26 July 2011

When The Cab Is At The Door, You Have To Take That Ride

Last night I got to thinking about the sudden yet not-completely-unexpected death of Amy Winehouse. She was 27 years old and joined an inauspicious group of famous people who left this physical plane at a young age.

First, I want to note that I didn't say "she left us too soon". Amy died when she was meant to die, not a moment too soon or too late. The world may not have been ready for her to go. But that is our fail of expectation. People die. Sometimes we're ready for it, as when someone suffers from a long-term illness. Sometimes we aren't, as when someone makes a quick exit that we didn't see coming (but should have). That's life.

My grandmother died of heart failure at the young age of 69. She was a feisty woman. She embodied life. But her time was done. I don't agree with it. My mother doesn't agree with it. My father doesn't. My siblings don't. My uncle and cousins don't. She was the dearest person in the world to me and I still hear her laugh, see her smile, smell her perfume and cigarettes. I wanted her to stick around long enough to see me married and with great-grandkids for her to enjoy. But them's the breaks. Her time on this earth was over.

One of my heroes and role models, Melvin Ray Batten, died around the same age and the same time. Mr. Batten was my high school music director. He introduced me to choral music. He taught me how to sing and how to read music. He planted in a small, frail, insecure boy the seed of self confidence. He showed me that the only thing that stands between me and what I want to achieve is me. I wasn't ready for him to go. A good number of people weren't either. But it was his time.

All of that is to say this: people die. We wish they could stick around forever. But they can't. That's not the way this universe was arranged. All we can do is honor their lives, acknowledge their memories, and share their love.

At some point during my week, The Lord Bless You And Keep You will play in my head. I always wear a locket with a picture of my grandmother in it. And I have Back To Black in my iTunes library.

We best honor those we've lost by never forgetting them.

22 July 2011

Music Video Friday: I Am Glad, Cause I'm Finally Returning Back Home By Eduard Khil

You may not recognize the name of the artist or the title of this 1966 television performance, but I guarantee you that you've seen the video. There have been a ton of parodies and remixes to this Internet meme and I've watched or listened to a fair number of them.

But this remix by Bob Rovsky is my favorite of the bunch. It tactfully combines the playfulness and rib-poking that an Internet meme shows the artist with a reverence to the artist and the original material.

Without further ado, I present to you the earworm of the day. You're very welcome.

15 July 2011

Music Video Friday: Wear My Hat By Phil Collins

No other artist ruled the 1980's like Phil Collins. From Genesis' Duke album with its wildly popular (and, IMHO, totally craptastic) "Misunderstanding" through his own solo album, ...But Seriously, you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing something in which he was involved.

Oh, Diarist. You're such an idiot. Everyone knows that the 1980's was the Decade Of The King Of Pop.

As a solo recording artist, I fully agree with you. There was no other act in music who could touch Michael Jackson. But Jackson didn't rule ... didn't own the 1980's the way Phil Collins did. Let's look at Collins' track record:
  • All four of his solo albums released from 1981 to 1989 cracked the Top 10, with two of them going to the Number 1 spot and all of them reaching multi-Platinum sales.
  • He provided Number 1 hit songs for three films during that time period.
  • His work with Genesis saw three of their four offerings break the Top 10. (Duke, released in 1980, was the worst performer, reaching Number 11.) All four of those albums went Platinum as well. Four of the singles released from these albums reached the Top 10 with one going all the way to Number One.
  • Of all the albums Collins produced, twelve were released in the 1980's. Including his solo work, he produced five Top 10 albums, with two going Number 1, and seventeen Top 10 singles, with six hitting Number 1.
And let's not even get started on the songs, concerts, and television shows on which he guest-performed. If you want more detail, The Eighties Club has a great run-down of what the man was up to during those ten years.

Anyway ... all that was to say that Phil had amassed a large and looming shadow over the music industry and had captured the hearts, minds, and wallets of the general public. He was poised to continue his domination of the music business deep into the next decade.

And then 1993 happened. His album that year wasn't a complete flop by reaching the Number 13 spot. But it most certainly took all the wind out of his sails. Now I'm all for artists following their hearts and making MUSIC, but music is a business and momentum is everything. And Both Sides killed his momentum. It could have been the solemn music or the IMPORTANT lyrics, but I think it was the decision to record the album by himself without his band that did him in. It gave it an unfinished demo, phoned-in feel. I think if he had brought his band in ... and produce it in a less-polished fashion ... he could have still reached that intimate experience and keep the attention of the general public.

Three years later, Phil released Dance Into The Light, a true "return to form". The album was light and bright but still managed to address IMPORTANT themes. AND it didn't contain any use of that blasted drum machine! (Seriously, dude, you're a drummer!) It's a shame that Both Sides ever happened. I think that if Dance Into The Light had followed ...But Seriously, it would have done much better than its Top 21 high point; it really deserved better than that. Maybe it wouldn't have been his third Number 1 album, but it would have been his fifth Top 10.

One of my favorite songs from Dance Into The Light is the completely pointless "Wear My Hat". Now I don't mean pointless as in "having no excuse for being". I mean pointless as in "having that frozen yogurt hurt my waistline but OMGZ was it good". The song is a funny poke a celebrity groupies and the video, while it isn't the most clever he's done, is still fun to watch.

This song ... this album ... went a long way to patching things up with fans and getting him back on track again. That is until he went and fucked things up again with Testify.

08 July 2011

01 July 2011

Music Video Friday: The Declaration Of Independence

There is no music video today. In three days, we will celebrate the day our country was born. Sure, I could post some patriotic ditty or another but for some reason I feel the need to be a bit more somber of America's 235th birthday. So instead, I offer you a scene from John Adams.