the bass guitarist who provided the driving, iconic bass
lines for "Cool Jerk," "Band of Gold," "The Tears of a Clown," and
scores of other hits, died yesterday of brain cancer. He was 74.
Born Robert Kreinar in Pittsburgh on November 26, 1937, Babbitt was a
member of Motown's house band, The Funk Brothers, from 1966 to 1972. He
alternated with the legendary James Jamerson on most of the label's hits.
Babbitt's legendary performances include "Cool Jerk" by The Capitols;
"Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder; "War" by Edwin
Starr; "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles; "Mercy
Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues" by Marvin Gaye; "Band of
Gold" by Freda Payne; "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is
Today)" and "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" by The
One of the most sought-after session musicians in the industry, Babbitt
played on hundreds of recordings for scores of stars. His distinctive
stylings helped to make many of those songs classic hits. A small sample
includes "Little Town Flirt" by Del Shannon; "I Got a Name" by Jim
Croce; "Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight & the Pips;
"Scorpio" by Dennis Coffey & the Detroit Guitar Band; and "(The)
Rubberband Man" by The Spinners. His bass line in "Scorpio" was the
standard by which bass players were judged in the 70s; those who
couldn't duplicate Babbitt's performance didn't get the gig.
Babbitt is featured in the 2002 film "Standing in the Shadows of
Motown," which documented the Funk Brothers' previously unheralded
contribution to the label's success. He also performed on Phil Collins'
2010 Motown tribute album, "Going Back." In March, 2011 he appeared
onstage in an episode of American Idol, backing up Jacob Lusk's
performance of "You're All I Need To Get By" for the show's "Motown
As a kid growing up in Homestead, PA in the 60s and 70s, Babbitt was an
integral part of my daily existence, even though I didn't learn of his
contributions- let alone his name- until decades later. Motown was everywhere
then- and for me, it still is. I don't think I've gone more than two or
three days without hearing something with a Babbitt bass line since I
bought "Cool Jerk" at the little record store on Eighth Avenue in July
Thanks, Bob, for all the memories.
(YouTube video: Cool Jerk, with Bob Babbitt on bass, from the film
"Standing in the Shadows of Motown")
(YouTube video: Love Is Like A Heat Wave, with Bob Babbitt on bass, from
the film Phil Collins' "Going Back" documentary.)
...but you can travel on ten thousand miles, and still stay where you are..."
Harry Forster Chapin (December 7, 1942 – July 16, 1981) was an American
singer-songwriter best known for his folk rock songs, including "Taxi",
"W*O*L*D", and the number-one hit "Cat's in the Cradle". Chapin was also
a dedicated humanitarian who fought to end world hunger; he was a key
player in the creation of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger in
1977. In 1987, Chapin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold
Medal for his humanitarian work. (Click
here for full article.)
(YouTube video: Harry Chapin performing "W*O*L*D")
(YouTube video: Harry Chapin performing "Circle")
All my life's a circle, sunrise and sundown The moon rolls through
the night-time, 'til the daybreak comes around All my life's a
circle, but I can't tell you why The seasons spinning 'round again,
the years keep rolling by
It seems like I've been here before, I can't remember when But I've
got this funny feeling that we'll all get together again There's no
straight lines make up my life, and all my roads are bends There's no
clear-cut beginnings and so far no dead ends
I've found you a thousand times, I guess you've done the same But
then we lose each other, it's like a children's game As I find you
here again the thought runs through my mind Our love is like a
circle, let's go round one more time