Archive for the ‘Departures’ Category

‘If You See Your Brother . . .’

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

So Glen Campbell’s journey has ended. The Arkansas-born musician – and how slender a reed that word seems, given Campbell’s accomplishments! – died Tuesday in Nashville from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.

As happens when someone of Campbell’s stature passes, it’s all over the news, and there seems to be no point in my repeating what others have reported at venues with wider reaches than this one. The New York Times’ coverage is here, and the report from Rolling Stone is here.

And I guess I’ll share here a link to the piece I wrote the day after the Texas Gal and I saw Campbell and his band at the Paramount Theatre here in St. Cloud. The show took place in May 2011, after Campbell had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but before that diagnosis was made public. When Campbell and his family made the public aware of his illness the next month, the Texas Gal and I both nodded, recalling moments during the show when Campbell has seemed a little confused.

Beyond the memories of that wonderful evening at the Paramount, I have plenty of Campbell’s music around: A total of 103 tracks on the digital shelves encompassing the four great 1960s albums, Gentle On My Mind, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Wichita Lineman and Galveston plus his 1968 album of duets with Bobbie Gentry and some other bits and pieces. And rummaging through them this morning, one of them brought me an “Oh, yes,” moment.

I have no idea what Glen Campbell would want for his musical epitaph, maybe something from his last album, Adiós, released earlier this year, or maybe something else from the final cluster of albums released since his condition was made public. But one of the tracks on my digital shelves spoke to me this morning. It went to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1969, peaked at No. 2 on the magazine’s country chart and was No. 1 for a week on the easy listening chart. Here’s “Try A Little Kindness.”

Another Departure . . .

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

I woke this morning to the news of another musical loss:

Singer/songwriter Michael Johnson, who spent a good share of his performing life in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, died Tuesday at his Minneapolis home. Jon Bream of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune offered a look at Johnson’s life and career in today’s paper, and that story is here.

The headline on Bream’s story highlights Johnson’s recording of “Bluer Than Blue,” and it’s true that “Bluer . . .” was Johnson’s greatest chart success, spending three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart during the spring of 1978 while going to No. 12 on the magazine’s Hot 100. And I recall hearing “Bluer Than Blue” on the radio during my days in Monticello, just as I recall hearing Johnson’s 1979 single “This Night Won’t Last Forever,” as it went to No. 5 on what had become the Adult Contemporary chart and to No. 19 on the Hot 100.

Both of those were fine singles, and beyond the musical pleasure I got from them, there was a little smidgen of joy as well that the man who made them was based in Minnesota. (Johnson, who was born in Colorado, made his home in Minnesota from 1969 to 1985, then returned here in 2007 after spending the intervening years in Nashville.) But that Minnesota connection is only one of three connections I have to Johnson’s music.

Another connection came through this blog during its early years, when I was exploring the music of Patti Dahlstrom. (Posts about her and her four 1970s albums are here.) During our email exchanges at the time, Patti noted that she and Tom Snow had written “Dialogue,” the title track of Johnson’s 1979 album, and she sent me an mp3 of the demo she and Snow had recorded. Here’s what Johnson did with it:

And then there was the first connection, the most visceral of the three. Johnson’s first album, the 1973 release There Is A Breeze, was one of those that we had on tape at the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark, during my 1973-74 college adventure. It probably didn’t get dropped into the tape player as frequently as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or the Allman Brothers Band’s Brothers & Sisters, but it was there.

And, as I’ve noted about the other music I heard in the lounge during those Danish days and nights, it only takes a few notes of any of the tunes on There Is A Breeze to remind me how those days and nights felt as well as how important they were in making me who I am today.

Of the seven or so mainstay albums were had on tape during our time in Denmark, Johnson’s There Is A Breeze was probably the last one I looked for, and it was difficult to find, though I admit my searching during the years 1974-77 was sporadic. I had other stuff to do and other music to find. My chance came during the autumn of 1977. I was working as a public relations officer at the St. Cloud CETA Center – CETA was a federal jobs program – and a co-worker brought in a box of records he was going to take across the street to Axis, a store that sold new and used records along with leather coats and hats.

And in the box was a copy of There Is A Breeze, which I gladly took home, listening to it that evening in the lake cabin where the Other Half and I were living for a couple months until we found out where my permanent job search would take me. And the first strains of the first track, “Pilot Me,” whisked me a few years back and four thousand miles away.

As I noted above, I remember hearing Michael Johnson’s two most successful singles in 1978 and 1979, but I have to admit I’ve not followed him closely. I had a vinyl copy of Dialogue, his 1979 album, but it did not survive the Great Vinyl Sell-off of last winter. And rummaging through the ’Net a couple of years ago, I found a two-CD repackaging of Johnson’s first three albums, beginning with There Is A Breeze, so I was also able to let my vinyl copy of that album go, too. (It was worn and a little banged, and no longer sounded very good.)

I suppose that if I were writing for a newspaper, I’d have to take into account – as did Jon Bream for the Minneapolis paper – all of Michael Johnson’s career as I write this morning. But what we do here – what Odd and Pop and I try to do – is to consider the music that’s mattered to me over the years. And with a stop at “Dialogue” to salute a distant friend, and acknowledging as well that Michael Johnson made a lot of very good music in his seventy-two years, I have to say . . .

Well, anyone who reads this space regularly knows where that’s going: There Is A Breeze is one of the treasures of my life, and here’s the opening track, “Pilot Me.”

Grieving

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Mom died Monday. The hospice nurse called me about 3 that afternoon and said that Mom had been attentive and chatty during their visit. The nurse said she’d left the room for a few moments, and when she came back, she said it was obvious Mom had had another stroke, this one pretty big: She was slumped over in her chair and was generally unresponsive.

The care attendants and the nurse put her in bed and checked on her every hour, and they said she stirred when they changed her position, but that’s all. (I kept in touch by phone because the memory care unit where Mom lived during her last days has been putting new laminate flooring into its rooms, and the fumes that the flooring is off-gassing made me very ill every time I visited.) And about 9:30 Monday evening, the hospice nurse called and told me Mom had passed.

The funeral is Tuesday. Weekend events long-scheduled in Chicago for my niece and her family necessitated a delay in services, and maybe that’s a good thing. After a whirlwind two days putting plans in place, it’s good to have some downtime, some time to feel and to grieve.

I last talked to Mom on Sunday. It was a brief conversation about problems with her cable TV and her newspaper delivery.

I last saw her on June 1, the day she turned ninety-five-and-a-half. We met, along with my sister, at Dairy Queen, where she had a hot fudge and caramel sundae. She’d had a whirlpool bath and a massage that morning, and she was alert and talkative, but she was moving very slowly and uncertainly with her walker. That evening, the attendants at Prairie Ridge wheeled her over to the adjacent Ridgeview Place for a musical performance, a pretty good end to a good day.

My last sight of her was when she got into my sister’s car at Dairy Queen. She was clearly weary, but she was smiling as she waved goodbye to me.

She died just three days after the fourteenth anniversary of my dad’s death. And wherever she went Monday night, Dad was there to greet her. So here’s the lovely “Mom and Dad’s Waltz,” by Hugo Montenegro. It was on the 1963 album Country and Western.

Gregg Allman, 1947-2017

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

I can’t tell you when I first noticed Gregg Allman’s voice, but I know where I was.

That first moment might have been during the autumn of 1973, but it more likely was early the next year. Either way, it happened in the lounge of the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark. Among the small collection of cassette tapes we St. Cloud State students had pooled in the lounge were the Allman Brothers Band’s Eat A Peach and Brothers & Sisters, as well as the first Duane Allman anthology, which had on its fourth side a few other tracks from the band.

The lounge was the epicenter of life for those of us living at the hostel – a group I joined in late January 1974 after living for about five months with a Danish family – and music from the tape player was one of the constants of time in the lounge. And although I no doubt heard one of the tracks by the Allman Brothers during my brief visits to the hostel in the months before I moved there, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t until I took up residence there that I sat still in the lounge long enough to truly listen to Gregg Allman’s voice in front of the band he and his late brother had assembled.

This matters of course, because Gregg Allman died last Saturday in Savannah, Georgia, from liver cancer. To music fans, his tale is familiar: The Florida childhood, the early recordings with his brother, Duane, as record companies tried to shoehorn the brothers’ talents into boxes, the formation of the Allman Brothers Band and the world success that followed, then addiction, pain, missteps both personal and professional, the resurrection of the ABB (albeit without his late brother and the also deceased original bassist Berry Oakley, and later, original guitarist Dickey Betts), illness and so much more, right to the end.

If anyone wants to write a Southern gothic rock opera, the story is there for the taking.

As interesting as the story is, I’ll leave it to others; here’s Rolling Stone’s piece on Allman’s death and life. To me, what mattered was the music, especially those albums I heard in Denmark and acquired soon after I came home, those and the other early works I soon collected as well. The music I’d heard in the lounge, I knew – and still know – note for note, having been immersed in it nearly every evening for something more than two months. The stuff that was new to me – most of the group’s self-titled 1969 debut, 1970’s Idlewild South and the 1971 Fillmore East album – took longer to work its way into me but it did so eventually. And I have some of Allman’s work – both with the ABB and as a solo artist – from the later years into the 1990s, as well, although I don’t know that music as well.

So, like much of the music I listened during the years from, oh, 1969 into 1975, the Allman Brothers Band’s early work, with Allman’s voice, gruff, bluesy and tender by turns, leading the way, is part of my foundation.

Still, I try not to let the music I love get trapped in time, to let it belong only to one year, one decade, one moment. That’s hard for any music lover, I think, but it seems especially hard for me, given my fascination with how music and memory entwine. I don’t think that Gregg Allman’s work – as the voice of the ABB and on his own – is frozen like that for me, locked in the Pro Pace lounge. “Dreams,” from The Allman Brothers Band, popped up on a CD in the car the other day, and as I drove, I was listening to a song that mattered right then, not just to a memory. I thought about that as I drove and listened, and I was pleased.

And “Dreams,” from 1969, seems to be a good place to close this awkward appreciation of Gregg Allman.

Saturday Single No. 536

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

So, a chance to breathe. And to rewind to two weeks ago today, when I headed over to my recently discovered barber shop, Barbers on Germain, where Russ has been clear-cutting my scalp since sometime early this year.

On the way over – not far; just across the Mississippi and west about a mile – I slid into the CD player a Time-Life anthology of hits from 1964, and as I drove, up popped Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.” I knew the record, but only a little, not nearly as well as I know his 1950s work that was a major part of the foundation of rock ’n’ roll, the records like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and the rest.

And I realized – not for the first time – that I’d not offered anything here to note Chuck Berry’s passing on March 18. Over the years here, I’ve noted the passing of many artists, but I imagine that if I were to take the time to track out the subjects of those pieces, my choices of which artists’ passings to note might seem idiosyncratic. That’s likely no surprise. But to ignore Chuck Berry?

So I thought, as I headed up the sidewalk to Barbers on Germain with the strains of “You Never Can Tell” running through my head – “C’est la vie,” say the old folks. “It goes to show you never can tell.” – that I should probably do something here about the man and his music. Well, c’est la vie, indeed. The following Monday was the start of two weeks of dealing with changes in my mom’s life, as I noted here yesterday.

I’m not going to say that Chuck Berry’s music, life and passing are now old news: The edition of Rolling Stone that came into my mailbox yesterday has Berry on the cover. But I’ve read too many tributes to the man at too many blogs and online publications in the past month to have any assurances that whatever I offer here would be anything other than echoes of those pieces.

So I think back to that drive to the barber shop. As “You Never Can Tell” came out of the speaker, I thought about Dave Marsh’s comments in his 1989 ranking of the top 1,001 singles, The Heart of Rock & Soul. He ranked “You Never Can Tell” at No. 341, writing:

Chuck returned from doing time on his trumped-up Mann Act charge in 1964 as if his flow of hits had never been interrupted. The new batch included two of his finest, “Promised Land” and “You Never Can Tell.”

“You Never Can Tell” makes an obvious break with Berry’s earlier format, not so much by prominently featuring Johnny Johnson’s piano as by using it with a New Orleans-style beat.

Had prison altered Chuck’s gifts in any way? Nah, he was bitter and hostile before he went in. And still a poet when he came out. How else explain: “They furnished off an apartment with a two-room Roebuck sale / The coolerator was crammed with teevee dinners and ginger ale.” It may not read as great as it sings, but then, neither does the rhythm of everyday life.

So here, to catch up and to offer my respect and thanks to Chuck Berry, is “You Never Can Tell.” It went to No. 14 in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

(Quotation corrected after first posting.)

Saturday Single No. 518

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

Damn, but 2016 is getting to be greedy. Just in the past few weeks, we’ve lost Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, and then yesterday, Sharon Jones.

Now, none of that – and this holds true for many of the deaths of prominent musicians this year – was a surprise. Cohen and Russell were known to be in ill health and were getting up there in years, and Jones’ travails with pancreatic cancer were well known. (As most likely know, that’s a particularly nasty cancer, hard to diagnose and to counter; it took the Texas Gal’s father about a dozen years ago.)

But still, as the musicians of one’s life regularly exit stage sinister, one pauses. As I wrote last January, when David Bowie died:

[W]hen the folks who provided the music of our formative years leave us, part of the background of our lives is taken away, too. And we begin to feel like an actor on a stage would likely feel if the scenery, the props and the furniture began to disappear one item at a time: confused, unmoored and maybe a little bit alone.

The “formative years” part doesn’t truly fit for Sharon Jones, of course, as her recordings all were released this century, but it feels as if it does, and I think that’s because the music that she and the Dap-Kings laid down sounded and – more importantly – felt like the soul and R&B music that I heard from the radios of my youth. As to Cohen, many of his songs, if not his own performances, came out of nearby speakers during my high school and college days, offered by voices as disparate as those of Joe Cocker and Judy Collins.

Then there was Leon Russell: His joyous barroom piano stylings, his idiosyncratic voice and delivery, his shepherding of the Tulsa Sound, and his sardonic persona all made him one of my favorites during my college days. That favorites room was a crowded place even then, but after hearing his work with Joe Cocker, with Bob Dylan and especially with George Harrison at the Concert for Bangladesh, I wedged him in.

My regard for the three is evident on the shelves, both physical and digital: I have, I think, all of Sharon Jones’ CDs; all of my Leon Russell LPs will survive the ongoing winnowing, and I have much more of his music in mp3 form; there’s less of Leonard Cohen’s music here – a few albums in digital form, one CD and one LP – but most of the time, I’d rather hear other folks doing his songs, and there are a lot of Cohen covers available here.

Of the three deaths, I guess Russell’s hits me hardest, but given the seemingly continuous series of blows this year, every one of them hurts. And the metaphoric stage setting I mentioned above just got a little more spare this week, as it has on a seemingly regular basis all year long.

I managed to throw a brief tribute to Russell into Cabaret De Lune last Sunday: During an interlude that called for about forty seconds of piano, I tossed in about twelve bars of “Superstar,” the tune Russell co-wrote with Bonnie Bramlett. And tomorrow, at our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, we musicians will be performing Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (and leading the congregation in the chorus). I’ll be adding harmonica to the mix.

As for Sharon Jones, all I can do is salute her in this inadequate space. Here’s the aptly titled “People Don’t Get What They Deserve.” It’s from Jones and the Dap-Kings’ 2014 album Give The People What They Want, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 506

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

The news came in last evening: Glenn Yarbrough, folk singer, member of the folk trio the Limeliters, and featured performer on the turntable in the rec room of my youth, passed on yesterday in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 86.

Yarbrough was never a superstar in the world of music. He was, though, a bright light in the folk universe. With the Limeliters from 1959 to 1963 and then on his own, he was a folk singer who became a gentle interpreter of music ranging from Rod McKuen’s sentimental poetry to songs from some of the great popular songwriters of the rock era.

And the glow of Yarbrough’s light mattered to me. As I’ve noted a few times over the years, Yarbrough entered my life when my sister’s Vietnam-bound boyfriend left her two of Yarbrough’s albums in 1968: The Lonely Things, a 1966 collection of McKuen’s sad (and sometimes manipulative) songs, and For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, a 1967 album on which Yarbrough interpreted songs by Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Stephen Stills, and Phil Ochs, among others. I likely listened to them more than she did, and the two albums became part of who I am to this day; they remain a central portion of my musical universe, a universe that nearly fifty years ago had very little congruence with the musical universes of those with whom I went to school and shared my day-to-day life.

It’s hard to be different, of course, and when I was fifteen, I felt utterly out of place in the world of high school games (not realizing for many years, of course, that nearly every one of the others who crowded the halls of St. Cloud Tech High School felt utterly out of place as well). One of the balms for me in those years was the music on those two Yarbrough albums; as their music filled the basement rec room, it filled as well some of the empty space inside me. From early 1968 to mid-1972 (when my sister got married and moved to the Twin Cities, taking her records with her), those two albums were never far from what these days we would call my playlist.

When I was lovelorn, there was “The Lonely Things,” the title tune of the album of McKuen’s work; the same record at those moments offered sad solace with “People Change” and “So Long, San Francisco.” When I was hopeful, the For Emily . . . album supported my dreams of a special someone with “Gently Here Beside Me” (written by the duo of Marc Fontenoy and Anne Saray), mixed with the romantic but hard-edged realism of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Until It’s Time For You To Go.” Those left me with a view of romance that was certainly less sappy and also less cynical than McKuen’s view, even with that latter view filtered through Yarbrough’s clear, sweet tenor voice.

After my sister left with her records, it took me some time to find good copies of those two albums (and the rest of her relatively small collection, as well), but fairly clean copies of the two Yarbrough albums of my youth now sit in the LP stacks, joined by about ten more of the singer’s albums (and they will all survive the winnowing process currently underway), and I have CDs of those first two as well.

Individual tracks from those CDs – or from several other Yarbrough albums – pop up occasionally when I have the RealPlayer on random, and all of For Emily . . . and The Lonely Things are among the mix on the iPod, as is Yarbrough’s only Top 40 hit, “Baby The Rain Must Fall,” which went to No. 12 in 1965 (and went to No. 2 on the Billboard chart now called Adult Contemporary). When the tracks slide in at random, they’re a sometimes bittersweet reminder of a time and place that had a great deal to do with forming the person I see in the mirror each morning.

And when on occasion, I put one of the two CDs – For Emily . . . or The Lonely Things – into the bedside player as I retire, I’m almost always transported back nearly fifty years to the times when an uncertain teen found comfort and some counsel in the work of a gentle man who ended a portion of his journey through time yesterday. In those late-night moments, I’m grateful to Yarbrough as I have been for decades, grateful for that comfort and counsel. I’m sure I was not alone in finding those things in Yarbrough’s music over the years, just as I’m sure that many – maybe even millions – share my sorrow this morning.

“All my world, somehow changing,” Yarbrough sang on “Comes and Goes” from For Emily . . . “Could it be all things pass into time?” He knew, of course, the answer to that rhetorical question, for the song (written by Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley) ends, “Helpless but thankful am I, for I know that it’s just one more change when I die.”

To mark, to celebrate, and to grieve that “one more change,” Glenn Yarbrough’s “Comes and Goes” – found on the 1967 album For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her – is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Dearly Beloved . . .’

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

And now Prince.

It’s been a hell of a year already for musicians: We’ve lost, among numerous others, Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, Sir George Martin, Keith Emerson, Steve Young and Andy (Thunderclap) Newman.*

And, as I said, now Prince, who was found dead yesterday morning (April 21) at his Paisley Park complex in the Minneapolis suburb of Channassen. He was 57.

This one hit me hard, harder than Frey, harder than Bowie, harder than Sir George. And that startled me at first. But as I read the news yesterday morning and afternoon – sketchy and uncomfirmed at first, then sadly certain – and as I listened to a 1993 collection of Prince’s hits while waiting for the Texas Gal at the doctor’s office, I came to a few conclusions.

First, he’s one of ours here in Minnesota. Born in Minneapolis, put together his bands and his craft and skill here, helped create what came to be known as the Minneapolis Sound, put the city – including First Avenue – onto the world’s pop culture map with Purple Rain, and he stayed here through his fame. He would record elsewhere and was famous everywhere. But his home was here.

Second, his age. He was younger than I am. So many people who were interviewed yesterday said that Prince’s music was the soundtrack to their youths. By the time Prince began releasing records and moved toward fame, I was a young adult; I was in my early thirties by the time Purple Rain came along and he was the world’s star. I knew some of his music fairly well, and some of it just a little. But it was never central to my life the way it was to those younger than I. And there’s something a little chilling there, a small feeling of another turn in my life, being older – by only a bit, this time – than the artist who has passed on and much older than the folks whom that artist reached most clearly.

And then there’s the minor connection I had with Prince. I mentioned it at Facebook when I heard the news:

My Prince moment: I played in a band during the 1990s with Prince’s cousin, Chazz. One day, I was walking in Uptown Minneapolis when a long limo came up the street and Chazz leaned out the window and hollered, “Yo! Whiteray!” At the next practice, Chazz told me that he’d been in the limo with Prince and that Prince had asked “Who’s Whiteray?” Chazz explained that during a break at one of our gigs, an audience member had come up to me and said, “When you play keys, man, you move like a white Ray Charles.” From then on, Chazz told his cousin, I was Whiteray. Chazz said Prince thought for a moment, then nodded. “Cool name,” Prince said.

My brief friendship with Chazz – it faded after we quit playing together, as connections often do – brought me another Prince-related memory I cherish, as well. Chazz and I, for a couple of years, played in another band that practiced at a deeply exurban home northwest of Minneapolis, and when Chazz drove, I got to listen to tapes he and his cousin and their friend André Cymone made in the years they were working together. That was some of the best funk and R&B I’ve ever heard, driving through night-time woods, once with Comet Hale-Bopp high overhead as I listened to a superlative version of the Delfonics’ “La-La (Means I Love You)” coming from the speakers.

(I don’t know if that version of the tune – or any of the stuff Chazz played for me as we drove – has ever been officially released; I don’t think so, based on what I see at Discogs.com. I imagine that a lot of it, and much more as well, will eventually be released over the next several years.)

All of that combined yesterday and left me a little aimless, a little lost, grieving in my own way, I guess. As I noted above, I listened to The Hits 1 as I waited for the Texas Gal while she saw the doctor, and even though I never dug as deeply into Prince’s music as I did the work of many others, much of that 1993 CD was familiar, if not ingrained in my bones. And most of it was brilliant, underlining for me as I listened how much we’ve once again lost.

I was going to close this with a video of Prince’s apocalyptic 1992 hit “7,” but I can find no video for the track (which isn’t surprising). So the best I can offer as a conclusion are the words Price spoke in the introduction to “Let’s Go Crazy” from 1984’s Purple Rain:

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world

A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night.

Prince

*And those names are just of those who are well-represented in my musical collection and memories. In this year’s toll, there are a fair number of other names that brought a “really?” to my mind. For a more thorough accounting, visit Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, where the Dude keeps track of each month’s musical losses.

George Martin, 1926-2016

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

From the string quartet on Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” to finding the sonic equivalent of chanting Tibetan monks on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” George Martin – as many have already written in the wake of his death yesterday – deserved the title of “the fifth Beatle” more than anyone else.

I could say that Martin, who was 90, guided the Beatles through the bulk of their recording years together, but I then wonder how one guides the equivalent of a revolution or an earthquake? But however you want to categorize it, for much of their time as Beatles, the group told Martin how they wanted their music to sound and Martin – with huge assists from Geoff Emerick and other engineers, of course – figured out how to do that.

Sometimes, of course, it was the other way around, with one good example coming near the very start when Martin insisted that “Please Please Me” be a fast rock number instead of the ballad that John Lennon and McCartney had planned.

And sometimes, Martin’s influence on the greatest band of all time wasn’t directly involved with the sound at all: I’ve read in several places that after the disaster of the Get Back sessions and Phil Spector’s ham-handed production on the album that was eventually released as Let It Be, McCartney asked Martin if he’d work with the band and produce another album. Despite his reservations after the Get Back/Let It Be debacle, Martin agreed. And the brilliant Abbey Road was the result.

During his long career with EMI and then on his own, Martin worked, of course, with many other musicians and groups, but his name will always be linked most closely with the four young men from Liverpool whose aural visions and dreams he helped make real.

(I’ve seen a lot of good pieces online about Martin and the Beatles since yesterday. One of the best came from Justin Wm. Moyer of the Washington Post. It’s here.)

As a musical capstone to this inevitably insufficient post, I thought for moment about Sean Connery’s recitation of the lyrics to “In My Life,” a piece that closed the 1998 album Martin intended to be his last production. But I’ve offered it before, and In My Life turned out not to be the last: Martin and his son Giles remixed and combined numerous Beatles’ tunes for the soundtrack for Cirque du Soleil’s 2005 show Love.

So I poked around the shelves and found something a little more obscure: A 1968 album titled By George! Credited to George Martin & His Orchestra, it included covers of a few Beatles tunes. From that album, here’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

A Bad January

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

I am deeply bummed.

January, not even two-thirds over, has been a hard month for music fans. David Bowie, gone January 10. Dale Griffin, founding member and drummer for Mott The Hoople, gone January 17. And Glenn Frey of the Eagles, gone January 18.

Now, none of the three – Bowie, Mott The Hoople or the Eagles – were central to my musical life. But I know the music. All three of those acts are well represented on the vinyl shelves and in the digital files as well. All three of them – Bowie and the Eagles a little more prominently – were part of the background music of my college years.

And as the deaths of all three came into the news over the last week, and the tributes rolled past (especially on Facebook – the modern equivalent, as I’ve noted before, of other eras’ public square), it felt like three body blows, each of them more potent than I ever would have expected. And I wondered why.

I am not certain. I have some ideas, centering on the fact that when the folks who provided the music of our formative years leave us, part of the background of our lives is taken away, too. And we begin to feel like an actor on a stage would likely feel if the scenery, the props and the furniture began to disappear one item at a time: confused, unmoored and maybe a little bit alone.

All I know is that I listened last week to more David Bowie than I have in a long time. I’ll likely listen to some Mott the Hoople and its successor band, Mott, this week. And I’m certain that I’ll drop an Eagles CD into the player either in the car or on my nightstand late at night as well.

And here’s the track that came to mind yesterday afternoon when I got the news about Glenn Frey. I shared it here not that long ago, but that’s okay. It’s the song he contributed in 1991 to the soundtrack to Thelma & Louise, and its message applies to anyone – lovers, family, friends and yes, favored performers – that we lose: “Part Of Me, Part Of You.”