Category Archives: obituary

after Trump’s election, the celebrity deaths just keep piling up: in memorium Robert Vaughn and Mose Allison,

Robert Vaughn and Mose AllisonRobert Vaughn
November 22, 1932 to November 11, 2016
I don’t know that much about Robert Vaughn’s career, but I do know that when I was a kid, he played Napoleon Solo on the 60’s TV show Man from U.N.C.L.E. which was then one of the coolest shows on T.V. At the time, as a young boy,  I may have been torn between deciding on a career as a mad scientist or as an international spy. Without a doubt, Vaughn’s portrayal of Napoleon Solo helped tip my decision toward the latter.

Mose Allison
November 11, 1927 to November 15th, 2016
I also don’t know that much about Mose’s Allison and I don’t even have any personal anecdotes. I do know that he was a pioneer in the sense that he kept doing what he was doing and didn’t follow popular trends and while his music tended towards  blues he remained satisfyingly uncategorizable. He recorded at least 39 albums and influenced many other musicians including Tom Waits, Jimi Hendrix, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, and Pete Townshend.

R.I.P. Qwen Ifill; November 14, 2016 and Leon Russell; November 13, 2016

Qwen Ifill and Leon RussellQWEN IFILL
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.

LEON RUSSELL
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.

Superstar

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.