If you picked up superstitions or old wives tales from your
parents or grandparents, you may believe that some life events
happen in threes - one of them being death. I am holding my breath
right now after the announcement of Dick Clark's passing, followed
the next day by Levon Helm. As the Righteous Brothers sang in Rock
and Roll heaven, "well you know they've got a hell of a band."
Levon just took it up a notch and now Dick can emcee the
We Boomers certainly lost plenty of music idols over the years,
many of them at a young age. We shook our heads when we lost Jimi
Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin, but it didn't necessarily
come as a shock. Reckless lifestyles often lead to untimely deaths.
Tragic passings, like John Lennon, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Harry
Chapin, sting hard because of circumstances that were out of
anyone's control. Don McLean was moved to write American Pie,
haunted by the airplane crash that ended the young lives of Buddy
Holly, Rickie Valens and The Big Bopper. You would be hard-pressed
to find a Boomer who doesn't know all the lyrics - right now you're
humming the tune and a little voice inside your head is driving
your Chevy to the levee.
But the deaths of music idols that seem to be happening on a more
than regular basis these days are the most haunting of all because
they are our age. Each death is a reality check of our own
mortality, and each one takes another little piece of my
When we were young, we all dreamed of someday being a Mouskateer.
We were mesmerized in front of the television, wishing we could be
there along with Annette, Cubby and Bobby. We longed to wear our
Mickey Mouse ears and a white shirt with our name emblazoned across
the chest. We just knew we could sing and dance as well, if not
better, than those other kids.
But as we entered the "tween" stage, our goals became loftier and
more age appropriate. We wanted to be on American Bandstand. We
would have traded our soul to be on that stage dancing to songs
like Teen Angel or Mack the Knife. We would have given up the key
to our diary to be hob-nobbing with heart throbs like Johnny
Rivers, Smokey Robinson and Fabian. We would have traded our Noxema
and pink curlers to sit on the bleachers and be asked a question by
Dick Clark himself.
I never had a brush with greatness where Dick Clark was concerned,
but I do have a treasured memory of Levon Helm. Levon's bout with
throat cancer in the early 90's left behind a mountain of medical
bills. The idea of the Midnight Ramble was hatched to raise money
for paying off the debt. Concerts were held in The Barn at Levon's
home in Woodstock, NY (which, contrary to popular belief, is not
where Woodstock was held.)
On October 16, 2010, a dozen of my closest friends from college
plunked down a tidy sum to attend a Midnight Ramble. Talk about
money well spent. Morning Jacket opened the evening, followed by a
musical performance so powerful and moving, I am not sure it can
ever be equaled (except possibly by the 40th Anniversary of The
The Barn is a cozy, wood-beamed building that houses a recording
studio. Attendance is limited to about 300 people, so as you can
imagine, there is not a bad seat in the house. You truly get the
sense of being in the artist's living room, hanging with his
closest friends while they jam. The news of Levon Helm's passing
made me feel quite blessed that I was able to experience his music
at its best, in a venue that was unsurpassed.
Each time a musician from our era passes, it takes a little piece
of our heart, invokes a treasured memory and sets us off on a rock
and roll frenzy playing every song we associate with the fallen
star. How many Whitney Houston songs did you hear within the first
few weeks after her passing?
Want to test yourself? What is the first thing that comes to mind
when you read the names of these rock and rollers who have crossed
over within the past ten years?
Davy Jones - Monday night show and The Last Train to
Don Cornelius - Saturday mornings and the crooning of Soooooul
Clarence Clemmons - Bruce Springsteen singing Rosalita
Johnny Maestro - The Worst That Could Happen
Mary Travers - Leavin' On a Jet Plane; Puff the Magic Dragon
Dan Fogelberg - Same Old Lang Syne
Ike Turner - ummm, Tina was smart to get rid of him
Denny Doherty - Ah, hope he and Mama Cass reunited
James Brown - I Feel Good
Wilson Pickett - Land of a Thousand Dances
Rick James - Super Freak
Bobby Hatfield - You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling
Robert Palmer - girls in black dresses and red lipstick
Johnny Cash - So many songs, where do you begin?
Barry White - pure soul
Maurice Gibb - Stayin' Alive
John Phillips - whoa, three-quarters of the Mamas and Papas are
Treasure those memories, live life to the fullest and play that
funky music whenever you can. You never know when heaven's band is
going to get a new member.
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Read my blog at http://lifeasaturkeysandwich.blogspot.com/