Happy Birthday, Robbie and Robert

Posted in Dancing about architecture, Somebody's birthday on July 5th, 2012 by bill

An interesting confluence of birthdays today: Robbie Robertson and the RZA. You could say that both have spent considerable time as musical masterminds presiding over groups of formidable talents; would that make the Wu-Tang Clan the Band of hip-hop? I guess it would.

Since I just downloaded a groovy new table-making plug-in for WordPress, let’s look at them in table form, shall we?

Robbie RobertsonThe RZA
Birth NameJaime Robert KlegermanRobert Fitzgerald Diggs
DOBJuly 5, 1943July 5, 1969
HometownTorontoBrooklyn
Personal FactoidMother was Mohawk, father was JewishNamed after Bobby and John Kennedy
Professional FactoidProduced Neil Diamond's "Beautiful Noise"Appears on Shaquille O'Neal's
"Shaq-Fu: Da Return"
Musical GroupsThe Band, Levon & the Hawks, Little Caesar & The Consuls, Robbie Robertson and the Rhythm Chords, Robbie & The Robots, Thumper & the TrambonesWu-Tang Clan, Gravediggaz, All in Together Now
Eccentric Musical AssociateGarth Hudson, Bob DylanOl' Dirty Bastard
Best-Known CompositionsThe Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Up on Cripple CreekBring the Ruckus, Protect Ya Neck, C.R.E.A.M.
Movie AppearancesCarny, The Crossing GuardGhost Dog, Funny People, American Gangster

Happy Birthday, John

Posted in Somebody's birthday, Something about the Beatles on October 9th, 2011 by bill

I like this picture because the kitty on Lennon’s shoulder is a dead ringer for my cat Johnny. Don’t know who that lady standing next to him is, but she kind of gives me the creeps.

The Love Man

Posted in Dancing about architecture, Somebody's birthday on September 8th, 2011 by bill

The great Otis Redding would have been 70 today if not for a spot of bad luck with an airplane, and I have no doubt he would still have been going strong. Otis was a force. I’ll never forget seeing the concert doc of his performance at Monterey Pop for the first time – at the UC Theater back in the day – and being utterly flabbergasted. Words like “dynamic,” “electrifying,” and “unbelievable” scarcely begin to describe what Otis could do on stage. If, by some dreadful misfortune, you haven’t seen it, well…

I thought that this was perhaps the greatest musical performance I’d ever seen by a human being…and then the second part of the bill, Jimi Plays Monterey, came on, and we entered the realm of something beyond human.

Six months after Monterey (and two months after your humble scribe was born), Otis would be gone at the tender age of 26. Thankfully he lived long enough (by three days!) to record “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” a truly beautiful song that showcases Otis’s sensitive side. It never fails to make any day better.

Happy Belated Vigoda Day

Posted in Somebody's birthday on February 25th, 2011 by bill

Now that is one damn handsome man.

My old friend Tommy V popped up this morning to remind me that I missed an important holiday yesterday: the 90th birthday of the great, still-not-late Abe Vigoda. Usually 90 seems pretty old, but in this case most people’s reaction is probably something like, “Wow! Abe’s only 90?” After all, he’s been making a living by looking like he’s on death’s door since the mid-70s. But the joke’s on us; Abe will probably outlive us all, roaming a post-apocalyptic wasteland with the cockroaches, Keith Richards, and Rudy the blind and deaf Shih-Tzu.

In honor of the occasion, here are a few more Vigoda factoids:

  • According to NNBD, “his first big break was a small, occasionally recurring role on Dark Shadows, the 1960s low-budget haunted house soap opera.” This was news to me – I couldn’t find much in the way of detail, other than the fact that he had played two different characters on three episodes – but it seems entirely appropriate, given that Abe himself is undead.
  • “Vigoda was born in New York City, the son of Lena (née Moses) and Samuel Vigoda, Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father was a tailor and his brother, Bill Vigoda, was a comic-book artist who drew for the Archie comics franchise and others in the 1940s.” (sez The Wikipedia)
  • Web searches for all things Abe are complicated by the increasing success of the rock band that appropriated his name. I don’t have an official position on whether they deserve to bear the Vigoda name, but based on an admittedly superficial sampling of their music, I am not impressed.
  • According to IMDB, Abe has three new movies coming out soon: Small Town Hero, Mafioso II, and The Driver. Is a major comeback in the works? It seems unlikely; but if you know what’s good for you, you’ll never bet against Abe Vigoda.

Dr. John’s tangerines

Posted in Dancing about architecture, Somebody's birthday on November 21st, 2010 by bill

Want a tangerine?

According to my records, the great Mac Rebennack – better known to the world as Dr. John the Night Tripper – turns 70 today. I actually got to meet the Dr. a few years back when he and his band (including the wonderfully named Renard Poché) stayed at the hotel where I was posing as a desk clerk. He was very gracious and his people gave me free tickets to the shows; it was a real bright spot in an otherwise less than stellar period of my life.

In his honor, here’s an excerpt from his autobiography Under a Hoodoo Moon where he describes how he finally kicked heroin after many, many, many years. There’s something striking and poetic about it, if’n you ask me:

…that happened again and again during my halfhearted rehab attempts: I straightened up for a while , but sooner or later I ran into some Chang Moi rocks and it was off to the races, another four years of getting strung out like a fucking guinea pig.
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What ever happened to the teenage dream?

Posted in Dancing about architecture, Somebody's birthday on September 30th, 2010 by bill

Marc Bolan looked best in soft focus.

Today’s birthday: The late, great Marc Bolan, who would have been 63 today if not for an unfortunate incident with an automobile back in 1977.

Bolan was a truly singular talent, and although often tagged with the meaningless appellation “glam rock,” the music he made with his band T. Rex was really hors catégorie. His special gift was the ability to deliver the most ridiculous lyrics with a straight face and somehow make it seem cool:

I got stars in my beard
And I feel real weird
For you
(“Mambo Sun,” 1971)

Time is short today for a full appreciation; instead, here are five random Bolan factoids:
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Learn with Gurn

Posted in Gurn Blanston, Somebody's birthday on August 16th, 2010 by bill

At a wine tasting recently I spotted a guy with a T-shirt that read “Some people have a way with words, other people…not have way.” This made me so happy that I had to follow him around until I could thank him, though I’m not 100% sure he was aware of the line’s genesis, which was in Steve Martin’s 1970s comedy act.

All these classic bits are hard-wired into my brain machine and will probably remain there long after I have forgotten everything about my own actual life. Imagine then my chagrin upon learning that I somehow missed Steve’s 65th birthday, which took place this Saturday. In my defense I did write a lovely tribute for his 60th, which you can read — along with other related items — in the recently created category on this site that I call Gurn Blanston (after Steve’s real name, of course, as all us children of the 70s know).

An an extra special bonus, here’s a video I found of a dark-haired young Steve doing his magic act on the Smothers Brothers show. Happy Birthday to Steve, and to the rest of you, happy Monday.

Tour de France 2010, Stage 17

Posted in Somebody's birthday, Something about the Beatles, Tour de France on July 22nd, 2010 by bill
Schleck and Contador by Monet

Schleck and Contador by Monet

Today’s writing is dedicated to George Clinton, the Benjamin Franklin of funk, who turns 70 today. For those of you keeping score at home, that means he was born exactly 15 days after Ringo Starr in July 1940. Ringo and George (Clinton) share one essential quality, which is that it’s hard to think of them without feeling just a little bit happier. “With a Little Help from My Friends,” The Mothership Connection, “It Don’t Come Easy,” Maggot Brain…we’re glad these things exist, aren’t we? And its nice to know their creators are still walking the Earth. Love on ya, boys.

And what does this have to do with the Tour de France? Well, you’re reading about them in the same place, aren’t you? So they must have something to do with each other.

Stage 17 was the big showdown on the Col du Tourmalet, and it was a cold, rainy, foggy day. The images on the TV were dreamlike and impressionistic, with the raindrops on the camera lens giving everything a sort of Monet quality. And then, out of the fog, there are two figures, one in white and one in yellow: Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, having left everyone else behind and shooting to the top of the mountain.
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Happy BDay, Jimmy and Bob

Posted in Dancing about architecture, Somebody's birthday on April 21st, 2010 by bill

iggyking south-park
Cartoon versions of Iggy Pop and Robert Smith.

A couple of rock birthdays today: Iggy Pop turns 63 (!) and Robert Smith of the Cure, 51.

The continued existence of the man born James Osterberg as a living, breathing organism on planet Earth—along with those of his contemporaries Lou Reed and Keith Richards—must be considered something of a miracle. Consider this passage from Marc Spitz’s Bowie describing Iggy’s state in 1976:

Iggy Pop resurfaced again once the White Light tour rolled back into Los Angeles. Since being dropped from MainMan, Iggy had sunk even further. He was arrested for shoplifting, sleeping in a garage, and trying to write songs with James Williamson but mostly in a drug haze.

“Iggy was in such bad odor with the rest of L.A. that most of the dealers refused to let him into their apartments,” Nick Kent writes in his classic anthology The Dark Stuff. “He’d made such a mess of his life during the two years he’d been based in L.A. that everyone had him written off as nothing more than a washed up loser….”

When he began to vomit fluid of unrecognizable origin and indescribable color, and with the police threatening to prosecute him for vagrancy, he finally committed himself to the Neuropsychiatric Institute in L.A.

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Amy, Amy, Amy

Posted in Dancing about architecture, Somebody's birthday on September 14th, 2009 by bill
Amy Winehouse, before all the trouble started.

Amy Winehouse, before all the trouble started.

Today is the 26th birthday of the aptly named Amy Winehouse. This seems worth mentioning because there’s no guarantee she’s going to have a 27th, hell-bent as she is on self-destructing at an early age like her foremother Janis Joplin. This would secure her eternal street cred but would be a tremendous waste of talent. Amy not only possesses a freakish singing voice that had her sounding like the second coming of Dinah Washington at age 20 (despite the handicap of her Britishness), she can write songs, too. She is listed as the sole composer of stellar tunes like “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.”

I recently bought Amy’s debut album, Frank, and was amazed to discover that she was actually pretty cute before she got heavily into drugs, tattoos, and excessive eye makeup. Truly, it’s a shame on many levels. Maybe it’s not too late. She could still pull out of it and end up living to a ripe old age, right? Right?