Wonderful Tunes Provided By Friends. Wild Tangents Provided By Me.

RIP Dobie Gray

Singer Dobie Gray died yesterday 12/6. He was 71. No one is exactly sure what his given name was but he was given the nickname Dobie by Sonny Bono. Gray scored two big hits with “In With The In Crowd” (1965) and “Drift Away” (1973). He spent several years on Broadway with the Los Angeles cast of “Hair.” This is Dobie Gray singing one of my all time favorite songs, “Drift Away.”

“Hair” is one of my favorite movie musicals. I really wish I’d had the opportunity to see him performing in it. I bet he was fantastic.RIP Mr. Gray.

Actor Harry Morgan died today 12/7 after a bout with pneumonia. He was 96. Harry Morgan starred in dozens of movies in his long career including “High Noon” and “The Ox-Bow Incident.” He also starred in several TV shows including “Dragnet” and “M*A*S*H.” I’ve seen him in several roles but I’ll remember him best as Col. Sherman T. Potter from M*A*S*H. Here’s a clip from an interview he did. He’s talking about working with Elvis in the 1966 film “Frankie and Johnny.”

Thank you for all the years of entertainment. RIP Mr. Morgan.

RIP Alan Sues

Comedian Alan Sues died of an apparent heart attack last Thursday, December 1. He was 85. Sues got his start in stand-up but he was best known for his recurring roles on “Rowan And Martin’s Laugh In.” He had a long career in theater when Laugh In went off the air. Here’s Alan as Uncle Al the kiddie’s pal.

RIP Mr Sues.

S is for the Sweethearts Of Rhythm (aka The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm).  The Sweethearts were the first integrated, all women’s band in the United States. They started out as an all female, all African American band at Piney Woods Country Life School in the 1920s. They were called The Swinging Rays Of Rhythm and they toured to raise money to support the school. In 1941 several of the band’s members fled from the tour bus when they learned that they would not graduate  because their busy touring schedule had not allowed enough time for them to complete their academic studies. They formed an independent band, added  musicians from other ethnic groups and changed their name to The International Sweethearts of Rhythm. The band folded in 1949 when its most popular member Eleanor “Tiny” Davis became unable to tour with the group. Here they are in a soundie performing the song “Jump Children”

It’s a shame that there no information about most of these women on the web. Most of them don’t have even basic Wikipedia stub articles. I’m to trying save a few trees by borrowing and not buying books, so I  plan to go to my teeny tiny local library (which, by the way, does have it’s own Wikipedia page) and have them find me a  book about the Sweethearts. I like to think that I’ll sign in to Wikipedia and at least start a page for the 15 unrepresented members, but I’ve met me so I know what I’m like. Still, I do hope someone out there will help these women earn their richly deserved place in free online encyclopedia history!

A-Z Ladies of Jazz R

R is for jazz violinist Regina Carter. Regina started taking piano lessons at age 2 but she switched to violin at 4. As a teenager she played with the Youth Division of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She began studying jazz in college and, upon graduation, she began working with some of the top names in pop and jazz music. She released her first solo album in 1995. In 2006 she was awarded the MacArthur Fellows Program grant for her outstanding work. Here’s a video of Regina performing “Lady Be Good” (Gershwin, Gershwin 1924).

Back when I wrote a post about Victor Borge, who also claims to have started taking lessons at 2, I called “no way.” But since two musicians now claim toddler tutelage, I decided to check into it. Sure enough, You Tube has at least one video of a two year old playing at a piano recital. I guess I just have to eat my words (which is okay because my words are quite chocolatey and delicious.)

A-Z Ladies Of Music Q

Q is for Queen Latifah. Her given name is Dana Owens but she was given the nickname Latifah (which is Arabic for gentle and kind) by her cousin. She started beatboxing for the hip-hop group Fresh Ladies in 1988 and by 1989, at the age of 19, she had her first recording contract.  By 1991 she began making guest appearances on television and in 1993 she starred in the sitcom “Living Single.” Though her primary focus has been on acting, she has never lost sight of her musical roots. After her Academy Award nominated performance in the musical “Chicago” (2003) she shifted her focus from rap and hip-hop to jazz vocals. Since we have no women in hip-hop on the survey yet, I’m going to play Queen Latifah’s first hit “Ladies First.” This song was #35 on VH1’s greatest hip-hop songs of all time.

It blows my mind that there is such a thing as a hip-hop old fogey but there is and I am it. Well, if I’m honest, I should be a hip-hop old fogey but I was always too much of a nerd to ever really be a huge fan. Still, since I was a young person as hip hop became popular, I will claim my old lady right to declare. “These darn kids today with their Puffy Dogs and their Snoopy Daddys don’t know what good hip-hop is.”

Also, “get off my lawn!”

A-Z Ladies Of Music P

P is for composer Rachel Portman. Rachel has written scores for television and stage but she is best known for her work in film. She is the first woman to win the Richard Kirk Award for composers who have made a significant contribution to film or television. She is also the first woman to win an Oscar in the category of “Best Original Film Score” for her work on “The Cider House Rules.”  (1999) Here’s the lovely theme from “The Cider House Rules” with pretty but unrelated pictures of nature.

I had a passage planned about how today’s video is a doggie paradise (trees plus critters to chase), but I just got a call from my mom. One of my aunts passed away suddenly and unexpectedly today. I think I will just listen to this beautiful piece of music and remember her. RIP Aunt Dee.

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