When Jerry Lee Lewis finally died last week, after a false alarm that prompted a rare retraction from TMZ, it marked the end of an era. According to my calculations he was the last survivor of that first generation of rock stars. As a group they lived surprisingly long — Chuck Berry and Fats Domino lasted until 2017, Little Richard made it all the way to 2020 — but if any are left now, I can’t think of who.
The Killer was the object of much censure, not undeserved, for many misdeeds including marrying his 13-year-old cousin. But partly because of that he became, perhaps more than anyone else, the model of what we think of as a rock star: a true wildman whose high-octane stage energy mirrored a tumultuous personal life. I mean, look at this guy; he was a force of fucking nature.
Another notable recent passing in the music world was that of Toshi Ichiyanagi, who I must admit I had never heard of before reading his obituary. Here are the first few paragraphs:
Toshi Ichiyanagi, an avant-garde pianist and composer whose works mixed international influences, made unusual use of musicians and instruments, and combined music with other media, died on Oct. 7 in Tokyo. He was 89.
The Kanagawa Arts Foundation, where he was general artistic director from 1996 until last year, said he died in a hospital. No cause was given.
Mr. Ichiyanagi came to New York from Japan in the 1950s to study at the Juilliard School. While there he met Yoko Ono, whose parents had moved the family from Japan to Scarsdale, N.Y., in the early 1950s. Ms. Ono was also interested in experimental music and had studied briefly at Sarah Lawrence College.
She and Mr. Ichiyanagi eloped in 1956 and immersed themselves in the experimental art and music scenes of the era, including the radical Fluxus movement. Mr. Ichiyanagi took a course taught by the composer John Cage at the New School (Ms. Ono sat in on the sessions), absorbing many of his Minimalist ideas.
Mr. Ichiyanagi and Mr. Cage toured together, sometimes with Ms. Ono, and Mr. Ichiyanagi was instrumental in bringing Mr. Cage to Japan in 1962, introducing his music there. In the same period, Ms. Ono and Mr. Ichiyanagi hosted performances at their loft in TriBeCa that included music, dance and poetry. (“THE PURPOSE OF THIS SERIES IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT,” an announcement for one program said.)
The whole thing is worth a read; here’s a link, but if you’re stymied by the paywall, let me know and I’ll send you a gift link. Here ends the transmission.
Would Mr. Ichiyanagi wear Jerry Lee Lewis’s white ankle boots?
My Dad was of Jerry Lee’s era and he used to tell me about hitch hiking from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to see Jerry Lee and Little Richard… My Dad continued to buy Jerry Lee’s music until the mid-70s.