I really only knew Qwen Ifill from her days on PBS. Starting soon after the 2000 presidential election, it was a bit of a religion in our household to turn on PBS on Friday nights promptly at 8:00 to watch the Ifill moderated Washington Week. It was simply the best recap and discussion of the week’s news. Even though we had small children at that time, it was quiet time in our house. Or at least it was a sort of quiet time for me.
What I loved about Ifill was her ability to read the news like it was something objective, without the need to put her own spin on it. This was in contrast to so much of the news that was either hyping the hype or even taking sides or quibbling about facts. To her credit, Qwen was able to report and discuss the news matter of factly. And while it would seem that “matter of factness”, would the easiest and most natural approach, it was seemingly lost on the majority of newscasters. Because she could give you the news and nothing but the news, I held Qwen with great respect if not sacrosanct among all newscasters.
I probably best knew Leon Russell back in the day when I was a teenager and had a pre-recorded cassette tape of his that I’d listen to in my car. I haven’t listened to this tape since, but the songs Stranger in a Strange Land and I’ve Got to Get Back to the Island still resonate with me.
Leon was an excellent band leader who led the bands backing Delaney and Bonnie and perhaps more famously for Joe Cocker on his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. He was important to the fusion of rock music which consistently drew on many older styles and for his part Leon brought some New Orleans jazz and piano into everything he did.
As a songwriter, Leon gave us Superstar which was covered by Rita Coolidge for Cocker’s Mad Dogs tour and many others. Superstar is probably most remembered for the version done by the Carpenters who had a huge hit with it. Leon also gave us This Masquerade which has almost become a jazz standard and won a grammy for George Benson.
Leon Russell was on my list of performers I wanted to see before they died. He had recently performed quite near me but sadly I missed it. Luckily for us all, the music lives on.
Long ago and oh so far away,
I fell in love with you before the second show.
Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear,
But you’re not really here,
It’s just the radio.