The Kennedy Center Honors

“I’m a sucker for the Kennedy Center Honors. As I get older, I notice the honorees are, more often than not, quite familiar to me.” I wrote that a couple years ago< , and it's no less true today. The awards were given out on Sunday, December 7, 2008. The event will be broadcast on CBS Tuesday, December 30 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT). I'll be watching, as usual; well, OK, recording to watch at a future date.

Morgan Freeman: Since I first saw him as Easy Reader on the Electric Company, a gig that literally drove him to drink, I’ve seen him in a number of performances, including God in Bruce Almighty (2003) God and the President in Deep Impact (1998), plus Amistad (1997); The Shawshank Redemption (1994), one of my favorite movies; Unforgiven (1992), one of my favorite Westerns; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991); Glory (1989); Driving Miss Daisy (1989); Lean on Me (1989); Clean and Sober (1988); Street Smart (1987); probably TV performances before I knew he was MORGAN FREEMAN, such as Resting Place (1986); The Atlanta Child Murders (1985); and The Marva Collins Story (1981). Plus his distinctive voice has been used to narrate March of the Penguins, the TV adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun, and that American Masters segment featuring previous Kennedy Center inductee Clint Eastwood.

George Jones: I’ll admit I own no GJ save for a cut on the album “50 Stars, 50 Hits” “on two great country albums” that my grandfather brought me as a kid. But I was certainly aware of George from my period listening to WWVA in Wheeling, WV, a clear channel radio station I used to listen to at night in the 1960s. A Girl I Used to Know, Ain’t it Funny What Love Will Do, Your Heart Turned Left (And I Was on the Right), and especially She Thinks I Still Care. Of course, he was also noted for his marriage and d-i-v-o-r-c-e from Tammy Wynette.

Barbra Streisand: who is this person with the big nose and the bigger voice, I wondered when I saw this singer on any number of shows in the 1960s hosted by Dinah Shore or Mike Douglas or Ed Sullivan. Then she got a couple specials in her own name. She continues to show up on things like a Tony Bennett special I saw a couple years back. Barbra the singer I’ve been aware of for a long time, though in fact I own only one double-disc CD of her music. On film, I’ve also managed to see her a fair amount: The Prince of Tides (1991); Yentl (1983); Funny Lady (1975); The Way We Were (1973) – filmed partly in Schenectady, NY – I’m just saying; Up the Sandbox (1972); Hello, Dolly! (1969) and of course, her breakout role in Funny Girl (1968).

I came to Twyla Tharp via the Talking Heads’ David Byrne, when they collaborated on The Catherine Wheel. I’ve managed to see that piece and some of her other works including her legendary Sue’s Leg either on TV or when I was dragged up to the Saratoga Performing arts Center. I’ve also seen her work in films such as Hair (1978), Amadeus (1984), and White Nights (1985). This year, I saw at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady Tharp’s take on the songs of Billy Joel in Movin’ Out, which I wrote about here.

One of my real musical regrets is that, maybe a dozen years ago, I did not go see The Who at the Knickerbocker/Pepsi/Times Union Arena in Albany, three blocks from where I was working at the time. I’m sure it was a matter of money, but still. The surviving members of the group are being honored. Roger Daltrey is a March Piscean named Roger; what’s not to like? My collection of Who albums is very long, from The Who Sell Out (1967) to Endless Wire (2006), of course including Tommy and Who’s Next. But I always had a particular affection for an early Who compilation, Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy when Daltrey’s vocals were particularly fresh.

In addition to his work with the Who, I own a number of solo Pete Townsend albums. Among them: the pivotal Empty Glass (1980), All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982), Scoop (1983), White City (1985), Deep End Live! (1986), Another Scoop (1987), The Iron Man (1989), and the 1996 compilation COOLWALKINGSMOOTHTALKINGSTRAIGHTSMOKINGFIRESTOKING.

Pic of Pete &Roger from; Twyla’s pic from her website; other pics from govt sites.


Songs That Move Me, 70-61

70. The Love You Save – Jackson 5
It’s true; I could sing every part of this song except Michael’s, and often did sing along, especially Jermaine’s part.
Feeling: Joyous.
(starts at 3:05, after some other J5 music)

69. The Supremes – Remove This Doubt.
Back in the bad old days of romance, there would be songs that I would play that reflected my state of mind. This was one. Great strings. Later covered by Elvis Costello.
Feeling: melancholy.

68. Levon-Elton John
I love it, pretty much for reasons noted here.
Feeling: What’s it all about?

67. I Got a Line on You – Spirit
A song from college that I have on vinyl that someone put on a mixed CD for me this century. Loved the doubled guitar line.
Feeling; Joyous.

66. Summer Days – Bob Dylan
The live versions I found, and there are several, don’t quite provide the same sensation as the studio recording..
Feeling: Like dancing.

A truncated album version.

65. Do What You Want to – Billy Preston.
I saw the late Billy Preston at a concert in college. The song starts slowly then speeds up considerably by the end. Great vocal and organ throughout. From the That’s The Way God Planned It album, produced by the late George Harrison.
Feeling: I will you love you anyway.

64. Spencer Davis Group – Keep on Running
This song lives on the bottom. When I used to ride my bike to work, I had this song in mind when taking an incline. Ah, when Steve Winwood was young.
Feeling: Energized.

63. A Hard Day’s Night – the Beatles.
Love that first chord, the shared vocals, the guitar bridge. Indeed, I have a fondness for the two-minute jazz version on the HDN soundtrack.
Feeling: joyous.

62. Lucky Man-Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
Last song on the first album. I used to do a credible simulation of the synth at the end.
Feeling: not so lucky.

61. Pete Townshend – Let My Love Open the Door
I’ve read that Pete said that this isn’t a romantic love song, but a song of religious love. Whatever it is, I’m fond of the instrumentation in the beginning and the harmony vocals as much as anything. Also like the remix he did.
Feeling: loving.


Songs That Move Me, 80-71

80. The Ostrich – Steppenwolf.
I discussed this song here.
Feeling: ticked off.
It’s HERE.

79. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone – Aretha Franklin.
One of the things I hated about AM radio when I was growing up is the fact that disc jockeys would talk over the instrumental opening. I swear that this intro was designed specifically to avoid that. Highlight musically is the sweet crescendo of the horns.
Feeling: joyful.

78. 21st Century Schizoid Man – King Crimson.
An intriguing song. Starts of like a loud dirge, then breaks into an almost jazzy center. Quite odd.
Feeling: a little schizo.

77. Face the Face – Pete Townsend.
Those big drums almost always surprise me, not in this live version, but in the video below.
Feeling: like dancing.

Miami Vice!

76. I’m So Glad – Cream.
It has to be the live version from the Goodbye Cream album; no other version excites me like that one. It’s the Jack Bruce vocals and especially the instrumental breaks.
Feeling: well, glad.

75. Fame – David Bowie.
Besides the hook, I most appreciate the descending line of the vocal near the end.
Feeling: like dancing.

74. King Harvest – The Band.
From “the brown album”, the second album, it’s the last song on the LP. It’s the vocals and the lyrics: “My horse Jethro, well he went mad.” A song of my high school days.
Feeling: like having a piece of grass between my teeth.

73. I’m Free – the Who.
The beginning of this song is out of sync with the rest. There’s a drum fill before the first time you hear “And freedom tastes of reality.” The live versions never compare to this because they’re usually played correctly. I like the descending line vocal at the end and the instrumentation in the middle. BTW, I have no idea what this video is.
Feeling: Tension until it gets back on track musically.

72. Celtic Rock – Donovan.
The druids are coming. Last song, first side of the Open Road LP.
Feeling: spooky.

71. Twist and Shout – the Beatles

It’s John shredding his voice and those ascending thirds.
Feeling: Joyous.


Getting Old

The Coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking Pete Townsend turns 62 today, by some measures, a senior citizen, so this seems somehow appropriate.


It’s not that easy to smash a guitar, I guess.

Learn from the master.
The Tulip Queen And Joan Jett
I haven’t purchased The SABR Baseball List & Record Book: Baseball’s Most Fascinating Records and Unusual Statistics – yet, but I’m seriously intrigued/sorely tempted:

“…over 700 stat-driven lists, most of them quirky and engaging enough to keep the average fan submerged in a geeked-out stupor for hours. A random sampling:
• Most Career RBI without Ever Leading League: How is it possible that Willie Mays never finished a single season atop the NL’s RBI rankings?
• Players Who Retired with Fewer Than 200 Career Home Runs but Hit 40 in a Season: You might know that Davey Johnson smacked a career-high 43 dingers in 1973. But did you know that he only hit 93 more during the rest of his career?
• Most Wins, by Pitcher’s Age, in a Season: Bob Feller holds the record for most wins by a 17-, 18-, 20-, and 21-year-old. At the other end of the spectrum, Phil Niekro is the standard-bearer for 40-, 43-, 45-, 46-, 47-, and 48-year-olds.
• Triple Crown Near-Misses: On three separate occasions, Babe Ruth led the league in two of the three triple crown categories and finished second in the remaining one. (Arguably even better: The triple crown losers list, which documents the sorry souls who managed to finish last in all three categories.)
• Pitchers Who Stole Home: Forty-six pitchers have done this since 1900 (including Fred Hutchinson and Don Newcombe, who both did it after hitting a triple!)
• Most RBI in a Season While Playing for Multiple Teams: Would you believe Goose Goslin was traded in the middle of a 138-RBI season?”
And speaking of baseball books, Mr. Burgas’ take on Babe Ruth’s 104-HR season.
Kool-Aid Pickles.
Keeping Our Borders Safe.
All you mean people who spoke ill of poor, dead Jerry Falwell, go here.
Yesterday, I had more hits on the blog than I’ve ever experienced. It is a direct result of this post by Mike Sterling. Thanks, Mike! Maybe I won’t call you a cheater pants any more. OK, I will, but I’ll say it with affection.


We forsake you

Pete Townsend turns 60 today.

My father and I used to listen to my early Beatles records together, trying to discern lyrics and meaning. By the time the Who’s Tommy came out, we were no longer doing that. I remember him coming into the living room when the lyrics, “We forsake you, gonna rape you” came on. He said nothing. But his look said, “What IS that kid listening to?”

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