Performer John Hiatt turns 70

“I’ll be there to catch your fall”

John HiattI’ve been listening to John Hiatt for nearly four decades. So enamored with his music was I that I wrote a post about him when he turned 54. Since then, I’ve got the albums The Open Road (2010), Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns (2011), and Terms of My Surrender (2014).

His sixth album I have on vinyl. Hiatt said, “I always kind of look at Riding with the King (1983) as the first album where I really put it all together.” And that’s probably true. Warming Up to the Ice Age (1985) failed commercially, and Geffen dropped him from the roster. Bring The Family (1987) was his first Billboard 200 album and is probably my favorite.

Slow Turning (1988) has such great songs that several were covered by other artists. Indeed, LOTS of artists have covered his songs, many of which I own. A small list: Sure As I’m Sitting Here (Three Dog Night), Across the Borderline (Willie Nelson), Thing Called Love (Bonnie Raitt), When We Ran (Linda Ronstadt), and Riding With The King (B.B. King and Eric Clapton).

My wife and I saw him at the Troy (NY) Music Hall in 2003.

Twelve songs

Here are a dozen John Hiatt tunes. If I were to pick my favorites, almost half would be from Bring The Family.

The Tiki Bar Is Open – the title track. Someone on a video wrote of John that he “has remained a fringe artist all these years despite his incredible songwriting skills and emotive and highly recognizable vocal style. He just keeps putting out amazing stuff year after year.”

Trudy and Dave – Slow Turning. My mom was named Trudy. I had a whimsical thought that mom had run off with another guy. “They’re out of their minds.”

Real Fine Love – Stolen Moments.

Feels Like Rain – Slow Turning.

Crossing Muddy Waters – the title song. I think songs from this acoustic album were performed by Hiatt on A Prairie Home Companion c. 2000.

The Most Unoriginal Sin – Beneath This Gruff Exterior. This was recorded by Willie Nelson in 1993, a full decade before Hiatt put it on the end of an album.

She Loves The Jerk – Riding With The King.

Slow Turning – the title track. Namechecks Charlie Watts.

Shredding The Document – Walk On. The lyrics are a bit dated – Larry King, e.g. – but I LOVE the harmony on the chorus.

Perfectly Good Guitar – the title track. Apparently, this ticked off Pete Townshend for a time.

I Don’t Even Try – Riding With The King. A variation on a familiar pop hook.

Have A Little Faith In Me – Bring the Family. When I made a mixed tape for my now-wife Carol, this was the centerpiece.

Bio

My friend Rocco read a biography that he really liked, Have a Little Faith: The John Hiatt Story by Michael Elliott. It is “a long-overdue, in-depth biography of Americana’s most enigmatic characters,” according to the review in Americana UK. 

The writer touched on every studio album that Hiatt did and gave some great insight into what made it happen even the one live album, Rocco reports.

Christine Baranski of Buffalo turns 70

Diane Lockhart

Christine Baranski
From IMBD.com

I’ve enjoyed the performances of Christine Baranski for many years. She was the best thing in the sitcom Cybill (1995-1998) as the sophisticated Maryann Thorpe. But I, and most people, know her as the smart and calculating Diane Lockhart in The Good Wife and its successor series, The Good Fight.

In a CBS Sunday Morning interview from January 2022, “Correspondent Mo Rocca asked Baranski, ‘Why do you think so often you’ve been cast as intellectual, sophisticated, high-status characters?’

“‘Because I’m sophisticated and intellectual!’ she laughed. ‘I don’t know! It makes me laugh, because when… people really look up… Buffalo and the Buffalo Bills, and where I come from?’

“Yes, Baranski is a proud Buffalonian, the daughter of Virginia and Lucien Baranski, who grew up steeped in her family’s Polish culture.”

That’s it. Even when she’s the snarky friend in Mamma Mia or the haughty reporter in Chicago – “Understandable! Understandable!” – she has that upstate New York rootedness. Her father died when she was eight. She attended Catholic school for 12 years, including an all-girls high school.

Mame

In Town and Country, she described sharing a room with her grandmother, “who had been an actress in the Polish theater. ‘I grew up with an Auntie Mame kind of personality. She was vivacious,’” and she passed on a love of the stage to her granddaughter…

“‘By the time I was 17 or 18, I was acting in not only plays in high school, but I got into this workshop and was doing street theater and performing with kids from all over the city. I was from a very insular kind of life. And suddenly, I was performing with Black kids and Jewish kids and it blew my world wide open.’

“Around that time, she read about the Juilliard School, and pinned the article to her wall, thinking: ‘This is where I want to go.'” But as she noted in the New Yorker, she was initially waitlisted. “I had my teeth capped and would do a series of syllable and ‘S’ exercises. Then I returned to New York for an audition and did nothing but pages of ‘S’ words, and they let me in. So I would say I got in by the skin of my teeth.”

More upper-crust

Nathan Lane spoke of his “the Birdcage” co-star, “She is a consummate actress and professional and a great deal of fun.” He only regrets that they didn’t have more scenes together in their new project The Gilded Age. Christine once again plays that upper-crust role, the moneyed Agnes Van Rhijn.

I think she is quite centered, not just because of her background. Probably it’s because she was a working stage performer before her television career started in her forties. Though she had been encouraged early on to change her name to something less ethnic, she never did.

Christine Baranski turns 70 on May 2.

70: Mark Evanier and Laraine Newman

Connie Conehead

Mark Evanier by Gage Skidmore found in Wikipedia
Mark Evanier by Gage Skidmore, found in Wikipedia

I have been following the blog of Mark Evanier since 2004 or 2005. But he’s been producing News From ME since December 18, 2000. He was a kid who cared – OK, obsessed – about comic books, and has written comics or about comics and related business for most of his life.

Mark had the very good fortune to become an assistant to Jack Kirby, from whom he learned a tremendous amount, not just the creative aspect but the visionary nature of “the King.” Mark attended every San Diego Comic-Con from the beginning until COVID, and none since, except online. He has directed animated TV shows. As a result, he knows a large number of imaginative folks in the comic book industry and show business.

Evanier is a historian of the industry. He has worked on the reprinting of his all-time favorite comic strip, Pogo by Walt Kelly, and he was a Pogo fan even before he met and went out with Walt’s late daughter, Carolyn.

Mark has been a gambler in Las Vegas and a magician, pretty good at them apparently, though he’s soured on the former. He is also an expert on his favorite movie, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. His 30+ year practice of feeding stray cats ended in 2021.

In memory of

Mark always notes the deaths of creative people who you and I may have never heard of or had forgotten, obscure comic book artists, unsung animators, working actors, comedians of the past. He’s been involved with the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. “The award goes to someone whose body of work has not been properly rewarded in terms of credit and/or compensation.”

He posts a link almost daily of a notable segment of an old Ed Sullivan segment, an obscure music video, a comedy routine, film clips of Los Angeles or Las Vegas back in the day, or occasionally interviews he’s involved with. Guesting on Sid Krofft’s weekly Sunday afternoon video podcast on Instagram. Talking with film critic Leonard Maltin. Chatting with his best male friend, Sergio Aragonés, with whom he works on Groo the Wanderer.

Mark’s blog has regular segments. Dispatches From the Fortress of Semi-Solitude addresses how he’s been coping with the pandemic; fortunately, as a writer, he’s used to working alone. He’s a fan of Costco, where he can buy in bulk.

Personal history

Tales of My Childhood, Tales of My Father, and Tales of My Mother are obviously biographical. Mark notes: “I am of Jewish heritage but only on my father’s side. Because my mother was Catholic and both families frowned on two such people getting married, they basically raised me to be nothing in particular. This has worked out a lot better than folks who are devout to one faith or another would probably admit.”

He likes to post Hannukka videos during the season and find several ways to spell the holiday. His caring father hated his job but stayed to provide for the family. Most of the stories about his mother that I recall involved the last decade of her life when she could barely walk or see, as he helped provide for her care.

He writes occasionally that there are “Things I Don’t Have An Opinion About,” especially when people think he should. Conversely, he can be fascinated by the fluctuating price of, say, a certain package of Planters Salted Cashews on Amazon.

Here’s a quiz he completed in October 2021.

Live from New York

 

Laraine Newman at Comic Con 2011
Cartoon Voices II – Room 6A, Sunday 11:30-12:45 Comic Con 2011

Laraine Newman is best known for being one of the original members of the cast of Saturday Night Live (1975-1980), creating characters such as Connie Conehead and the Valley Girl Sherry. But long before that, in Los Angeles at the age of 19, she and “her older sister Tracy were founding members of the comedy troupe The Groundlings — which has become a launchpad for numerous SNL cast members.”

In her audio memoir, May You Live in Interesting Times – here’s one story – she says her career has been, “modest but steady and extremely fulfilling.” Much of her current employment has involved doing voice work, including Garfield segments voice-directed by her friend Mark Evanier, twenty minutes her senior. He reviewed her memoir quite favorably; he wanted MORE than the nine hours she provided. Check out a photo of the two of them together.

In fact, you couldn’t do much better keeping up with Laraine Newman than to search News from ME for her name. She shows up quite frequently. Also, check out these videos.

Sting of The Police turns 70

Think

Sting_in_April_2018
By Raph_PH – QueenbdayRAH210418-34, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76810661

As the 40th anniversary of MTV, not to mention mark Knopfler’s 72nd birthday, was being celebrated in early August 2021, I started listening to the intro to Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing. It was only then that I heard the similarities between the vocal of Sting on the “I Want My MTV” segment and the Police song Don’t Stand So Close To Me. It’s SO obvious in retrospect.

Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner CBE has been an enormously successful and well-regarded musician and songwriter. As Wikipedia noted, the initial sound [of the Police] was punk-inspired, but they switched to reggae rock and minimalist pop.” He had had a lengthy solo career, influenced by everything from jazz to madrigals over the years. Sting also has a strong activist bent over many years, participating in myriad events.

But I’ve always been amused how much an ex-girlfriend absolutely HATED his voice. I couldn’t play any of his music while she was in the room, and I had/have a lot of his tunes.

The Police were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Solo and with The Police combined, Sting has sold over 100 million records and received 17 Grammy Awards.

Songs

All songs by Sting and chart action are the Billboard pop charts unless otherwise indicated.

Murder By Numbers – The Police. This song used to irritate me greatly, but it’s not the tune’s fault. It’s that I bought the LP of Synchronicity and it did not appear, only on that new-fangled compact disc technology the music was trying to force down our throats in the early 1980s. It WAS on the B-side of the massive Police hit Every Breath You Take. Rick Beato notes why this song is fantastic.

King Of Pain – The Police, #3 for two weeks in 1983. Do I love this because Weird Al did a great early parody, with King Of Suede? Maybe.

I Hung My Head. Johnny Cash done stole this song from him, but JR just does that.

Every Breath You Take – The Police, #1 for eight weeks in 1983. Beato spends nearly an hour breaking down the power of this song.

Why STING is Uncopyable

Fortress Around Your Heart, #8 in 1985. Lyrics of love as war. Beato explains the intricacies of the song here, starting at 2:07.

Spirits In The Material World – The Police, #11 in 1982

Gabriel’s Message. From that first A Very Special Christmas collection.

The Bed’s Too Big Without You – The Police. I suppose I related to this in my younger, lonelier days. 

Fields of Gold, #23 in 1993.

Message In A Bottle  – The Police, #74 in 1979.

Can’t Stand Losing You – The Police.

Fragile. I’ve related to this a LOT over the years.

Cueca Solas

They Dance Alone. A heartbreaking song about the survivors of the Disappeared.

If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, #17 in 1993. There’s a modulation here that always knocks me out

Don’t Stand So Close To Me – The Police, #10 in 1981; ’86 version, #46 in 1986. Someone on Quora suggested that the Police were a band with a happy ending. Maybe a couple of decades later

Roxanne – The Police, #32 in 1979. The first hit.

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – The Police. #3 for two weeks in 1981. Such a joyful song. Beato loves it. Shawn Colvin does a nice cover.

If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free, #3 for two weeks (#17 soul) in 1985. Sting was way ahead of me linguistically with this. Not only did I buy the album this appears, but the 12-inch with three different versions.

Synchronicity II – The Police, #16 in 1983. I have repeated these lyrics to this very angry song more than once. “And every single meeting with his so-called superior Is a humiliating kick in the crotch.” Musically, Beato at 8:13 touts it.

On Show #8359, Thursday, March 18, 2021, Sting was a category on JEOPARDY! And at the end, he recreates the Think music.

Coverville 1373: The Sting and The Police Cover Story IV

Boxer George Foreman turns 70

With this historic victory, George Foreman broke three records.

George ForemanThere was a time in the United States when most people could name the current heavyweight boxing champion. My paternal grandfather McKinley Green probably could have named them all, from John L. Sullivan through Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, the undefeated Rocky Marciano to Floyd Patterson.

In 1967, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title that he’d won in 1964 (as Cassius Clay) by beating Sonny Liston. This was due to his refusal to be inducted into the military during the Vietnam War. “Smokin'” Joe Frazier eventually won the confusing alphabet soup of titles when he defeated Jimmy Ellis in 1970. Frazier then beat Ali, who was by then allowed to make his comeback, in the “Fight of the Century” in 1971.

On January 22, 1973, Frazier lost his title when he was defeated for the first time professionally by George Foreman. Foreman had won a gold medal in the heavyweight division at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He turned professional in 1969. After he beat Frazier, he had two successful title defenses.

Foreman’s lost the title in his first professional defeat, to Muhammad Ali, in “The Rumble in the Jungle” in October 1974 in Zaire. George retired from boxing after a loss to Jimmy Young in 1977 and had a religious conversion. He became an ordained minister and opened a youth center in Houston, TX.

In 1987, at the age of 38, George announced he was returning to boxing to raise money for his youth center. From the Wikipedia: “By 1989, Foreman had sold his name and face for the advertising of various products, selling everything from grills to mufflers on TV….his public persona was reinvented, and the formerly aloof, ominous Foreman had been replaced by a smiling, friendly George.” In fact, it was the George Foreman Grill that made him far more money than he made in his boxing career.

Still, in 1994, he fought a guy named Michael Moorer. “With this historic victory, Foreman broke three records: he became, at age 45, the oldest fighter ever to win the World Heavyweight Championship; 20 years after losing his title for the first time, he broke the record for the fighter with the longest interval between his first and second world championships; and the age spread of 19 years between the champion and challenger was the largest of any heavyweight boxing championship fight.” He eventually ceded the title.

He has a dozen kids. “On his website, Foreman explains, ‘I named all [five of] my sons George Edward Foreman so they would always have something in common. I say to them, ‘If one of us goes up, then we all go up together, and if one goes down, we all go down together!'”

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