Posts Tagged ‘obit’

Pete Shelley

The lead singer/songwriter of Buzzcocks, Pete Shelley, has died, apparently of a heart attack, at the age of 63. Yeesh.

Back in my FantaCo days, c. 1978, I remember listening to Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) on Q-104, WQBK-FM, quite often. I loved, among other things, the double contraction. Someday, maybe we’ll have a conversation about how much on target that title was in my life.

My neighbor Don Levy wrote on Facebook: “Buzzcocks were there at the beginning of punk, and one of the bands (along with The Sex Pistols and The Clash) to receive a fair amount of commercial success. What set them apart from their contemporaries was that they were less concerned with Thatcherism/consumerism/urban violence and more preoccupied with personal relationships.”

Don notes that both Buzzcocks’ first single, Orgasm Addict (1978) and Shelley’s first solo single, Homosapien (1981) were both banned by the BBC, the latter, at least, for “explicit reference to gay sex.”

Arthur, now a half a world away, had a sudden recollection about Homosapien. “Around that time, I remember seeing guys in Chicago wearing white t-shirts with the word ‘Homosapien’ and no other printing. I was sure they were kinsmen, and, at the time, it seemed like they were giving a knowing wink to anyone who knew the song.”

Totally new to me, though, was something Chuck Miller linked to: “Pete Shelley had “a solo LP called XL-1 that got lots of play on my college radio station WHCL. I should note that XL-1 had a feature that allowed one to somehow load the LP into a Sinclair computer and produce a digital music video that ran synchronously with the LP. Thankfully, somebody synched up an old XL-1 copy to a Sinclair … HERE IT IS.” This is, to use the erudite lingo of the record reviewer, REALLY COOL. The lyrics pop up as well as interesting graphics.

Read some tributes from fellow musicians and from Rolling Stone.

george herbert walker bushI’ve had complicated feelings about George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, for a long time. I don’t remember him as a Congressman from Texas in the 1960s, but I do recall his tenure as ambassador to the United Nations (`1971-1973).

Then he was named the chairman of the Republican National Committee, trying to negotiate a fine line between supporting the party and trying not to be disloyal to Richard Nixon, who was becoming increasingly mired in the Watergate scandal. His loyalty to the President, while consistent with his military training, made me mighty uncomfortable.

George Bush seemed suited to be the U.S. representative to China at a point when Sino-American relations were warming. He was passed over for Vice-President twice by Gerald Ford.

He ran for President in 1980 and was totally correct when he dubbed Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down fiscal plan as “voodoo economics.” Yet Reagan tapped Bush to be his Vice-Presidential candidate, and of course, they won.

I’m not much into conspiracy theories. But I’ve long wondered if the release of 52 Americans held hostage from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, Inauguration Day was more than a coincidence. Some cite Reagan’s tough talk, but I looked more at Bush’s CIA connections, where he was the director for a year, mostly in 1976.

Interestingly, I have few strong recollections of George H. W. Bush’s eight years as Vice-President (1981-1989), other than some odd perception that the man, whose plane was shot down by Japanese antiaircraft fire during World War II was some sort of patrician “wimp.”

I do recall the nasty 1988 Presidential campaign, first against Republicans such as Senator Bob Dole (KS), Congressman Jack Kemp (NY), former Governor Pete du Pont (DE) and conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson.

His acceptance speech referred to the “thousand points of light” as a vision of the United States. He picked largely unknown lightweight senator Dan Quayle (IN) as his running mate.

Though Bush found it difficult to articulate what he wanted to accomplish as president — “the vision thing”, he called it – “he handily beat Governor Michael Dukakis (MA) in the general election.” He was helped by some sleazy ads suggesting that his opponent was soft on crime. The media attack was orchestrated by the infamous political strategist Lee Atwater.

As the Los Angeles Times noted:

“During his single term in the White House, the Berlin Wall fell, newly democratic states sprang up across Central and Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union came to an end.” For a time he had an 89% approval rating.

George Herbert Walker Bush passed historic legislation, including the Americans With Disabilities Act (1990). On the other hand, he nominated to the Supreme Court the very problematic Clarence Thomas (1991), and not just over the sexual harassment allegations.

“But the end of the Cold War also signaled the end of an era of American bipartisanship that the long conflict with the Soviets had fostered. Bush, the product of an earlier era, seemed out of phase with a younger, harder-edged generation of conservatives rising in his party.”

His real undoing was going back on his convention pledge: “Read my lips: no new taxes” in response to “a short, but sharp, recession that took hold in 1990 and raised unemployment…” He lost his bid for re-election in 1992, “receiving less support than any incumbent president in 80 years.”

George H. W. Bush “had been a college athlete, a Navy pilot and war hero, a business success… [Yet] he often seemed out of place when trying to communicate with voters. His… small gaffes — appearing surprised by a supermarket price scanner… — fed an image of a man distant from the lives of average Americans.”

Frankly, his standing with the American public has taken an upturn, in no small part, because of his son George W. Bush’s two terms as the 43rd President. If the first Gulf War was considered successful, I certainly appreciate 41’s restraint in NOT taking over Baghdad, which 43’s administration did a dozen years later.

In his post-presidential life, George H. W. Bush “reemerged in the public eye for his humanitarian work in the wake of the tsunami that devastated southern Asia in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Through those efforts, he became close friends with Bill Clinton, the Democrat who had vanquished him.”

In 2011, President Obama awarded Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In retirement, he became known for skydiving into his 90s. I’d been concerned about his health, especially when Barbara, his wife of 73 years, died on April 17, 2018.

Whatever misgivings I had about George Herbert Walker Bush, I saw him as a basically dignified man who loved his country and his family. As Arthur, who met the man decades ago, said: “He was the last of the Old School Republicans, a type we’ll probably never see again: Kind, decent, respectable, someone with whom one could disagree without it being personal or bitter.”

Stan LeeBy the time I started reading comic books in the early 1970s, Stan Lee had just recently stopped scripting the bulk of the Marvel titles. He had ceded the title of editor-in-chief in 1972 to Roy Thomas, and other writers were joining the fold.

But Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber, was listed as publisher and his name was still prominent in every issue: “Stan Lee Presents” and his chatty Stan’s Soapbox. Then I started reading the back issues of the Amazing Spider-Man, via the reprint title Marvel Tales, drawn by Steve Ditko. This inevitably brought me to reading other 1960s works, mostly Lee/Jack Kirby material.

The Hollywood Reporter noted: “Beginning in the 1960s, the irrepressible and feisty Lee punched up his Marvel superheroes with personality, not just power. Until then, comic book headliners like those of DC Comics were square and well-adjusted, but his heroes had human foibles and hang-ups… The evildoers were a mess of psychological complexity.”

As I was learning about the Marvel Universe, I picked up The Origins of Marvel Comics, a book by Stan Lee which Alan David Doane lovingly wrote about. And I got Son of Origins and several other books.

Larry Wilson, who owned a comic book store rival of FantaCo in Albany, noted that “he taught me history, irony, bravery, how to be heroic, fairness, and humility. He gave hope to the downtrodden and told us that good defeats evil, racism is vile, and we all have a role to play in the cause of justice.”

Christopher Allen wrote: “I can’t begin to calculate his impact on me as not just a lover of comics but of reading, of words, and how he affected how I saw the world and the people in it, how even heroes have problems, how everyone deserves respect, and how we are responsible for using our abilities to try to make the world a little better for others.”

Chuck Rozanski, President of Mile High Comics wrote about being “a scared 10 year-old kid hiding in his room from an abusive father in 1965 who found hope and strength through Stan’s awesome early Spider-Man stories…. I took great solace from [Peter Parker’s] struggles to find his place in a hostile world, while still maintaining his decency and never losing his moral compass.

“In many regards, Stan Lee became my surrogate father through the power of his remarkable prose, which still resonates with children (and adults) today. He instilled positive values in me that continue to guide my life, and for that I will be eternally grateful to him.”

Back when my friend Fred Hembeck used to have a daily blog, he always wrote about Stan on December 28, Lee’s birthday. In 2009, wrote: “The man is Fantastic, Amazing, and Incredible, with the Uncanny ability to keep us in Suspense, all the while Astonishing us–even if he is a bit Strange at times!” For an earlier birthday note, see HERE.

John Trumbull collated recollections by people Lee worked with, including Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and many others. Even in his nineties, Stan was the face of Marvel, as his IMDB page makes clear, with dozens of movie appearances, game voiceovers and the like.

Comic book writer Mark Evanier has an interesting perspective. “The trouble with having mixed feelings about someone is that there are those who just want to dwell on the negative ones.”

Also: “Those of you who feel like I do that our friend Jack Kirby was wronged by credits in the past, please remember that Marvel now credits Jack where for decades they did not.” Stan, for his part, was almost always generous in describing Kirby and Ditko’s role in the Marvel method.

I was sadly aware that his last year or so was difficult. “Lee’s wife and partner in nearly everything, Joan Lee, died on July 6, 2017, leaving a void that made her husband… vulnerable to hangers-on who began to surround him.”

The Vanity Fair article, and title, are correct: Stan Lee’s True Legacy Is a Complicated Cosmic Mystery. Ditto the subtitle: “Marvel’s greatest showman was always misunderstood—by those who inflated his importance, and those who dismissed him as a boastful egomaniac.”

Finally, this public service message from Stan. RIP, true believer.
***
Now I Know: When a Court Ruled Whether the X-Men Are Human

Marie-SeverinNeil Simon was a writer whose work I appreciated in several media: He penned the screenplays of movies such as The Sunshine Boys, The Goodbye Girl, and California Suite I saw in the 1970s. His plays such as Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues in the 1980s I watched on local stages.

But it was the TV adaptation of the play Odd Couple (1970-1975), starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, that was my introduction to Simon. I only caught the 1968 movie considerably later. I even watched the short-lived 1982 TV remake with Ron Glass as Felix Unger and Demond Wilson as Oscar Madison.

Of course, the career of Neil Simon goes back to the early days of television. Simon’s hits on stage and screen made him the most commercially successfully playwright of the 20th century — and perhaps of all time.
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Marie Severin was a name I first knew as the main colorist at Marvel Comics in the 1960s while also doing the occasional penciling job. But she started as a colorist back in the late 1940s “when her older brother, comic book artist John Severin (1922-2012), asked her to color one of his stories for EC Comics.”

As a penciler, she also worked on Marvel’s parody comic book series, Not Brand Echh. And she co-created Spider-Woman in 1976, designing her iconic costume. Plus, everyone agreed that Marie Severin was one of the most delightful, funny and talented people who ever worked in comics.
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Russ Heath was one of the great comic book illustrators of the field. “Because he veered away from super-heroes and more ‘commercial’ genres, he often did not get the respect he deserved.”

Most people – my wife, for instance – know who Roy Lichtenstein was. Most folks who aren’t comic book fans don’t know Russ Heath. This This piece explains part of my loathing for Lichtenstein:

“One day in 1962, Lichtenstein walked down to the corner newsstand near his studio and bought a copy of DC Comics’ All-American Men at War #89, took it back to the studio, threw it on the overhead projector, and cranked out about a half-dozen paintings based on (swiped from) panels in that comic book, which he then sold for millions of dollars each.” Heath got nada.
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Gary Friedrich, best known as the co-creator of the motorcycle-riding Ghost Rider character for Marvel, died at the age of 75. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. He had a legal tussle with Marvel that was only partially satisfactory.
***
Kofi Annan is dead at 80. He came to embody the United Nations’ deepest aspirations and most ingrained flaws.

For some reason, keeping track of UN Secretaries-General – there aren’t that many – has long fascinated me. And I wanted the first one from sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana) to do well, a subject of much debate, despite his Nobel Peace Prize.
***
Every time I see that an older person of note dies, I read comments such as “Was he still alive?” They always seem astonished. For me, it’s totally the opposite. If I discover that a noteworthy person, in the realm of my interests, passed away in 2010, and I somehow missed it, THAT would surprise me.

ArethaInitially, I wasn’t going to write anything about Aretha Franklin, who defined an era as the Queen of Soul, dying of pancreatic cancer at the age 76 on August 16. But there were SO many tributes, some of them very interesting.

This piece recommends a specific playlist. But it also shared biography I didn’t see over and over: “Aretha was quirky. She was afraid to fly. She wouldn’t stay in a building over eight stories high. On stage, she was the epitome of power and confidence, but she wrestled with personal struggles that could have felled a lesser oak.

“Her mother died when she was 10. She had her first child at the age of 12 —and we can only imagine what sadness hides behind that story. She ate and starved and fought with body issues and insecurities for decades, and suffered through emotionally and physically abusive relationships and marriages. Yet, like all great artists, somehow she channeled all that pain and passion into something the world has never heard before and will never experience again.”

If you didn’t know before her death, you probably now know Aretha she was born to a musical family. She had more than 100 singles on the Billboard charts. She’s one of the most decorated Grammy winners of all time, nominated 44 times, winning 18. She was an underrated pianist. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And she was a civil rights activist.

Barack Obama said on his Facebook Page:
“America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.

“Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.

“Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song.”

The New York Times notes:
“Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ is the most empowering popular song ever. Could we have shown her more? Just a little bit, our critic writes.” I felt a little sorry for Otis Redding who wrote and recorded the song. But like no one, except maybe Johnny Cash, she would take an existing song and transform it to her own, making it anthemic.

Listen to:

Daydreaming

Let It Be

Aretha Franklin & Hugh Jackman – Somewhere – 59th Tony Awards – 2005

Obama’s Inauguration (2009)

Legendary Live Performances

Sweet Bitter Love, which was the first thing I played after hearing of her passing

Coverville 1230

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – “Murphy Brown” and Aretha Franklin

What’s My Line? (taped 9/9/1974) Mystery Guest Aretha Franklin (at 12:30)

Dustbury wrote: “We are honored to have been alive when Aretha was in her prime, and centuries from now, people will envy us for having been so fortunate.”

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