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ELDER MUSIC: Toes Up in 2012 - Part 2

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

Dave Brubeck

DAVE BRUBECK was probably the best-known jazz pianist in the world. His musical life spanned decades and he was still playing until he was 90.

Dave’s mother was a pianist and she began little Dave’s classical training when he was just four. He studied classical composition in college with Darius Milhaud.

Throughout his life, Dave considered himself to be a composer foremost. In the late forties, he teamed up with saxophonist Paul Desmond whom he’d previously met when they were in the army. Paul said that they initially played such avant-garde material that they could clear a club faster than a fire marshal.

By the time the famous quartet came together, they were playing music people loved but they hadn’t really modified their music all that much. The quartet was one of the most successful and popular groups in jazz. Later, Dave formed other quartets, had a group that included the great Gerry Mulligan, another with his four musician sons and also played solo. He composed many classical pieces as well as jazz compositions.

Just about everyone who met him commented on what a gracious and kind man he was. Dave died the day before his 92nd birthday. Here is the original Dave Brubeck Quartet with It's a Raggy Waltz. (Dave was officially 91)

♫ Dave Brubeck - It's a Raggy Waltz

Johnny Otis

JOHNNY OTIS, or Ionannis Veliotes, was the son of a Greek immigrant who ran a grocery story in the black neighborhood of Berkeley, California. He was so taken with the local culture, he decided when only a teenager that he would live his life within the black community.

He began his career as a drummer and moved to Los Angeles at the suggestion of Nat King Cole. There he formed his own band and, besides his own gigs, backed such artists as Wynonie Harris and Charles Brown, both in concert and on recordings.

He spied a teenaged Esther Phillips at a talent show and had her join his band. He discovered such artists as the Coasters and was the backing band for Mama Thornton when she recorded Hound Dog.

There’s a lot more to his story which continued musically into the nineties (and occasionally beyond). He is also the father of the great guitarist Shuggie Otis.

This is Willy and The Hand Jive, the original of this much-covered song. (90)

♫ Johnny Otis - Willy And The Hand Jive

Etta James

ETTA JAMES was another artist discovered and encouraged by Johnny Otis. She was born Jamesetta Hawkins to a 14-year-old mother. Her father was quite possibly "Minnesota Fats," the pool shark.

She started singing in her early teens in a DooWop group. They soon caught the ear of Johnny and she started touring with his band. She also recorded some tracks with the group. Etta later backed Little Richard and still later was signed to Chess Records and had a number of hits in the sixties.

Alas, she developed a major drug habit that pretty much kept her out of music until the eighties when she cleaned up her act. A couple of years ago, Etta developed Alzheimer’s disease and leukaemia. She died a few days short of her 74th birthday.

Here is Etta with one of her best songs, I’d Rather Go Blind. (73)

♫ Etta James - I'd Rather Go Blind

Earl Scruggs

EARL SCRUGGS was the dominant figure in banjo picking. He pretty much defined how this instrument should be played.

Earl performed around his native North Carolina and was spotted by a local band who had a gig at the Grand Ole Opry. There, he caught the ear of the inventor of blue-grass, Bill Monroe, who invited Earl to join his band. Also in that ensemble was guitar virtuoso Lester Flatt.

After some years with Bill, Lester and Earl railed against Bill’s rather domineering approach to music and they went out as a duo. You’ve probably heard them playing the theme to the Beverly Hillbillies and the music for Bonnie and Clyde amongst many others.

Earl and Lester eventually fell out as Earl wanted play more interesting, adventurous music and Lester preferred a more conservative approach. Earl formed the Earl Scruggs Revue, a progressive outfit which featured his sons Gary, Randy and Steve on bass, guitar and drums, fiddler Vassar Clements and the highly regarded dobro player Josh Graves. This group played folk, rock and jazz as well as country and blue-grass.

This is Earl with Randy and Vassar as well as a couple of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band playing Earl's Breakdown. (88)

♫ Earl Scruggs - Earl's Breakdown

Robin Gibb

ROBIN GIBB was one of three brothers who made up The Bee Gees. He was born in England and along with family moved to Australia while still young. Even then the brothers Gibb performed together and over the next ten years or so they had several hits in this country before returning to the old country in the midst of Beatlemania.

They recorded a bunch of really fine pop songs and were pretty much instrumental in bringing disco music to a wider audience in the late seventies.

Here are the Bee Gees in their earlier incarnation with Robin singing lead with I've Gotta Get a Message to You. (62)

♫ Bee Gees - I've Gotta Get a Message to You

The Platters

HERB REED was a founder member of probably the finest vocal group of the fifties, The Platters. Herb sang bass in the group and was the last remaining member of the original (and best) version of that group. He was also the only member who sang on all of their released recordings.

Herb was born into poverty in Kansas City and moved to Los Angeles as a teenager where he (and others) formed The Platters. Initially, they weren’t successful until they found Buck Ram who became their manager and he changed the group around a bit and added a female singer.

From then on the hits just kept on coming, a lot of them written by Buck.

As the last surviving original member of The Platters, Herb waged a long and eventually successful court battle over the rights to the name The Platters. There were/are more than 200 groups using the name.

The courts ruled that he was the only heir to the group's name. Herb said in an interview, "It's not right to have someone steal your name. We were cheated back then, but that's how things were done. It's theft, and I have to fight it so that no other artist faces this."

Herb is second from the left in the picture. Here are the real, genuine, original Platters with Only You. (83)

♫ The Platters - Only You

Louisiana Red

LOUISIANA RED really started life behind the eight ball, to employ a cliché. His grandfather died around the time he was born. His mother developed pneumonia while following her father’s coffin and died soon after and his father was lynched by the Ku Klux Klan when Red was five.

He was born Iverson Minter and was a blues guitarist and singer of note. He started life picking cotton and was given a guitar when he was eleven. He soon became adept.

He first came to attention when he joined John Lee Hooker’s band in 1949. Muddy Waters got him a record deal at Chess records soon after and he recorded many songs, often under different names.

He had a resurgence of popularity after appearing at the Montreux Jazz Festival and settled in Germany. He toured Europe, America and Africa often.

Here Red plays I'm Getting Tired. (79)

♫ Louisiana Red - I'm Getting Tired

Doc Watson

Singer/songwriter Guy Clark said it best in his song, Dublin Blues:

I have seen the David
I've seen the Mona Lisa too
And I have heard DOC WATSON
Play Columbus Stockade Blues

Arthel (Doc) Watson was one of the most influential guitarists in country music. He started out adapting fiddle tunes to his guitar style - he was one of the first flat-pickers in the genre. He went on to adapt music from everywhere to his style of playing.

Doc was blind from infancy but he was an independent person thanks to his father who saw to it that he should be treated as equal to his brothers. He quickly learnt to play harmonica and banjo as well as guitar and performed with his brothers around the place in North Carolina whence he hailed.

He eventually became known as one of the finest musicians in country and blue-grass and he played often with his son, Merle, who was a great guitarist until Merle’s unfortunate death in a tractor accident.

There was not a person in the music industry who didn’t like and respect Doc. Now you can hear Columbus Stockade Blues. (89)

♫ Doc Watson - Columbus Stockade Blues


ANDY WILLIAMS was the last of the great crooners. You know all about him; I can’t add anything.

You probably expected me to play Moon River but I’m a bit of a contrarian when it comes to music. I originally thought of the first song I ever heard Andy sing, Butterfly, a rockabilly ditty by Charlie Gracie and totally out of character considering his later music. This was a record my sister had and if you’d like to hear it you can find it here.

However, I’m going with Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. I’ll play this song because he was one of the very people who sang it without introducing an extraneous and grammatically incorrect “of” into the title and chorus of the song. Good for you Andy. (84)

♫ Andy Williams - Can't Take My Eyes Off You

Kitty Wells

KITTY WELLS was the model for later independent female country singers like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

Initially, Kitty’s career was going nowhere and she was about to give up music to raise her family. Then she recorded the song, It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels which became a huge selling record. That kick-started her career that lasted for decades.

Record companies were reluctant to release albums by female country singers until Kitty broke the ice and they realized that, “Oh maybe there’s some money to be made.”

She was married to fellow country artist Johnnie Wright for 74 years until Johnnie died last year. Here is Kitty with the song that made her famous. (92)

♫ Kitty Wells - It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels

After a short stint in The Byrds, CHRIS ETHRIDGE became a founding member of the Flying Burrito Brothers - - with a couple of other members of that group, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons. He was also in an earlier band with Gram, The International Submarine Band.

Chris was a fine songwriter and wrote several of the best of the Burrito’s songs. He later became a session bass player and appeared on many musicians’ albums. (65)

MICKEY BAKER was half of the fifties’ R&B duo Mickey and Sylvia. Mickey was inspired to form the group after seeing Les Paul and Mary Ford. They had a big hit with the song Love is Strange but officially split at the end of the fifties. Only officially, because they kept recording intermittently for some years before Mickey moved to Europe.

He was also a session musician of some note. Mickey’s partner in song, Sylvia Robinson, died last year. (87)

When you mention the sitar the name that springs to mind first is that of RAVI SHANKAR. Ravi was already a great and respected musician in India when he came to the notice of westerners thanks to George Harrison championing him.

He played at the Monterey Pop festival and at Woodstock and also collaborated with classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. He was the father of the jazz and country musician Norah Jones. (92)

BOB WESTON was an English guitarist who joined Fleetwood Mac after its founder Peter Green left but before the band’s huge success in the seventies and eighties. He earlier played in bands fronted by Graham Bond and Long John Baldry.

Bob was eventually asked to leave the band after he was found to be playing hanky panky with Jenny Boyd, Mick Fleetwood’s wife. Some things never change in that group. Bob attributed his guitar prowess to his originally playing the violin. He was later a much sought after session musician. (64)

It wasn’t a good year for Fleetwood Mac. BOB WELCH was the first American member of the group but not the last. Mick Fleetwood thought that Bob saved the band when he joined in 1971 as it was in danger of disintegration around that time.

Bob was a talented guitarist, singer and song-writer and it was generally thought that his departure from the band in 1974 would mean its demise. Not quite. Bob later sued the group for unpaid royalties.

Besides being a talented musician, he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and at UCLA and became fluent in French and spent considerable time in France. After the Mac he performed in several short-lived groups. (66)

GUSTAV LEONHARDT was a conductor and a harpsichord virtuoso. He was a champion of early music, especially Couperin and Telemann. Bach, of course, too. He preferred a simple clean style of playing rather the over-ornamentation previously common in this genre at the time.

Some of his early work was accompanying the great Alfred Deller on his recordings of Bach’s cantatas. Although austere in his musical approach, he liked to indulge in fine wine and fast cars. (83)

WHITNEY HOUSTON was obviously destined for a musical career. Her mother is the great singer Cissy Houston. Her cousins were Dionne Warwick and Dionne’s sister Dee Dee, and her mother’s cousin was Leontyne Price.

Whitney’s serious career began as a backup singer to both Aretha and Elvis. You might as well start at the top. She went on to have a very successful musical career indeed, although her personal life was somewhat less successful. (48)

CLIVE SHAKESPEARE was a founding member, guitarist and main songwriter for the rock band Sherbet. The Sherbs were Australia’s biggest band in the seventies and early eighties. He left the group after getting tired of a rock star’s life and set up a recording studio where he oversaw many of this country’s most important albums.

He joined his band-mates when they reformed in recent times for reunion gigs. Illness prevented his playing in the most recent of these which turned into a tribute to another member of the band who died late last year. (62)

RITA GORR’s operatic career lasted 58 years and she was she one of the great singers of the second half of the 20th century. Rita was born in Belgium and I don’t know if this is relevant but she was equally at home in French, Italian or German music which is handy as they’re the languages of most operas.

She pretty much sang all the roles written for mezzo sopranos and most soprano roles as well. I can’t do her justice in this brief paragraph. (85)

ANDREW LOVE was the saxophonist for the Memphis Horns. The Horns were a duo whose other member was the trumpeter Wayne Jackson. These two played on most of the Stax soul singles from the sixties and seventies and backed many other artists as well, both on record and in concert.

They regularly toured with Booker T and the MGs, supporting both that group and others who were along as well. (70)

DEREK HAMMOND-STROUD was a baritone renowned for performing roles from Wagner and Richard Strauss. He was equally at home with Gilbert and Sullivan and with lieder.

Derek was born in London and performed Wagner’s Ring Cycle several times (yikes). After performing in pretty much all the operas worth their money, he later conducted master classes and taught privately, and was professor for singing at the Royal Academy of Music. (86)

RICHARD ADLER was a composer of musicals, the best known of which are “The Pajama Game” and “Damn Yankees.” Many of the songs from these were huge hits for a variety of people. (90)

RUGGIERO RICCI was an American classical violin player who was noted for his playing of the works of Niccolò Paganini. He was the son of Italian immigrants and his family was musical – his brother was a fine cello player and his sister a noted violinist. Besides his numerous concert appearances and recordings, he taught violin at Juilliard, Indiana University and the University of Michigan. (94)

MIHAELA URSULEASA was a Romanian-born pianist who specialized in the works of the Romantic composers, especially Chopin, Schumann and Prokofiev. Her playing split critics but they all agreed she had that certain something that set her aside from the rest of her peers. (33)

BOB BIRCH was an American bass player who performed behind such diverse musicians as B.B. King, Luciano Pavarotti, Leslie West and Keith Emerson. However, he’s best known these last couple of decades as the bassist in Elton John’s Band. (55)

ANDY GRIFFITH is best known as an actor and raconteur but he was also a musician of considerable facility. Indeed, his degree from the University of North Carolina was in music. He initially played trombone but switched to vocals. He even considered a career as an opera singer.

Those who have seen the fine film from the fifties, A Face in the Crowd will know how good a singer he was. That film also featured a bunch of unknowns who later went on to become some of the finest film actors ever. Joe Bob sez check it out. (86)

LARRY HAGMAN was also better known as an actor, however, in the fifties he had a hit with his mother, Mary Martin, with the song, Get Out Those Old Records. (81)

CELESTE HOLM was another actor, however, she was also in the original Broadway production of Oklahoma and who could forget her appearance in High Society singing with Frank Sinatra? (95)

GREG HAM was an Australian multi-instrumentalist – he was proficient on piano, flute, saxophone, guitar, bass. Pretty much anything he turned his hand to. Greg and Colin Hay were the founders and mainstays of the hugely successful band Men At Work. (58)

EDDIE BERT was a trombone player who first played with Mildred Bailey, Paul Whiteman and Benny Goodman. He later turned to the cutting edge of music and played with such greats as Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. He continued playing right up until he died, including gigs with Monk’s son. (90)

ELLIOTT CARTER was an American classical music composer who was friends with, or a contemporary of, Charles Ives, Igor Stravinsky, Alexander Scriabin, Arnold Schoenberg and many others. He outlived them all and he continued composing until days before his death not long before his 104th birthday.

Although admiring of the works of Aaron Copland and some of his pieces premiered along with several of Aaron’s best known compositions, his music was more radical and didn’t receive the acclaim of his more famous musical brother. Indeed, it took some decades for his music to gain the respect it deserves. (103)

DARRYL COTTON was an Australian rock singer, musician and songwriter. He was a founder member of the group Zoot who weren’t terribly successful but whose members all went on to several of the biggest bands in this country’s history.

He later was an actor in various TV and stage shows and also performed in several trios with other musicians from his heyday in the sixties. (64)

MARVIN HAMLISCH was a composer of stage and film music. He was a bit of a prodigy on the piano and was accepted at Juilliard at age six (yikes). He wrote the score for the phenomenally successful A Chorus Line as well as such films as Take the Money and Run, The Sting, The Way We Were, Sophie’s Choice and many, many more. (68)

MARTIN FAY was a founding member of the Irish band, The Chieftains. Martin was a classically trained violinist but was adept in switching his style to the fiddle tunes the group needed. He was significant in the development of the group’s style, insisting that they were open to all influences. He also played on the soundtracks of many films over the last 30 years. (76)

HOWARD SCOTT was a record producer and the last remaining member of the team who developed the long-playing record in the 1940s, the standard way we listened to music at home from then until the development of the CD. He was also a trained musician with eclectic tastes so he insisted the new medium should encompass classical, jazz and popular music equally. (92)

CHRIS STAMP was the brother of the actor Terence and was half of the management team for The Who for their first 14 years. He encouraged Pete Townshend’s songwriting from his early pop songs to the later grand rock operas. He was also instrumental in launching Jimi Hendrix’s career in the U.K. (and thus world-wide). (70)

PHILIP LEDGER was a composer and academic best known for his time as the head honcho of the choir of King’s College, Cambridge. His training was as an organist and he was the youngest ever at a major cathedral in Britain. He and the choir made many records over the years and toured the world. He also wrote many compositions for the choir to perform and record. (74)

GALINA VISHNEVSKAYA was a Russian soprano who was married to the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Alas, they stood up for human rights during the Soviet era and they were both exiled and stripped of their citizenships. Galina sang the standard Russian repertoire as well as appearing in the great operas around the world. Benjamin Britten wrote several pieces of music especially for her. (86)

SUSANNA CLARK was a songwriter of note. She was the wife of the great singer-songwriter Guy Clark. Although a talented artist, she succumbed to the songwriting milieu of her husband that included such luminaries as Rodney Crowell, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and others.

Probably her best known song is I'll Be Your San Antone Rose, a great version of which Emmylou Harris recorded. Kathy Mattea and Rosanne Cash also recorded that and others of her songs, particularly Come From the Heart. Emmy also recorded a terrific version of Easy From Now On. (73)

A bad year for the Clarks. DICK CLARK was the host of American Bandstand and lots of other programs. I can’t tell you anything about him that you don’t already know. (82)

RICHARD RODNEY BENNETT was an English classical composer and musician who was greatly influenced by jazz and folk music as well Debussy, Holst and Ravel. He dabbled in atonal music at one stage but, fortunately, gave that up. Several of his operas have entered the standard repertoire and he wrote a vast number of compositions in every style imaginable. (76)

FONTELLA BASS was the daughter of gospel singer Martha Bass who was one of the Clara Ward Singers. She showed musical talent at a young age; at five she was playing piano at funeral services and later accompanying mum on her gospel tours.

As a teenager, she started playing secular music, much to mum’s chagrin. Fontella made it to Chicago and signed with Chess records. She had a few moderately successful records and then hit it big. She co-wrote Rescue Me but the record company screwed out of the royalties. They did that several times and she sued them.

Later she sued American Express and Ogilvy & Mather for using her song without her permission. She gained a reputation for being a “trouble maker,” i.e. someone who only wanted what she was owed. Normally, I would have featured a musical track for Fontella, but she died too late in the year for that. (72)

ELDER MUSIC: Toes Up in 2012 - Part 1

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

Levon Helm

LEVON HELM was the drummer for the most important band in rock & roll history, The Band. Okay, Beatles fans may have something to say about that.

Levon also played mandolin, guitar, piano and other instruments. He was also one of the three singers the group was blessed with. As they are my all-time favorite group I could carry on for far too long. I’ll just say listen to their music.

Here is Levon singing on perhaps The Band’s most famous song, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, a song Robbie Robertson wrote especially for Levon. (He was 71)

♫ The Band - The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

DIETRICH FISCHER-DIESKAU was a German baritone and conductor. He probably recorded more lieder than anyone else, hundreds of them. He also recorded and performed in pretty much every opera worth its salt and also oratorios and cantatas and the like.

He began his career soon after the war and famously teamed up with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (and a couple of others). Dietrich was one of the most admired performers in music.

Here he is singing from the Bach cantata, Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen BWV 56, the aria Endlich, endlich wird mein Joch. (86)

♫ Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau - Endlich, endlich wird mein Joch

Dory Previn

DORY PREVIN was a singer/songwriter renowned for the blazing honesty of her songs. Fans admired her but didn’t want to be her. She was at her most prolific and popular in the early seventies.

She was born Dorothy Langan and had a troubled childhood mainly due to her father who was gassed in the Great War.

Dory got into theatrical productions, mostly musical, and started writing extra verses for the various songs. A producer heard her and suggested she team up with André Previn. They became a successful songwriting team and eventually married.

Her most famous song is called Beware of Young Girls written about Mia Farrow who started an affair with André (and eventually married him). In the song, Dory warned that she will leave him too, and that proved to be so.

Dory had a breakdown over all this but recovered and recorded several more interesting, if rather searing albums. Later, when she and André became friends again, she said she regretted releasing the song. Dory suffered several strokes recently and died aged 86. Here is the song.

♫ Dory Previn - Beware of Young Girls

Donald Duck Dunn

DONALD “DUCK” DUNN was a bass player, a studio musician at Stax records who played bass behind pretty much every soul artist from that company. He was also a member of possibly the greatest instrumental group in rock/soul history – Booker T & the MGs.

Donald didn’t play on their most famous track, Green Onions; he hadn’t joined the group at that stage. However, that’s probably the only one where he wasn’t present.

Donald was born in Memphis and his father gave him his nickname after watching a bunch of Disney cartoons. It stuck. While growing up, he was friends with a young guitarist named Steve Cropper who later also became a session muso at Stax and was another member of the MGs.

These two have played with pretty much every popular musician from the last 50 years. Here are Booker T & The MGs with Hip Hug-Her. (70)

♫ Booker T & The MGs - Hip Hug-Her

Graeme Bell

GRAEME BELL was generally called the father of Australian jazz. He was almost certainly the grandfather as well or even great grand-dad by the time he died.

Graeme, and his brother who was also a jazz musician, were the children of an actor and singer, so show biz was on the cards. He was trained classically on piano but caught the jazz bug while still at school.

He actually wanted to be an artist and was a talented painter as well as owning a gallery later in his life.

During the war he was rejected by the army but joined the entertainment unit. After the war, Graeme formed his own jazz band and toured Europe and Britain extensively. He’s credited with reviving interest in jazz in that country.

In Australia in the fifties and sixties, he hosted several TV programs featuring local and international jazz and blues musicians and he was the first westerner to take a jazz band to China. He won pretty much every music award around in the country and many from elsewhere.

That’s Graeme playing piano on Tin Roof Blues. (97)

♫ Graeme Bell - Tin Roof Blues

Davy Jones

DAVY JONES was a child actor who was born in Manchester, England. Quite coincidentally, he was in the cast of “Oliver!” when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show the same night as The Beatles first performed on that program.

The next year he was cast in the TV show The Monkees, blatantly modeled on The Beatles. The four selected turned out to be rather good musicians in their own right, much to the chagrin of the producers who wanted to keep them under their thumbs and use studio musicians on their records.

The TV program lasted three years and their records sold in the millions, some of which were really good pop music indeed.

This is Davy singing lead on Daydream Believer, a song written by the fine singer-songwriter John Stewart. John didn’t want the Monkees to record his song but as the royalty cheques started rolling in, he changed his mind. “What a fine job they did,” he said. (66)

♫ The Monkees - Daydream Believer

Doug Dillard

DOUG DILLARD along with his brother Rodney formed the hugely influential group The Dillards. You may have seen them on The Andy Griffith Show.

They pretty much went on to invent country rock with their interesting meld of blue-grass, country, pop songs and rock & roll. They did some of the best ever covers of Beatles tunes.

Doug left the group and performed solo and with Gene Clark from The Byrds. They recorded a couple of highly regarded albums. He later teamed up with his brother and John Hartford (as Dillard Hartford Dillard) and they performed and recorded together.

Doug remained a popular performer until his death and was regularly cited as a major influence by other banjo pickers. Doug teams up with Gene Clark on Don't Come Rollin'. (75)

♫ Dillard & Clark - Don't Come Rollin'


JOHNNIE BASSETT was a blues musician originally from Florida but he spent his working life in Detroit. He greatly admired, and was influenced by, the great T-Bone Walker whose playing and singing style he resembled. Albert and B.B. King were other influences.

He spent many years as a session musician backing and playing with such luminaries as John Lee Hooker, Dinah Washington and Lowell Fulson. He also performed with The Miracles, Tina Turner and even Jimi Hendrix.

In more recent years, he headed his own band and performed and recorded to considerable acclaim. Here is Johnnie with Reconsider Baby. (76)

♫ Johnnie Bassett - Reconsider Baby

Joe South

JOE SOUTH was a singer/songwriter and a guitarist of the first rank, such that he played on Bob Dylan’s seminal album, “Blonde on Blonde” and was a session musician who backed Aretha Franklin among others.

He also had a solo career and had hits with such songs as Hush, Walk a Mile in my Shoes, I Knew You When and others.

He wrote songs for others, like Down in the Boondocks, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and along with The Big Bopper, The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor (really).

Joe sings his most famous song, Games People Play. (72)

♫ Joe South - Games People Play

The Spaniels

Pookie Hudson formed a group in 1952 with some school friends, one of whom was EARNEST WARREN. This group went on to become The Spaniels, one of the earliest of the DooWop groups. Earnest sang lead tenor in the group and they had several hits in the early fifties.

He was drafted and they carried on without him but he rejoined after his stint in the army. In the late fifties, they were offered a song called The Twist which they recorded. It wasn’t released as they didn’t think it suited their style.

The Spaniels kept their career going until Pookie died in 2010. Now there’s only one of the original five left. Here they are with their most famous song, a classic of the genre, Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight. (77)

♫ The Spaniels - Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight

DOROTHY MCGUIRE was one of the McGuire Sisters who had some hits in the fifties, most notably Sugartime and an inferior cover version of The Spaniels’ Good Night Sweetheart, Goodnight. (84)

JIMMY JONES’ career began as a demo singer for the writers at the Brill Building. One day he wrote his own song, Handy Man, and this became a big hit in 1960. He followed that the same year with Good Timin’. Although a fine singer and great live performer, that was about the extent of his fame in the music industry. We still have those two songs though. (82)

CLEVELAND DUNCAN was the lead tenor for the DooWop group, The Penguins. They, like The Spaniels, were one of the earliest groups of this type and had a hit with the song Earth Angel. As with most of these songs back then, it was covered by a white group, The Crew Cuts. The Crew Cuts managed a couple of places higher on the charts but in the long run The Penguins sold vastly more copies.

It’s one of the biggest sellers in DooWop. This would prove to be their only hit. (77)

KAY DAVIS was a classically trained soprano but she made her name as one of singers in the Duke Ellington band. She auditioned because of a dare from a friend. Duke heard her and signed her immediately. He started writing sophisticated pieces to suit her voice. She remained with Duke for six years and then married and retired to Florida where she became a chef. (91)

ELIZABETH CONNELL was a mezzo and soprano noted for her roles in Wagner and Verdi operas. Born in South Africa, she won a scholarship to study at the London Opera Centre. She became a success there and performed in the great opera houses of the world – Covent Garden, La Scala, Salzburg, Bayreuth, the Sydney Opera House and pretty much everywhere else important.

Her first ten years she sang mezzo roles and then switched to soprano where she was equally successful. She kept singing until nearly the end, in spite of the lung cancer that caused her death. (65)

BILLY STRANGE was a session musician greatly in demand for his guitar playing. He could adapt to any style required and was equally at home on acoustic or electric. He was an important member of the Wrecking Crew, the musicians Phil Spector used to create his great songs. They were also used by the Beach Boys on their most famous albums. (81)

MICHAEL DAVIS was the bass player for the incendiary rock group MC5. This band was uncompromising in their approach to music and politics. They were aligned with the Black Panthers and helped form the White Panthers. Their album “Kick Out the Jams” demonstrates really well their approach to music. They were mad, bad and dangerous to know. (68)

ROBERT SHERMAN was a songwriter best known for his scores for Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He had a long association with the Disney studios and wrote the music for many of their films. He first started writing songs for such artists as Gene Autry, Johnny Burnette, Annette Funicello and others in the fifties and sixties. (86)

VINCENT LOVEGROVE was an Australian music manager, journalist, television producer, AIDS awareness pioneer and musician. He was in the sixties’ rock band The Valentines with Bon Scott (later the singer for AC/DC). He later managed several successful bands and solo artists and wrote about music for some years.

Both his second wife and their son (who contracted the disease during his birth) died from AIDS and Vince was instrumental in bringing AIDS awareness to the general public through documentaries and similar methods. He was killed in a car accident in New South Wales. (64)

RED HOLLOWAY was a tenor and alto saxophonist and bandleader. He performed with jazz greats such as Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt, but he was equally at home with the blues, performing with B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Roosevelt Sykes. He also played with Billie Holiday and Ben Webster. Brought up in Chicago, he spent many years in Europe and later lived and worked in California. (84)

RONNIE MONTROSE was a hard rocking guitarist and the template for groups such as Guns and Roses, Def Leppard, Van Halen and others. In spite of that, he could play lyrically due, he said, to the influence of his father who was a jazz musician.

Ronnie also played session work with such luminaries as Herbie Hancock and Van Morrison. He fronted several heavy metal bands who are mostly unknown to me. (64)

JIMMY LITTLE was a musician, actor and teacher. He was a Yorta Yorta man raised on a mission in New South Wales. He had a singing career that lasted 60 years and he was the first indigenous person to have a number one hit record in Australia. He made his first record in 1956 and continued recording until the end. Late in his life he made an album of songs supplied by the cream of rock musicians that was a huge success, both stylistically and commercially.

He had a voice that honey-soaked angels would be envious of. From the eighties he taught and mentored indigenous music students and created a foundation to help indigenous Australians with health problems, particularly diseases of the kidneys and eyes. He said in an interview on TV when asked how he’d like to be remembered, "I just want people to remember me as a nice person who was fair-minded and had a bit of talent that put it to good use." (75)

JIM MARSHALL probably caused more deafness than any person in history. He was an English business man who developed the Marshall amplifier and speaker stacks that are so beloved by rock musicians. They became the touchstone for quality reproduction and it became de rigueur for bands to have a mountain of these behind them. (88)

DONNA SUMMER was born in Boston but went to New York with a rock band while still in her teens much to her parents’ dismay. She later auditioned for Hair and was given a part in a German version of the play. She moved to that country, married and performed there. Later, the producer Giorgio Moroder asked her to sing Love to Love You Baby which became a smash world-wide. Donna returned to America and became one of the biggest disco artists. (63)

MARIA COLE, born Marie Hawkins, was a jazz singer of considerable facility who performed with Benny Carter, Count Basie and Fletcher Henderson. However, she’s mostly associated with Duke Ellington with whom she performed for some time. Once she was on the bill with the Nat King Cole Trio and there was an immediate attraction. She and Nat married and remained that way for the rest of Nat’s life. Maria was also the mother of singer Natalie Cole. (89)

JON LORD was a classically trained keyboard player most famous for his time in the rock group Deep Purple. They were hugely successful but after several albums he left to work solo. He was friends with, and played alongside, such luminaries as George Harrison, Alvin Lee and Jim Capaldi. He wrote a number of scores that used a rock group and a symphony orchestra in the same setting which were quite successful. (71)

TONY MARTIN was an American singer and actor who started out as a saxophone player. He went to Hollywood to try his luck in films and managed a few bit parts. He also had a small radio program and was later a singer on the Burns and Allen radio show. During the war he was initially in Glenn Miller’s band but later went to India. After the war, he performed in several musicals and had many hit records. Tony was married to Cyd Charisse for 60 years. (98)

IAN TURPIE was an Australian actor, musician and TV presenter. He caught the acting bug before becoming a teenager and appeared in many plays and TV programs. He later took up the guitar and started singing and he wasn’t bad at either of them. He presented several musical programs on TV. Later he hosted a whole bunch of game shows. He and Olivia Newton-John were an item for some years when they were young. (68)

BOB BABBITT was a bass player who was classically trained but most noted for being one of the Funk Brothers, a group of musicians that Motown Records used to accompany pretty much everyone who recorded there. More than 200 hit records, apparently. He didn’t just record for Motown, he also accompanied such artists as Del Shannon, Jim Croce, Gladys Knight and also played on some of Jim Hendrix’s recordings. He appeared in the fine documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown a few years ago. (74)

CARLO CURLEY was an American classical concert organist, one of few such performers who could support himself performing concerts, recitals and the like. Although a native of North Carolina, he also called England and several Scandinavian countries home. He had a large following throughout the world and played on the finest organs around. (59)

MICHAEL BURKS was a blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He was the son of a blues bass player and dad built a country club where Michael and his group were the house band. Michael later worked with O.V. Wright, Johnnie Taylor and others. He signed with Alligator records and made several fine records. (54)

SCOTT MCKENZIE was born Philip Blondheim in Florida. While a teenager his family moved to Virginia where he met and became friends with John Phillips, later one of The Mamas and The Papas. Along with Dick Weissman, they formed a group called The Journeymen in the mold of The Kingston Trio and made some albums. The group split in the wake of the musical revolution brought on by The Beatles.

To help ease the worries of the people of Monterey where John was helping to organize the Monterey Pop Festival, he wrote the song, San Francisco (Wear Flowers in your Hair) and gave it to Scott to record. The record was recorded, pressed and distributed in under two days. It was a world-wide hit that sold millions.

Later, Scott toured with the revamped Mamas and Papas. Although he released several other singles and some albums, Scott has often been labeled with the dreadful phrase “one hit wonder”. I say: Hey, that’s one more than I ever had. I imagine it’s the same for most readers. (73)

WILLA WARD, or Willarene to her family, was a gospel singer who first performed in her mum’s group The Ward Singers along with her more famous younger sister Clara. This was a hugely influential group, in particular upon Aretha Franklin and Little Richard. Willa left the group in the late fifties and created several pop ensembles as well as singing with such artists as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Chubby Checker and Patti LaBelle. (91)

HAL DAVID was a lyric writer usually associated with Burt Bacharach. In the sixties ,the pair had a run of hits equal to any others of the period. Dionne Warwick especially received many of their songs but she wasn’t alone – Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, Tom Jones, The Carpenters, Elvis Costello and many others performed their songs. Hal also worked with others, including John Barry to produce film scores. (91)

MAX BYGRAVES was an English “all-round entertainer” – an actor, singer, composer, TV star, pretty much the lot. He first came to public notice on radio in Britain and had a number of hit records in that country during the fifties. He stumbled on his trade-mark singalong style when his mother complained that there wasn’t anything she liked to listen to on the radio. He made a number of albums in this style that sold millions. (89)

KEITH GRANT was a recording and production engineer who was responsible for getting the music down for such artists as The Beatles, The Who, Eric Clapton, The Eagles, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Queen, the Small Faces, Dusty Springfield and Scott Walker (and many others). Whew, now there’s a list to be proud of. (71)

Ronald Bertram Aloysius Greaves III, or as we know him, R.B. GREAVES was an American R & B singer who was born on an air force base in Guyana, grew up on Seminole reservation and lived a lot of his life in Britain. His uncle was the great Sam Cooke. R.B. had a huge hit in 1968 with the song, Take a Letter, Maria that was covered by many other artists. His was the definitive version. (68)

Tomorrow, Part 2 of Toes Up 2012.

INTERESTING STUFF -29 December 2012

A whole lot I didn't know about how snowflakes work.

On Christmas Eve 2011 in Manhattan, writer Anelise Chen found a teeny-tiny frog in a bag of supermarket lettuce.

”I wasn’t prepared to discover wildlife in my kitchen. Luckily, I have a husband, who caught the frog with a piece of cheesecloth. We punched holes through the top of a plastic Tupperware container and put him inside with some water and a piece of the lettuce he rode in on.”

Next thing, they were taking the frog on a bus trip to Boston. The story is a charmer and you can read the whole thing here. (Hat tip to Tamar Orvel of Only Connect)

In 1945, after a year of digging three tunnels 30 feet underground, 76 allied POWs, mostly RAF, escaped from the German prison camp, Stalag Luft III. There cannot be many readers of this blog who don't remember the classic 1963 film, The Great Escape, with Steve McQueen at the head of a stellar cast.

The escape did not end well. Seventy-three were caught and 50 of them were executed by Nazi soldiers. The main tunnel, nicknamed Harry, was filled in by the Germans.

”So effective was the cover-up that when the remaining prisoners wanted to build a memorial for the 50 men who died, the exact site of the tunnel could not be agreed on.”

Now it has been found and thousands of artifacts left inside have been dug up including this pistol and homemade shovel.

Great escape artefacts

Channel 4 in Great Britain broadcast a documentary about it all earlier this month. Those who missed it or don't live there, can read this detailed story about the discovery here. (Hat tip to Canadian TGB reader Keith Meaden)

Amazing how well the little rat holds its own in competition for the treat.

Forget those expensive brain games; they don't work. But evidence of the relationship between physical activity and brain health keeps piling up.

Recent research suggests that it was our early ancestors' need for meat that created our large brains:

”Early humans had to plan and execute hunts as a group, which required complicated thinking patterns and, it’s been thought, rewarded the social and brainy with evolutionary success. According to that hypothesis, the evolution of the brain was driven by the need to think...

“The broad point of this new notion is that if physical activity helped to mold the structure of our brains, then it most likely remains essential to brain health today, says John D. Polk, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and co-author, with Dr. Raichlen, of the new article.

“And there is scientific support for that idea. Recent studies have shown, he says, that 'regular exercise, even walking,' leads to more robust mental abilities, 'beginning in childhood and continuing into old age.'”

Aside from reaffirming the healthy-brain benefits of exercise, it's a fascinating report on the latest anthropological thinking in regard to human development from the excellent fitness expert, Gretchen Reynolds. You can read it here.

This remarkably beautiful and thoughtful animation is from a recently-founded, German design studio named finally. Watch the video and then you might want to see what else the group is doing at their Vimeo website.

Hat tip to John Starbuck of For a Dancer

Although she broadcast her Christmas message this year in 3D, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain has a bit of a stodgy image. But look at this: she had her own email address way back in 1976 when the internet was still called the Arpanet:


The photo was taken in March 1976 by Peter Kirstein...

”...who set up her mail account, choosing the username HME2. That’s Her Majesty, Elizabeth II. 'All she had to do was press a couple of buttons,' he remembers, 'and her message was sent.

You can read more about the Queen and Arpanet here.

I was amused by this letter to Harper's quoted in December in a weekly newsletter I receive from the magazine:

“Dear Harper’s Magazine,

"I am a fervent subscriber (if there can be such a thing) to your excellent magazine: we have nothing equivalent in England, and I am very grateful to you for being so challenging and thought-provoking.

“However, the English pedant in me is reeling at your otherwise excellent Harper’s Weekly in which you announce that “Prince WIlliam and Princess Kate" are having a baby.

“Yikes! They’re the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She’s not Princess Kate, as she’s not a princess in her own right; she’s Princess William of Wales, otherwise known as the Duchess of Cambridge, until the Prince of Wales dies, when she’ll be the Princess of Wales, and not Kate, Princess of Wales.

“Sigh. I know I am fighting a long and hopeless battle. Even British journalists can’t get it right these days."

And I know I never will.


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

The Kindness and Caring of a Dog

There are distractions this week and not a lot of time to write so here is a beautiful, little story for today that will warm your heart:

Cats are mysterious, mercurial and manipulative beings, ever unpredictable and fascinating. Certainly they are loyal to the humans they happen to like and are sometimes known to behave altruistically toward people, especially children.

That last attribute, however, is more commonly in the repertoire of dogs and this video is a beautiful example. A Labrador with a Down syndrome toddler who isn't sure he wants the dog's attention at all. But the dog gently and patiently perseveres.

Apparently, no one knows who uploaded this video so there are no facts to tell you but it appears that this may the first meeting between the child and a dog. Thank you to Darlene Costner for sending this.

Results of Your Calls and Letters to Congress

category_bug_politics.gif As I mentioned recently, I sometimes feel like you must see me as Chicken Little when I repeatedly ask you to write or telephone Congress and the White House. I've done that two or three times just during all the recent fiscal cliff hoo-haw.

House Speaker John Boehner just gave up on those talks before leaving Washington and nothing much has happened since. I'm actually pleased about that and enjoying the rest.

I thought you might want to know some of the results of your calling and writing and this below is from an email sent out from the National Committee to Preserver Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM):

”On December 5, 2012, the National Committee joined advocates from dozens of other national senior groups across the nation in a Congressional Call-In Day, when seniors flooded Congress with calls reminding them that Americans of all ages and political parties do not support cutting middle-class benefits to pay for deficit reduction.

“If you were one of the tens of thousands of callers to flood the Congressional Switchboard urging lawmakers to protect earned benefits, thank you for your participation. Some of our members even reported receiving a busy signal and had to keep calling!

“Participants also sent emails and posted comments about National Call-In Day on Facebook and Twitter to drive home the message:

“This National Call-In Day is just one of many deficit debate mobilizations being led by the National Committee. Thanks to your support, we’ve delivered more than 100,000 letters to the House urging no cuts to earned benefits.

“And 65,000 petitions were delivered to the Senate at a Capitol Hill event.

“National Committee grassroots volunteers are visiting Congressional district offices in targeted states.

“And in Washington, the National Committee continues to meet with key leaders in the deficit debate urging no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Undoubtedly, I will be asking you to help in this manner again during 2013. Please remember that even if you know your representative or senator will not budge from whatever position he/she holds, the number of calls received in every Congressional office is tallied. So your call, email or letter is always important.

Now let's get back to taking a rest until next year. I suspect we need to store up energy for the continued fight.

Henri the Cat – The Worst Noel

Millions of people save some vacation for this time of year and the week between Christmas and New Years has always felt to me like a vaguely pleasant waiting period, even when I was employed and at work. Now? I'm mostly frittering away the days this year.

TGB reader, Bev Carney, keeps me up on internet happenings and she forwarded this new video of Henri the depressed French cat in an episode made especially for the season.

Christmas Day 2012

Many Americans may not know of Penelope Keith but for many years our British and Australian cousins have known her as one of the England's most famous actors – yes, she is of our generation.

You can read a bare bones biography about her at Wikipedia, but today we are concerned only with her rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas or, as it is titled in this case, Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree.

When you hear this you will wonder how you ever got through the Christmas holiday without it.

No video, just audio, and I promise it is worth every minute. Happy Christmas to everyone and enjoy.

Penelope Keith - And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree

(If you have technical difficulties with the audio here, give it a try at this website (scroll down). And you will find the entire lyric here, but it's much more fun to listen to Penelope.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Father Time is My Peer

Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas 2010

All three of us are taking a bit of rest over this holiday season and there won't be any serious blogging this week (unless I change my mind). But you should for sure check in here tomorrow, Christmas day, for a special presentation I know will delight you.

After that, there will be some minimal posts and of course, Peter Tibbles has been hard at work on his annual Toes Up editions - a remembrance of the musicians who died during 2012 - that will be published here next Sunday and Monday.

Wishing every one of you a joyous celebration with your family and friends.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, a wonderful holiday gift - the return of Lyn Burnstine: I Used to be Battery-Operated; Now I'm Hard-Wired

ELDER MUSIC: Christmas 2012

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

Christmas in Oz

Oh my, it’s not that time of year again, is it? It must be as the temperatures seem to be in the mid- to high-30s.

I can hear you say that that’s just what we expect but I’m talking about Celsius. For those who are a little challenged on that temperature scale, it means that it’s 95 to over 100 degrees on the obsolete Fahrenheit scale.

Of course, if things don’t improve on the global warming front, and that doesn’t seem likely, Santa himself may be hanging around the North Pole the way his stand-ins do here in Oz - in shorts and teeshirts taking a dip in the ocean and glugging away at the gin and tonic with vast amounts of ice in it.

That ice won’t be coming from his natural surroundings.

So, here I am another year older and deeper in debt (or something like that). Not only that, I’m fast running out of cynical Christmas songs - my more preferred mode of music at this time of year. I’ll just have to do my best with what I have.

When I saw the title of this song by RY COODER I thought it referred to the development they did along the south side of the Yarra River here in Melbourne a few decades back but I was wrong. Doesn’t matter; I’m including it anyway.

Ry Cooder

Ry is the master of any instrument that has strings on it (and is probably proficient at the others as well). He has been in demand as a session player for the last 50 years as well as putting out his own records most of which are great and the rest pretty good. This is Christmas in Southgate.

♫ Ry Cooder - Christmas In Southgate

I mentioned Santa above and he has to rear his ugly head musically somewhere in these proceedings, and yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Or there was one. Sort of.

He’s based on some bloke named Nicholas who was a bishop in Myra, now a city in Turkey and quite a bit of a hike from the North Pole. Not much is known about Nick; I think that’s best for saints because people can weave their own fantasies about their lives.

Anyway, what we do know is that it seems that he was imprisoned for a while for his proselytizing until the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 at the behest of his wife. From my readings, he did that just to keep peace in the Constantine household.

Nick also probably attended the Council of Nicea in 325 that Connie set up, at which the books of the Bible were once and for all decided upon - what was kept, what was chucked out, what could do with a bit of tweakage was determined by votes at the time.

Although Nick had a reputation for kindness and benevolence, when he came to power in the church he was just like any other religious zealot and personally supervised the destruction of the most beautiful structure in his diocese, the Temple to Artemis.

He also destroyed all the pagan icons in Myra. So, there’s really little difference between him and the Taliban. He was sainted for doing that sort of thing.

Here’s a song that celebrates him in a style he doesn’t deserve: EARTHA KITT singing Santa Baby. I’m surprised I haven’t used this one before.

Eartha Kitt

♫ Eartha Kitt - Santa Baby

Some more Santa. CLARENCE CARTER’s offering is Backdoor Santa which sounds to me like Willie Dixon’s Back Door Man.

Clarence Carter

Clarence is a fine soul singer. You may remember his songs Slip Away and Patches from the sixties. He’s still out there entertaining us.

His song today has been brought before a new audience as parts of it have been sampled (i.e. ripped off) in some rap Christmas tunes. Here is the original.

♫ Clarence Carter - Backdoor Santa

Here’s another mathematician, although he was considerably more successful at that than I was, TOM LEHRER.

Tom Lehrer

Besides doing all those add-ups and guzintas (maths joke), Tom was somewhat successful as a songwriter and performers of quirky songs, the sort that I like.

Tom takes Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and runs with it to places old Charlie probably didn’t imagine. The song is also called A Christmas Carol.

♫ Tom Lehrer - A Christmas Carol

I think we need a jazz take on proceedings. The gentlemen I have in mind are CHARLIE HADEN and HANK JONES.

Charlie Haden and Hank Jones

Charlie is a master bass player and Hank a great pianist. Put them together and you have Christmas jazz magic. Here they tackle the old song God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.

♫ Charlie Haden and Hank Jones - God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

COCO ROBICHEAUX was yet another fine musician from New Orleans, one of thousands. Unfortunately, he died late last year.

Coco Robicheaux

Born Curtis Arceneaux, he took his stage name from a Louisiana legend in which a naughty boy is abducted by a Loup Garou. That has nothing to do with Christmas really.

Coco’s song isn’t quite The Night Before Christmas - it’s a much more New Orleans thing, Saturday Night Before Christmas.

♫ Coco Robicheaux - Saturday Night Before Christmas

JOHN PRINE can be counted on to give an interesting take on any topic about which he writes a song.

John Prine

John wrote some of the finest songs in the seventies, many of which were recorded by other artists of the highest calibre. This isn’t one of them. It’s probably a second string song for him, but it’s a Christmas ditty so it’s included. Christmas in Prison.

♫ John Prine - Christmas In Prison

Time for another Santa song. This one is when Santa starts his journey, the first place he hits is here in Oz (well he probably started in New Zealand, but we pretty much ignore them).

To show what that’s all about, here is BILLY FIELD, one of the more interesting performers in this wide brown land.

Billy Field

Billy had several big hits in the early eighties and was going to be the next big thing but he decided to concentrate of playing jazz and producing records. He still performs around the traps and is always worth a listen.

♫ Billy Field - Santa Claus is Headin' South

Yet another Australian, not surprisingly as we don’t take these things at all seriously. You may have noticed.

TIM MINCHIN can usually be relied upon to give us a good Christmas song. This one came out last year, too late to be included in the column back then (besides I had another of his songs) so of course, waste not, want not, here it is this year.

The delicate flower who was the producer of the TV program from which this was taken actually cut it before it was broadcast. This was England, for heaven’s sake. Are they getting as timid as some other countries I could mention? Decide for yourself - WoodyAllenJesus

I’ll end with my traditional moment of couth. Yet again I’m going with the incomparable J. S. BACH. Well, he produced so much it’s difficult to go past him.


This is a duet aria from one of his Christmas cantatas, Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 91. The aria is Die Armut, so Gott.

♫ J.S. Bach - Herr, du siehst statt guter Werke

Christmas in Oz

INTERESTING STUFF: 22 December 2012

Greetings of the Season to you all. Given that there is so much that is painful and wrong in our world right now, today's Interesting Stuff is an antidote - all video and entirely for fun. It is so sweet you might end up in sugar shock, so light and airy, it could drift off your screen if your not careful. I hope you will like it.

TGB reader Fran was the first to send this video – many more followed.

This is laugh-out-loud funny but it also has a strange kind of beauty. From web curator extraordinaire, Darlene Costner. I would miss so much good stuff without her.

Recent episodes of Simon's Cat haven't thrilled me. It felt like the cartoon had run its course. This, however, is almost back up to snuff.

Shakespeare said it: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

From curator, Darlene, again – grains of sand, each as individual as snowflakes are said to be, from Dr. Gary Greenberg's microphotography. You can see more here.

For impatient Downton Abbey fans, it's only about two weeks until the season three premiere on 6 January. To hold you until then, Stephen Colbert, on his last show of 2012, somehow coerced the three men of DA to play themselves as they would be in Breaking Bad. Fabulous.

Watson the dog stands by while the boy does a quick assessment of the puddle situation. (It says on YouTube that this is not viewable on phones and tablets)


The sweet sad story of the last 24 hours of a piano in New York City.

And now, for the finale, the famous Jingle Cats sing the season. (You should see how Ollie the cat goes a little nuts when I play this. I suppose he's wondering where all the kitties are.)

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

What's the Matter with Old People?

For the record, I stole that headline from Salon editor-at-large, Joan Walsh, who released a book this year titled, What's the Matter with White People?.

Her title, in turn, mimics Thomas Frank's 2004 book, What's the Matter with Kansas?. It's what popped to mind when I started writing this story and I couldn't resist.

As did Maine, Maryland and Washington in November, an increasing number of states are passing legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. And now, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases during this session that could go a long way toward legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples in all states.

There is a brief but good explanation of details of what's at stake in the two cases at PBS News Hour.

On this issue, it feels like the Supreme Court is following the public's amazingly swift change of mind. Since 1996, according to Pew Research, the number of Americans who approve same-sex marriage has climbed from 27 percent to 49 percent in October of this year.

But what is discouraging about this public change of mind is that old Americans are proving their reputation for being hidebound dinosaurs. From The New York Times [emphasis added]:

"In a Gallup Poll conducted last month, 73 percent of people between 18 and 29 years old said they favored it, while only 39 percent of people older than 65 did.

The Pew Research poll concurs. Since 2009, support [again, emphasis added]

”...among baby boomers (ages 48 to 66) has grown to 41 percent from 32 percent; among seniors (over age 67) to 33 percent from 23 percent; among Generation X (ages 32 to 47) to 51 percent from 41 percent; and among millennials (ages 18 to 31) to 64 percent from 51 percent.”

Well, at least elders have moved a few degrees forward but they are not keeping up with what is, in this case, as much a civil rights issue as anything we marched for in the 1960s.

And although I can't find a poll that would support me, I believe it is sensible to assume the 61 to 67 percent (depending on which survey) of elders who cling to outmoded attitudes and beliefs include the 53 percent who voted for Mitt Romney even though he promised to kill Social Security and Medicare.

As an advocate for elders, I am discouraged by this kind of information. Why should younger people take us seriously, respect us and, perhaps, see us as a source of some amount of wisdom that might be useful to them when a majority of our age group refuses to change with the times?

What is the matter with old people?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carol Skahen: Happy Birthday

President Obama Betrays Elders

category_bug_politics.gif Depending on the newsletters you subscribe to, perhaps you too have been swamped with email this week from Democratic and Progressive organizations.

There is a good reason: two days ago President Barack Obama, in fiscal cliff negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner, sold out elders by offering - offering without being asked, not forced in any way - to change how Social Security cost-of-living increases (COLAs) are calculated by switching to the chained CPI which reduces the the amount of the increase.

Good god. Does he think elders out here are getting rich? The average Social Security benefit is about $1230 dollars a month. That's little enough but remember, it's average. Millions of the old, disabled and military veterans live on less – so little, in fact, that even a $10 reduction in their monthly check means they will skip more meals than they already do.

This is not a “tweak” as the president has said; it is a cut and it affects the poorest elders most of all.

Politicians make enough money that they have no idea $10 a month could make a real difference to anybody. Someone needs to tell them but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't believe it – including the president.

One way the Village talks about inflation and Social Security is to state that elders have higher health care costs than younger adults. That's often true which begs the question, why is the president offering to cut old people's income?

And what no one ever mentions is that everything else costs more every year too and the COLA always, always falls short. Personal example:

Next year, my Social Security benefit increases by about $32 a month. But I just finished calculating what my monthly nut will be for 2013, the fixed expenses that I can do nothing to change: homeowners association dues, power, health coverage including Medicare Part B ($5 increase for most of us), Medicare Supplemental and Medicare drugs, telephone, etc. My monthly expenses will go up by slightly above $100.

That's right, about three times what my income rise is. And that has been so, usually a somewhat smaller amount, every year since I signed up for Social Security in 2006.

Like every previous year, I am wondering how soon it will be that I cannot easily absorb the increase in expenses anymore and still eat.

I say that but it is not imminent; I am in infinitely better financial shape than the elders who, frighteningly, live on $700, $800, $900 a month. Even now they cannot eat without the many services provided by local government and non-profit organizations that work hard to help. But it is never enough.

And now, the president wants to cut a few dollars from these elders' income so that they “share the burden” with plutocrats who have been getting million dollar payoffs year after year after year with outsized salaries and special income tax rates useful only for high earners.

As every honest person knows, Social Security has nothing to do with the budget or the fiscal cliff. Nothing. There are plenty of other ways to save money in the federal budget and Richard Eskow at the Campaign for America's Future has eight of them. Take a look.

I know I ask a lot of you and I worry all the time when I ask you to write or call your representatives that I sound like Chicken Little. But geez – these #$%^& people in Washington will just not lay off the poor and the old.

In addition to the president, now House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has decided to stick it to old people: “I consider it a strengthening of Social Security,” she said yesterday of the chained CPI.

So I'm asking you again. Please call today. Please. Tell the White House and your senators and representative that the chained CPI in unfair and unacceptable.

• White House phone: 202.456.1111
White House email
• NCPSSM Hotline: 800.998.0180 (for all Congress members)
• Firedoglake has direct phone numbers for all Congress members

And here is a script for you from Bold Progressives:

Hi, my name is [NAME] and I'm calling from [TOWN, STATE]. During the election, Democrats like Representative [NAME] promised to protect Social Security benefits.

As a constituent, I want [NAME] to keep [HIS/HER] promise and publicly oppose any White House deal to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits. That includes cutting cost of living adjustments.

Can you tell Rep. [NAME] that I want [HIM/HER] to oppose the president's proposed benefit cuts?


Thank you. And can you please tell your press secretary that I called and asked Rep. [NAME] to make a public statement opposing benefit cuts?


Thank you.

Please, please call today, not just for us but for everyone who pays into Social Security now. For our children. For our grandchildren. Let's overwhelm the White House and Congress with our voices.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Is It Time to Go?

Some Elder Humor

Not long ago ago, I told you about a book I recently purchased titled The Art of Aging with a lot of quotations from writers of many historical eras. It continues to engage me. Here is the editor, Wayne Booth, on the subject of age humor:

”Why is humor about aging so effective – when it works – and so exasperating – at least to the elderly – most of the time? No doubt because effective comedy preserves the losses while transcending them, while too many attempts at humor simply fall into denials..."

Booth then calls on James Ball Naylor for preserving the full sense of loss of sexual prowess, while having his fun:

King David and King Solomon
Led merry, merry lives
With many, many lady friends
And many, many wives;
But when old age crept over them,
With many, many qualms,
King Solomon wrote the Proverbs
And King David wrote the Psalms.

Continuing the theme, Booth writes:

”Autobiographers play with [humor], though not as often as I wish they would:

“'A year ago,' writes Bruce Bliven, 'when I was only eighty-two, I wrote somebody that I don't feel like an old man, I feel like a young man who has something the matter with him.

"I have now found what it is: it is the approach of middle age, and I don't care for it.”

Later in the chapter, Booth collects a few one-liners about age from some well-known people.

“I am in the prime of my senility.”
      - Joel Chandler Harris
“I'll never make the mistake of bein' seventy again.”
      - Casey Stengel
“Old Age is when you know all the answers but nobody asks you the questions.”
      - Lawrence J. Peter

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Memories

A Thoughtful, Important and Practical Gun Control Solution

The forces against any useful kind of gun control are huge and powerful. Solutions being discussed by our elected officials are the same old half measures – limit size of guns and magazines, etc.

Over this past horrible weekend TGB reader, John Gear, forwarded to me a proposal he made in an Op-Ed piece in 1999, for greater gun safety. It seems an excellent idea to me.

John is a second-career attorney in solo practice who focuses on serving consumers, elders and nonprofits in Salem, Oregon. He wrote this after a young man killed his parents and some classmates in Springfield, Oregon.

After each mass killing since then, he has tried to spread his idea in hopes of breaking the stalemate on guns in America caused by absolutists more interested in argument than in reducing carnage.

I know John's essay is kind of lengthy, but it is highly readable and I think you will find the idea to be workable and worthy of wide consideration. If you do, it would be good for you pass it along far and wide. You can link to it here or at this website.

We can fix the gun problem. We can make America safer without limiting our right to bear arms. And we can do it without an expensive, dangerous and futile "War on Guns."

To solve the real problem (keeping guns out of the wrong hands without restricting other people), we must use an idea that has worked to limit losses from many other hazards: insurance. That's right, insurance, the system of risk-management contracts that lets people take responsibility for choices they make that impose risks on others.

Insurance is what lets society accommodate technology. Without it, we would have few autos, airplanes, trains, steamships, microwaves, elevators, skyscrapers and little electricity because only the wealthiest could accept the liability involved.

When people are accountable for risks imposed on others, they act more responsibly. Insurance is what enables this accountability.

Rather than trying to limit access to or take guns away from law-abiding adults, we must instead insist that the adult responsible for a gun at any instant (maker, seller or buyer) have enough liability insurance to cover the harm that could result if that adult misuses it or lets it reach the wrong hands.

Who gets the insurance proceeds and for what? The state crime victims' compensation fund, whenever a crime involving guns is committed or a gun mishap occurs. The more victims, the bigger the payout. The greater the damage (from intimidation to multiple murders and permanent crippling), the greater the payout.

The insurers will also pay the fund for other claims such as when a minor commits suicide by gun or accidentally kills a playmate with Daddy's pistol. This will reduce such mishaps.

Insurance is very effective in getting people to adopt safe practices in return for lower premiums.

When a crime involving a gun occurs, the firm who insured it pays the claim. If the gun is not found or is uninsured (and there will still be many of these at first), then every fund will pay a pro-rated share of the damages based on the number of guns they insure. This will motivate insurance firms - and legitimate gun owners - to treat uninsured guns as poison instead of as an unavoidable byproduct of the Second Amendment.

Thus, insurance will unite the interests of all law-abiding citizens, gun owners and others against the real problem with guns: guns in the hands of criminals, the reckless, the untrained and juveniles.

Like other insurance, firearm insurance will be from a private firm or association, not the government. Owners, makers and dealers will likely self-insure forming large associations just as the early "automobilists" did. Any financially-sound group, such as the NRA, can follow state insurance commission rules and create a firearms insurance firm.

That's it. No mass or government registrations. Except for defining the rules, no government involvement at all. Each owner selects his or her insurance firm. By reaffirming the right to responsible gun ownership and driving uninsured guns out of the system, we use a proven, non-prohibitionist strategy for improving public safety.

Each insurance firm will devise a strategy for earning more revenue with fewer claims. Thus gun owners - informed by the actuaries - will choose for ourselves the controls we will tolerate and the corresponding premiums. (Rates will vary according to the gun we want to insure, our expertise and claims history.)

Some will want a cheaper policy that requires trigger locks whenever the gun is not in use; others will not. Hobbyists will find cheaper insurance by keeping their firearms in a safe at the range.

Newer, younger shooters and those who choose weapons that cause more claims will pay higher premiums. That way other owners with more training and claims-free history will pay less. (Insurance companies are expert at evaluating combined risks and dividing them up - in the form of premiums - with exquisite precision.)

Soon, the firms will emphasize cutting claims. That means promoting gun safety and fighting black market gun dealers which is where many criminals get guns. And every legitimate gun owner will have a persuasive reason – lower premiums -- to help in the fight.

We need to start discussing this now because it will take several years to enact. Gun-control advocates will hate this because it forsakes the failed prohibitionist approach. But the evidence is clear: there is virtually no chance that prohibiting guns can work without destroying our civil liberties, and probably not even then.

And the organized gun lobby will hate it too because most of their power comes from having the threat of gun prohibition to point to. But again the evidence is clear: we have the current gun laws - ineffective as they are - because we have neglected a right even more important to Americans than the right to bear arms: the right to be safely unarmed.

Naturally, many gun owners will resent paying premiums because they resent assuming responsibility for risks that, so far, we've dumped on everyone else. So be it. It is only by assuming our responsibilities that we preserve our rights.

Some will note that the Second Amendment doesn't include "well-insured." But just as the press needs insurance against libel suits to exercise the First Amendment, we must assume responsibility for the risks that firearms present to society.

The problem is real, even such prohibitionist strategies are doomed to fail, even if passed. Sadly, some pro-gun groups have already revved up their own mindless propaganda, blaming Springfield on liberals, TV, Dr. Spock, "bad seeds," you name it - anything but the easy access to guns that made massacres like Springfield so quick, so easy and so likely.

This won't work instantly but it will work because it breaks the deadlock about guns and how to keep them away from people who shouldn't have them without stomping on the rights of the rest of us. Thus it changes the dynamics of this issue and ends the lethal deadlock over guns.

It's time for everyone, people seeking safety from guns and law-abiding gun owners alike, to work together to fight firearms in the wrong hands, and it's time to fight with FIRE: Firearm Insurance, Required Everywhere.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: A Twist of Fate on Christmas Day

The Unspeakable Tragedy at Sandy Hook

By now you undoubtedly have seen and read the accounts of the horrific shootings Friday in Connecticut where 27 were killed including 20 children. It is those children - babies really, kindergartners – who make this latest gun tragedy unbearable.

But also, we should not fail to remember that such atrocities are commonplace nowadays – hardly unexpected in the United States. In fact, it is the second mass killing in less than a week; there was one right here in Portland, Oregon, last Tuesday where, luckily, “only” two died in addition to the shooter.

In 2012 (so far), there have been eight mass shootings in the U.S. That, to me, is a crucial point - “in the U.S.” Of the 20 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years, 11 were in the United States. The second-place country with two mass shootings is Finland.

(The Washington Post has a good story on some historical facts about mass shootings.)

I'm not going to pontificate on this uniquely American kind of crime but to the extent that this one, for having killed tiny children, is possibly a wake up call, we must think carefully about why it is most common (by magnitudes) in the U.S.

No matter the gazillion words that have and will continue to pour forth, the bottom line is that this is a gun crime. Got that? A person who was barely an adult himself shot 27 people with a lot of guns.

The president, some state and federal legislators and all the pundits are saying "this time" we must do something.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. They say that after every horrible killing spree but there is no reason to believe it. When the immediacy of the tragedy fades, the NRA, its lobbyists and Congress members who readily accept that organization's campaign contributions will continue to make it easier to buy and own guns.

Just watch in the coming weeks: I'm pretty sure there will be a lot of calls for more armed guards in schools and no useful changes to gun laws. It would be good if I am wrong.

UPDATE 5:40AM: In my early morning reading, I ran across this story, I Am Adam Lanza's Mother, at Alternet. Certainly as a nation we must address the gun issue but this mother's story illuminates another important part of the problem.

IN OTHER NEWS: You wouldn't know it from the major media, but events other than the Connecticut shootings do continue to take place. One may be devastating for elders.

Following a lengthy telephone conversation on Friday with President Obama, Republican House Speaker John Boehner has proposed raising the tax rate on top wage earners beginning 1 January. All well and good until you read what he wants in return. According to Politico, Boehner would agree to the tax rise only:

"...if President Barack Obama agrees to major entitlement cuts, according to several sources close to the talks...

"Boehner also wants to use a new method of calculating benefits for entitlement programs known as 'chained CPI,' which would slow the growth of Medicare and other federal health programs and save hundreds of billions over the next decade."

Please note that it is not just Boehner and Republicans in general who want to screw old Americans. Politico, by using the "slow Medicare growth" argument instead of the "will dramatically cut elder's healthcare" explanation are promoting the Republican agenda to their readers.

And although it is not mentioned in the Politico story, we all know how waffly the president is on Social Security and Medicare cuts.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: The Christmas Tree

ELDER MUSIC: Blue Eyed Soul

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

category_bug_eldermusic Blue Eyed Soul is a term coined or, at least used, to refer to such artists as the Righteous Brothers, the Rascals and others. These were white performers who not just sang soul songs but were imbued with the soul ethos. The column today is about such artists.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I think that EDDIE HINTON is the best white soul singer ever, so it’s appropriate we start with him.

Eddie Hinton

Eddie was most notably a session guitarist, He played at Muscle Shoals and he backed Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Elvis, Joe Tex, Solomon Burke, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Arthur Conley, The Staple Singers, Boz Scaggs and many, many more.

He was also a songwriter of some note. He made a few albums, only a few, but they are all classics. Unfortunately, he rather liked booze and drugs far too much. He died of life at age 51.

Here Eddie sings and plays piano and guitar on I'll Come Running Back to You.

♫ Eddie Hinton - I'll Come Running Back to You

Coming in closely behind Eddie is DELBERT McCLINTON.

Delbert McClinton

Delbert is not just a soul singer, he’s also one of the best country singers around and can perform rock & roll with the best of them. He even veers towards jazz at times as well. You can hear what I mean in a column about him I’ve already done.

Here he performs one of the great Otis Redding’s songs, I've Got Dreams to Remember.

♫ Delbert McClinton - I've Got Dreams to Remember

TONY JOE WHITE is up there with Eddie and Delbert. Actually, pretty much everyone today fits into that category - that’s why they’re here.

Tony Joe White

Tony Joe White can entertain an audience with just his guitar and himself singing; I know because I’ve been there. He’s worth seeing if he’s ever in your neck of the woods. There’s a bit of a theme going here and Tony also tackles one of Otis’s songs, Hard to Handle.

♫ Tony Joe White - Hard to Handle

JOE COCKER certainly deserves inclusion in this category.

Joe Cocker

Anyone who could take a throw-away song Paul and John wrote for Ringo and turn it into a soul classic is definitely in. However, I’m not using that song, you all know it so well, I expect. (Just in case, it is I Get By with a Little Help From My Friends.)

Instead, I’ve decided to use the Randy Newman song. Guilty.

♫ Joe Cocker - Guilty

THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS really didn’t get along with Phil Spector, the creator of their earliest hits. Not really surprising.

The Righteous Brothers

So, as soon as was possible, when their contract was up, they left and created their own music. They did learn a lot about music production from Spector though and their subsequent records are almost indistinguishable from those that Spector produced.

This is one of those, Soul and Inspiration.

♫ The Righteous Brothers - Soul and Inspiration

MAX MERRITT was born in New Zealand and when he pretty much had done everything he could in that country he relocated to Australia. Like all great Kiwi imports, we call them our own (we disown the problematic ones).

Max and the Meteors

Max and his band The Meteors have always been a group that played rhythm & blues and soul music. They had great success with covers of such songs but their biggest hit was one of Max’s own songs, Slipping Away.

♫ Max Merritt & The Meteors - Slipping Away

THE RASCALS started as the Young Rascals due to a dispute over who owned the name.

The Rascals

They were all originally from New Jersey and like a lot of bands initially started out by performing cover versions. Again, like many others they began to write and perform their own material including the beautiful song Groovin’ which was probably their biggest hit.

The song today was also a huge hit but is not one of their compositions. It’s a far superior version to the original by The Olympics. Good Lovin'.

♫ The Rascals - Good Lovin'

DELANEY BRAMLETT first came to my notice as a duet act with his wife at the time. They were Delaney and Bonnie, and a fine act they were.

Delaney Bramlett

They were part of the bunch of musicians that revolved around Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and Eric Clapton in the early seventies. In fact, Eric toured with them and can be heard on their really fine live album.

Delaney and Bonnie made two or three really good albums at that time but they split up after a while. Here is Delaney with Bonnie, singing Let Me Be Your Man.

♫ Delaney Bramlett - Let Me Be Your Man

I’m going to cheat a bit with HALL & OATES because they have the help of some “real” soul singers on this track.

Hall and Oates and Ruffin and Kendricks

They are David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick, both of whom have sung lead vocals for The Temptations. That will be obvious as they perform a medley of Temptations’ songs.

Daryl and John do rather take a bit of a back seat on this track but they are in there somewhere. That’s okay. I know I could have chosen a track of theirs on their own but I like this one.

Here they all are with Apollo Medley – several songs from The Temptations’ catalogue.

♫ Hall & Oates - Apollo Medley

It’s hard to categorise DAN PENN.

Dan Penn

He’s written so many songs, songs you’d recognise, so many great ones that you could just call him a songwriter. Dan’s also a record producer and he performs as well, usually with his friend and often writing partner, Spooner Oldham.

He (and they) sing soul, blues, country. Whatever they feel like. The song today was recorded so marvellously by James Carr that it’s really pointless having anyone else perform it. Of course, that’s not going to happen, there are hundreds of versions of the song out there.

However, Dan wrote it (with Chips Moman) so he’s entitled: The Dark End of the Street.

♫ Dan Penn - The Dark End of the Street

Goodness, that got away from me before I had a chance to include female singers. There’s a bunch I had in mind so that’s going to be another column. Obviously, the A.M. wasn’t looking over my shoulder on this one.

INTERESTING STUFF: 15 December 2012

Tonight is the last night of Hannukah when all eight candles of the menorrah are lit. My friend Kent McKamy sent this video of a wonderfully complicated technology solution to lighting the candles from the people at Technion Israel.

Me? I have to light them the old fashioned way - matches.

You think I'm kidding. Take a look.

Last Wednesday the date 12 December 2012 could be written 12.12.12. The next time that will happen – writing the date with three identical numbers, will not happen again for 98 years on 10 October 2110.

I thought you'd like to know.

NASA explains:

”This new global view and animation of Earth’s city lights is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite. The data was acquired over nine days in April 2012 and 13 days in October 2012.

“It took 312 orbits to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth's land surface and islands. This new data was then mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery of Earth to provide a realistic view of the planet.”

I could write reams for you about all the things that are wrong with light pollution. I'll spare you today and anyway, this is gorgeous. Take a look. More information and closeup images here.

Courtesy of Darlene Costner.

dinosaur cartoon

(From the New Yorker)

New Yorker cat cartoon Christmas

Ollie the cat is getting tubby in his old age. I wish I could believe he would do this. (Hat tip to Bev Carney)

I recall, when I was a little girl, reading a lot about Helen Keller who died in 1968 at age 87. Here is a most astonishing newsreel video of her and her teacher from 1930:

Terrific amateur video from a real-life UPS employee. Ken Jones sings about being Santa Claus in a big brown truck and doing it not – as he is careful to tell us at the end – on company time. It is such silly fun.

Early this week, we discussed an end-of-life quotation from May Sarton. Here's another from her combined with the image by Ron Palmer. Full size version is here.


They're cute and funny and frisky and silly and so full of baby goat life. If you don't giggle through this video, your funny bone is broken. Thank you Jan Adams of Can It Happen Here?

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

The Purpose Prize 2012

The Purpose Prize has been around for half a dozen years. Its – ahem - purpose is to invest in people older than 60 who are changing the world for the greater good. The winners each receive $100,000.

The five 2012 winners were recently announced and without taking anything away from the other four, one leapt out at me - maybe because he is from Maine where I lived for four years or, more likely, because of his moral transformation. As The New York Times describes it [emphasis added]:

”In 1989, Tom Cox, a lawyer for a Maine bank at the time, wrote the book on mortgage foreclosures (Maine Real Estate Foreclosure Procedures for Lenders and Workout Officers), detailing the most effective legal methods for seizing people’s homes.

“After 30 years of that, he retired and in 2008, during the Great Recession, he experienced a crisis of conscience and switched sides to work pro bono for people whose homes were being foreclosed on by banks.”

Listen now to what Mr. Cox has to say about that and how he has used his time since 2008:

We know from the front pages nearly every day that Mr. Cox's is a rare path for bankers and there is a greater good beyond his individual accomplishment that is being honored: maybe some other bankers will notice.

About the other four winners:

Bhagwati (B.P.) Agrawal brings safe drinking water to the people of his native village in India.

Susan Burton, a felon herself, gives women parolees the tools, training and even homes to help them rebuild their lives.

Judy Cockerton is the founder and executive director of the Treehouse Foundation which helps people help foster children.

Lorraine Decker is co-founder and president of Skills for Living Inc. that provides free seminars teaching financial, career and life skills to low-income teens and adults.

You should go read their stories. Each has lived a transformative moment or event that set them on their paths to helping others.

What I like about The Purpose Prize is that the selected winners do local, hands-on work that improves in concrete, everyday ways the lives of people they know or meet.

Too often, we reward just big ideas that can take years and piles of bureaucracy to get anywhere. But I believe programs that start small and succeed like these become beacons of light encouraging other people to replicate them depending on what they see is needed in their communities.

And that is what The Purpose Prize rewards.

In the individual links above are the stories and videos with each of this year's winners. You can read more about The Purpose Prize here and beginning in January, you can even nominate someone you think should be honored in this way.

(Hat tip to the half dozen readers to emailed information about this year's Purpose Prize winners.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: What's for Dinner?

In Search of a Fulfilling Old Age

category_bug_journal2.gif In a post last week, I concluded with this:

”What I want from this stage of my life is to fully live it, be in it, wallow in it. I want to understand its uniqueness, discover how it is different from what came before, experience the changes – whatever they may be - and come to know what it is to be old.”

You can imagine, then, my surprise when in the mail that afternoon a small-format, little gem of a book arrived and on page three of the Prologue, wherein the writer explains what he is going to tell us in the ensuing eight chapters, I read:

”I have returned to this Greek island on a personal quest: I am an old man myself now – seventy-three – and I want to figure out the most satisfying way to live this stage of my life.”

Travels with Epicurus Cover If you have been reading this blog for more than a week, you have already guessed I was hooked, and I knew immediately that nothing else was going to get done in my life until I finished reading the 167 pages of Travels with Epicurus – A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life.

Three pages later, I wondered if the author had been reading my mind:

”This new old-age credo is everywhere I looked. If someone even casually mentioned that she was getting on in years, she was immediately chastened: 'You're not old. You're still in your prime!' She was informed that 'Seventy is the new fifty.' She was admonished not to 'give in' to old age...

“I suspect if I were to take this popularly accepted route, I would miss out on something deeply significant: I would deny myself a unique an invaluable state of life...I would miss for eternity ever simply being authentically and contentedly old.

Who IS this guy? I wondered, this thoroughly and specifically like-minded soul.

His name is Daniel Klein. He studied philosophy at Harvard, has written some popular books with droll titles including Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar and best of all – far from being an ivory-tower scholar (well, he may be that too for all I know) – spent some amount of time in his past writing jokes for the likes of Flip Wilson and Lily Tomlin.

And so it is, with the playful sensibility such a background implies, that Klein takes us along on his personal pursuit of an authentic way to live old age without losing the gravitas such an endeavor requires too.

We learn a lot about how Epicurus and some other ancient philosophers thought old age should be lived and some modern ones too. About two films – Bergman's Wild Strawberries and Felllini's 8-1/2 - I know now, thanks to Klein, I saw when I was way too young to really understand them.

For me, who dislikes all things sentimental, there is an important section on Frank Sinatra's ability to “convey nostalgia of the highest order” that may change my perspective:

”Even as a young man...Sinatra...had an uncommon gift for expressing the phenomenon of looking back at the joys and sorrows of past romances from the vantage point of a meditative and wistful old age...

“Sinatra is sharing with us how it feels to recall being a young man blissful with love and hope. He relives his feelings from those years and, by God, they were absolutely wonderful.

“Yet it does an old man good to realize that was then and this is now. What remains, the memory of young love as seen through the filter of subsequent experience, has a sweetness of its own.”

Klein is, of course, correct and I will not again apply my automatic pejorative to the idea of nostalgia (except when it's called for).

For me, there are wake up calls on nearly every page of Travels With Epicurus, new (to me) thoughts on old ideas about age that you will undoubtedly read more of on these webpages as time goes by. Klein has been pondering many of the same things I do about getting old, but he is a smarter and more unique thinker than I am.

Among his several conclusions at the end of his Greek isle odyssey, Klein writes:

”I find myself feeling like Guido in 8-1/2: 'Everything is just as it was before. Everything is confused again but this confusion is me.' I cannot help wondering if my quest for a relevant philosophy of authentic old age was nothing more than a befuddled old geezer barking at the moon.”

I take Klein's point but I don't agree. There is much wisdom in this little book served with a lot of wit.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Clothespins

Isolation, Loneliness and Solitude in Old Age

category_bug_journal2.gif Last week, on a post titled Youthiness in Old Age, Monica Devine, who blogs at Between Two Rivers, left this comment:

“Speaking of contrarian, I've always wondered about this: I'm sure it's true that socializing with family and friends prolongs and enhances the life span and experience of aging for old people, but, could this notion be over-rated?

“Maybe being older generates a desire to go inward, be less social. Is it so bad to want to be alone, to enjoy silence and eschew so much socializing?”

Well, you don't have to convert me to Monica's way of thinking. I like my friends. I enjoy lunches, dinners and other events with them. And I seem to be spending increasing amounts of time working with like-minded people on various elder issues in my community.

But when those engagements are done I am always eager to be home alone (if you don't count the cat). Compared to a lot of people I have known, I seem to require more solitude than some others.

And that word – solitude – makes the difference at any age because it is almost always a personal choice. When being alone is unwanted, however – usually labeled isolation or loneliness – then there is no doubt it can negatively affect health and I think it is a condition more often found in elders than younger people.

There are numerous reasons I'm sure you could name on your own. The late geriatrician, Robert N. Butler, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Why Survive? Being Old in America, named some of them:

“We cannot underestimate the disruptive effects of loneliness and anxiety upon the physical and mental health of the isolated person...” he writes.

“Social and personal isolation is difficult...for old people, imposed as it often is by external forces like widowhood, the death of friends, mandatory retirement, poverty, physical and mental impairments and transportation difficulties.”

In a more recent book, The Longevity Prescription, Butler notes that people older than 65 commit about 19 percent of suicides in the U.S. Further, he tells us, depression – often a result of unwanted social isolation – has long been identified as one of the major causes.

I am honored to have known Dr. Butler and I don't doubt a word of what he says about this. Nevertheless, I believe there is more to it, that some of us are not unhappy to find ourselves more often alone in old age than when we were younger, and to even seek our solitude.

But as Monica's comment implies, we who enjoy a lot of time alone are often seen as suspect by the culture at large. Look at how negative are the words we have to describe such people: hermit, recluse, loner, lone wolf, introvert, outsider. It's not far from there to believe anyone like that must be lonely and therefore in danger of illness, even early death.

Not true. Not always.

Also, Monica is on to something when she writes, “Maybe being older generates a desire to go inward, be less social.” Carl Jung's seven tasks of aging, which come to many elders quite naturally (without even knowing who Jung was), pretty much demand introspection and, therefore, solitude:

• Facing the reality of aging and dying
• Life review
• Defining life realistically
• Letting go of the ego
• Finding new rooting in the self
• Determining the meaning of one's life
• Rebirth – dying with life

And, for me, there is one more plus on the side of solitude: being social exhausts me nowadays. After a meal or visit with friends, even those I love and adore, I not only want to be alone for awhile, I need it to restore myself.

It would be a mitzvah for all of us to be alert to signs of isolation and loneliness in friends and neighbors and to help when we can. But we should also be careful to make the distinction between those who are unhappy or depressed about it and others who enjoy their solitude.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Hertslet: Home Sweet Home