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August 20, 2017

Jerry Lewis, RIP

I have just learned that the multitalented Jerry Lewis has died at the age of 91.

I remember him more for all the work he did with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, especially during his marathon Labor Day telethons. He was an indefatigable warrior in the fight for those afflicted by the disease, and a remarkable talent to behold on so many levels. Witness his amazing comedic timing on "The Typewriter" (see the links therein).

Jerry Lewis, RIP.

August 09, 2017

Song of the Day #1489

Song of the Day: It's Better with a Band, music by Wally Harper, lyrics by David Zippel, is the title track of the live album recorded by musical legend Barbara Cook, who died yesterday at the age of 89. Cook was born in Atlanta, Georgia but she became a New York institution, as she conquered the Broadway theater, concert halls and cabarets of the Big Apple. She achieved global recognition for her intepretation of the Great American Songbook. Check out the live album rendition of this light-hearted song recorded in 1980 at Carnegie Hall and a later 1997 rendition with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

August 08, 2017

Song of the Day #1488

Song of the Day: By the Time I Get to Phoenix, words and music by Jimmy Webb, was first recorded by Johnny Rivers in 1965 [YouTube link]. It was later recorded by American country music singer Glen Campbell as the title track to his 1967 album. Campbell's version reached #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart, earning him a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male and Best Contemporary Male Solo Vocal Performance. Campbell would go on to amass awards across the spectrum of American music, while also appearing in a dozen films. Today, he died at the age of 81, following a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease. This song was #20 on the Top 100 songs of the twentieth century by BMI, ranked according to the number of times they were played on television and radio. Even Ol' Blue Eyes called this the "greatest torch song ever written." In remembrance of Glen, check out his studio recording of this timeless song [YouTube link].

August 07, 2017

The Summer of Sam: Forty Years Later

Forty years ago this week, on August 10, 1977 to be exact, the man known to the world as "Son of Sam" was arrested after more than a year of terrorizing the city I've always called home. David Berkowitz, first dubbed the .44 caliber-killer, was caught outside his Yonkers apartment after a year during which he had murdered six people, while injuring seven others, and holding 8 million people hostage to his random carnage.

Having lived through the "Summer of Sam," a time during which New York City was in fiscal disarray and intense urban decay, I can say that we were all more than a little bit jittery, reading the daily news articles and keeping up with the nightly TV reports. In fact, on the day that Berkowitz was arrested, the New York Daily News had put on its front page a police sketch of the alleged serial killer that didn't resemble him in the least. The Daily News had played a pertinent role in the story as it unfolded, because Berkowitz was busy writing a series of bizarre letters to columnist Jimmy Breslin that spooked the public. Up until July 31st, however, Berkowitz had restricted his killing to the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx. But then, on the night of July 31, 1977, he came to the corner of Shore Parkway and Bay 44th Street in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn, not far from my home, and opened fire on a car parked there as two people, Robert Violante and Stacy Moskowitz. were sitting inside. Their first date had ended with Violante losing his sight, and Moskowitz dying a day or so later from the .44 caliber bullets that had exploded into her head. The Son of Sam had come to Brooklyn; the word on the street was that now, even the Mafia was going to find and "take out" this "nutjob."

I had just finished my senior year at John Dewey High School, preparing for my long stint at New York University, which would begin in September 1977. Till this day, I look back at that 1977 summer and I honor the memory of the victims of those horrific shootings, while keeping their loved ones in my thoughts.

But every tragedy seems to elicit memories that provide a little relief in the form of gallows humor. I remember that during that summer, every time my sister and cousin Sandy (who was staying with us at the time) went out, they were very much aware that virtually all of the victims of Son of Sam had dark hair. Both my sister and cousin had brown hair, and Sandy even took to wearing a hat. But on the night after July 31st, in the wake of that shattering news of a senseless Brooklyn murder, we had taken an evening walk, about ten blocks from our apartment, to visit our grandmother, aunts, uncle, and cousins. We were there quite late; it must have been about 1 am, and we finally decided to walk along the brightly lit Kings Highway back to our apartment. I told my mother and sister not to worry. "I will protect you," I announced, confident in my Brooklyn street smarts. About half-way through our walk, we passed an all-night gas and auto service station. And in the silence of that hot and humid summer night, one of the cars in the service area suddenly backfired. Well. I must have jumped about two feet in the air and let out a scream that could have awakened the dead. My mother and sister were nearly bent over in laughter; even I got so hysterical with laughter that tears rolled down my cheeks. "Yeah, yeah, you're going to protect us!", they ribbed me but good. "Sure, sure!"

Fortunately, ten days later, the police had arrested the creep that had so defined the Summer of 1977. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

But we still chuckle when we remember our walk home, when a car backfired in the still of a steamy August night.

August 06, 2017

Song of the Day #1487

Song of the Day: Super Freak features the words and music of Alonzo Miller and Rick James, who brought this song to the top of the Dance chart on this weekend in 1981 (along with "Give it To Me Baby"). The song, from the James album, "Street Songs," features background vocals by the great Motown group,The Temptations. On this date in 2004, Rick James passed away. We remember him with the epic 12" extended remix of this dance classic. The song is also famous for having been sampled by M.C. Hammer in his hit, "U Can't Touch This" [YouTube link].

August 05, 2017

Song of the Day #1486

Song of the Day: Give it to Me Baby, words and music by Rick James, topped the Billboard Black Singles chart for 5 weeks and the Dance Club chart for 3 weeks in the summer of 1981. In fact, this track was in the midst of its #1 reign this very weekend in 1981, along with a song that we will feature tomorrow, the date on which James passed away in 2004. The King of "Punk-Funk" led a troubled life, but it's memorable tunes like this that remind us about the importance of appreciating art of any kind, whatever one might think of the person who originated it. Too many tortured souls in the world of music especially have given us joy on the dance floor. Check out the original 12" remix, the DJ "S" Mix, and the 1981 extended Rework Feeler Baku Remix.

July 25, 2017

Barbara Branden's POET Print Published!

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the print version of Think as if Your Life Depends on It: Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures [link to ordering information] by Barbara Branden is now available. I had previously announced the publication of the Kindle edition of the book.


POET Print Cover


As readers may know, I have written the Foreword to the book, and Roger Bissell offers us a fine introduction. But the real "meat" of this book lies in its lectures, originally delivered in 1960, updated later in 1969, and beautifully delivered by Barbara Branden. The book also includes three additional lectures, providing us with a glimpse of Barbara's later thinking on the various topics touched on in her original series, which was offered initially under the auspices of the Nathaniel Branden Institute.

It is a work that merits discussion, critique, but most of all ... attention. Up to this point, it has only been available in .mp3 form, but there is nothing like a printed copy of lectures so as to genuinely study its contents. I heartily recommend it to your attention.

July 24, 2017

A Belated 100th Happy Birthday to Bettina Bien Greaves

I just discovered that on July 21, 2017, one of the dearest and sweetest people I've ever met celebrated her birthday! For shame that I missed it.

So I'm sending my belated, but very best wishes for a happy and healthy birthday to Bettina Bien Greaves, who reached the age of 100 this past Friday. Bless her!

I actually first saw her name when I discovered the extraordinary book, Mises: An Annotated Bibliography [a pdf file] that she compiled (with Robert W. McGee). Over the years that I came to know her, I was always impressed by the extraordinary breadth of her knowledge and the warmth of her support and friendship. (She even reviewed a special Journal of Ayn Rand Studies symposium, "Ayn Rand Among the Austrians" [link to her review], which was published in the Spring of 2005.)

I may have missed your special day, Bettina, but I wish you much health and happiness in the years to come! You're a beautiful soul.

July 18, 2017

In Memory of Three New Yorkers: Wolff, Landau, and Romero

This past weekend, three New Yorkers died, each of whom left a significant mark on American popular culture.

On Saturday, July 15, 2017, legendary sports broadcaster Bob Wolff died, at the age of 96. Born in New York City on November 29, 1920, Wolff broadcasted his first sporting event in 1939 as a student at Duke University. He had the longest career of any sports broadcaster in history; he also has the distinction of having called games in the four major American sports: hockey (for the New York Rangers), basketball (for the New York Knicks), football and baseball. In fact, throughout his eight decades as a sportscaster, he called two of the most iconic games in football and baseball history: the 1958 NFL championship game between the Giants and the Colts and Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series (between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers).

Also on Saturday, a son of Brooklyn, New York (born on June 20, 1928), died at the age of 89: actor Martin Landau. Landau made his debut on the Broadway stage in 1957, but his film career began with a bang, as a supporting actor in my all-time favorite Alfred Hitchcock film, the 1959 classic "North by Northwest," starring Cary Grant, James Mason, and Eva Marie Saint. He would go on to star in memorable roles on both the small screen (in the TV series "Mission: Impossible") and the big screen, for which he received three Oscar nominations throughout his career, winning in the category of Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of film icon Bela Lugosi in the 1994 Tim Burton film, "Ed Wood."

Of course, Lugosi was the famed actor who brought Bram Stoker's Dracula to life, so-to-speak, on both the stage and screen. Speaking of vampires brings to mind another category of the Un-Dead: the Zombie. And no director was more instrumental to the development of the Zombie genre of horror flicks than the Bronx, New York-born George Romero, who died on Sunday, July 16, 2017, at the age of 77. Romero (who was born on February 4, 1940) directed the first in a series of Zombie cult classic films, the creepy 1968 black-and-white movie "Night of the Living Dead," which scared the living daylights out of me as a kid. In fact, it's still not a film I like to watch before going to bed. But for any fan of horror flicks, Romero remains the "progenitor of the fictional zombie of modern culture."

Each of these men, in his own distinctive New York way, had an impact on entertainment in general, and on my youth in particular, as I developed my love of sports and film. They will be missed.

July 16, 2017

Ayn Rand and Smoking

My colleague and friend, Pierre Lemieux, tagged me in a Facebook conversation on Rand's impact on current-day American politics. Though Pierre enjoyed my "fascinating book" (his words) on Rand, he believes that Rand was a "shallow" thinker. On this, of course, we differ, and I pointed him to a recent post of mine on the topic that he raised: "The New Age of Ayn Rand? Ha!"

In the course of our exchange, another participant remarked that Rand was an "intellectual fraud" because she died from lung cancer, and hid this from her followers, "pretending she was still smoking." Pierre asked me about the truth of this allegation, and I replied:

I believe that the official cause of death was congestive heart failure in March 1982, but it is true that she had surgery for lung cancer in 1974. Anne Heller reports in her biography, Ayn Rand and the World She Made that when her doctor told her to stop smoking because there was a lesion on one of her lungs, "[s]he stubbed out her cigarette" and never smoked again. Heller reports, however, that Allan and Joan Blumenthal asked Rand "to make her decision [to give up smoking] public, even though, as they reminded her, she had indirectly or directly encouraged her fans to smoke." (Readers of Atlas Shrugged will recall the cigarettes smoked among the strikers that had dollar signs on them.) But Rand apparently "denied that there was any conclusive, nonstatistical evidence to prove that smoking caused cancer." Heller adds: "The Blumenthals understood that [Rand] was all but unable to admit to imperfections or mistakes. And they knew that she was trying to absorb a number of profound and painful psychic blows . . ."
Rand certainly was a woman of immense psychological and intellectual complexity; but I am often reminded by the "Indian Prayer" on my wall: "Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I've walked a mile in his moccasins." I'm not excusing Rand here; I'm just saying that given her own personal context and profound disappointments (including the devastating break with the Brandens in 1968 and a painful reunion with her sister Nora in 1973), I have no way to really evaluate her personal decisions.
My own mother died of lung cancer after 50 years of smoking; she went through five years of chemotherapy, radiation, remission, recurrence, and so forth. I was one of her primary caretakers, and I can't begin to imagine the kind of psychological devastation of that initial diagnosis and the personal decisions she had to make about lifestyle changes. Once diagnosed, she never smoked again, but she sure wanted to. Then again, when we'd visit Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, we'd see folks in wheelchairs, outside the hospital, attached to IV poles, smoking through the holes in their throats. My mind could not even attempt to understand this kind of behavior, but c'est la vie.

Pierre remarked that Charles De Gaulle once said: "No one will ever be able to smoke again" and I replied: "Having seen the devastation of lung cancer up close and personal, I can only echo the old adage: 'From De Gaulle's lips to God's ears.'" That a small percentage of folks die from lung cancer, even though they were never smokers, gives one pause, of course. I added: "Well, my mother also worked in the garment industry for years, handling fabrics and some pretty toxic chemicals that she inhaled on a daily basis. So God knows how all these factors may have coalesced to lead to that horrific diagnosis."

Either way, I guess the point of all this is that I do not believe Rand's unwillingness or inability to acknowledge the dangers of smoking made her an intellectual fraud, anymore than I would view those folks outside of Memorial Sloan-Kettering as suicidal maniacs... at least not until I've walked a mile in their moccasins.

July 06, 2017

Murray Franck, RIP

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of a very dear friend, Murray Franck. He suffered for many years from a variety of illnesses, and fell into a coma some weeks ago, before his death on July 2, 2017. Murray was a trusted friend and an intellectual confidante, a lawyer by profession, in fact, an intellectual property rights attorney who negotiated all of my book contracts through the years, and provided indispensable advice on all things legal, intellectual, and personal throughout the more than twenty-five years that I knew him.

His wisdom on so many subjects, from the philosophy of law to intellectual history, his helpful comments on the content of my work---including extensive commentary on a forthcoming essay of mine due to appear in the December 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies---was surpassed only by the depth of his loyalty as a friend. Indeed, his singular commitment to such commentary extended over the past three months, where I was in almost daily contact with him, despite the fact that he was in such a state of deteriorating health. That he retained a unique sense of humor through it all was a blessing.

But he was a champion of the journal, from its earliest stages of development, helpful to us behind the scenes with regard to a number of issues endemic to the launching of any new enterprise. More than this, he was a champion of ideas, a learned and creative scholar who had a gift for precision in both his thought and writing; indeed, he was one of the journal's earliest contributors. His essay, a reply to the late Larry Sechrest (another mutual friend of ours, gone too soon), which appeared in the Fall 2000 issue (Volume 2, Number 1), was a provocative discussion of "Private Contract, Market Neutrality, and 'The Morality of Taxation'."

I cannot count the number of times I sought this man's support and comfort through some of the most difficult periods of my life. And I can only hope I offered him in return the support and comfort he so freely gave.

The depth of my grief over Murray's death leaves me sad beyond words. I extend to his family and friends my condolences for their loss. Their loss is our loss. I know that I will forever be comforted by the legacy of love he left behind.

June 30, 2017

Song of the Day #1470

Song of the Day: Stormy Weather, words and music by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler debuted in 1933 at the Cotton Club in Harlem by Ethel Waters [YouTube link]. But one of its most famous versions was recorded by the Tony- and Grammy-award winning singer and actress Lena Horne, who died on 9 May 2010, at the age of 92. Lena sang this timeless tune in the 1943 movie of the same name. Check out Lena's film rendition and her 1943 single, which went to #21 on the U.S. Pop chart [YouTube links]. In honor of the centenary of her birth on 30 June 1917, I celebrate the gift that was Lena.

June 28, 2017

Song of the Day #1469

On Facebook, I prefaced this "Song of the Day" entry with this comment: It is officially June 28, 2017; on this date in 1969, in the wee small hours of the morning, the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. With all the hoopla of this past weekend’s “Pride” events nationwide, some folks seem to forget that the parades emerged initially to commemorate what happened in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. For despite the ritual nature of these police raids, it was on this night that the patrons fought back on the basis of a crucially important libertarian premise; they rioted and rebelled in defense of their individual rights to live their own lives and to pursue their own happiness in private, safe havens, away from the brutality and harassment they faced on an almost daily basis. It is in this spirit that I add another song to my Summer Dance series. From “To Wong Foo…”, it’s Chaka Khan blowing a hole through the roof with "Free Yourself":

Song of the Day: Free Yourself, words and music by Sami McKinney, Denise Rich, and Warren McRae, is given a scaldingly hot treatment by Chaka Khan, whose pipes tear the roof off the motha'. The song is featured on the soundtrack to the 1995 comedy, "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" (and is also played over the end credits). I dedicate it today to those who participated in the Stonewall Rebellion, which began in the wee hours of June 28, 1969, in response to yet another regular police raid on a gay bar, this one in NYC. It remains a symbolic event for those who have sought equality before the law and the right to live their lives and to pursue their own happiness, without the interference of government. It began on this date as a quintessentially libertarian reaction against state repression of establishments that catered to a clientele of gays, lesbians and even their straight friends, who in their consensual social interactions just wanted to enjoy themselves at a Christopher Street bar in Greenwich Village, a safe haven away from police and social brutality (though it should be noted that such bars were typically "protected" by Mafioso who traded in under-the-table police payoffs). This track from the 1990s wasn't on the Stonewall Inn's famed 1969 jukebox, but it is an appropriate dance burner to mark the day, in keeping with our Summer Dance Party. Check it out on on YouTube.

June 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1468

Song of the Day: Hard Day, with words and music by George Michael, is posted on a day on which we honor the memory of the late Michael Jackson, while also celebrating the birthday of the late George Michael. This song can be found on the singer's 1987 first solo album, "Faith"; it went to the top 5 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart. Check out the funky single and the Shep Pettibone 12" remix.

Song of the Day #1467

Song of the Day: Jam features the words and music of Rene Moore, Bruce Swedien, Teddy Riley, and Michael Jackson, who died on this date in 2009. The song, from Jackson's 1991 album "Dangerous," features a rap by the late Heavy D (who died in 2011). Take a look at the official video [YouTube link], which features the immortal Michael Jordan. Also check out the Silky 12" Remix, Space Vibes Mix, and a live version with a sweet dance segment by MJ. And check out a great mash-up of "Uptown Funk" and "Jam," featuring Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, and MJ, as well as this one, this 24K one, and that one; and another mash-up with MJ and Bruno of "Beat It" and "Beating on Heaven's Gate." And for another visit down memory lane, check out a 2017 remix of MJ's "Smooth Criminal" [all YouTube links].

June 20, 2017

Barbara Branden's POET Published!

I am honored to announce that the Kindle edition of Barbara Branden's ten-lecture course, "Principles of Efficient Thinking" (or POET, as we fondly call it) has finally been published, and a print edition is on the way as well. It is entitled Think as if Your Life Depends on It: Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures.

Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures

The original lecture series was presented by Barbara Branden in 1960 under the auspices of the Nathaniel Branden Institute and, with Ayn Rand's blessings, it was considered part of canonical Objectivism. As both Robert L. Campbell and I wrote (in our "Prologue" to the JARS symposium, "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy"):

[Nathaniel] Branden tells us that "[t]he term ["psycho-epistemology"] was first used, in print, by Ayn Rand, to designate a man's 'method of awareness,' in For the New Intellectual. However, the concept of 'psycho-epistemology,' as used in Objectivism and in Biocentric Psychology, was originated neither by Miss Rand nor by myself but by Barbara Branden who, in the mid-1950s, first brought this field of study to our attention and persuaded us of its importance." Branden goes on to define "psycho-episemology as 'the study of the mental operations that are possible to and that characterize man's cognitive behavior." He adds: "There is clearly a degree of interpenetration between epistemology and psycho-epistemology."
Indeed, Barbara Branden's ten-lecture course . . . "Principles of Efficient Thinking," was the first presentation of what might be termed an "Introduction to Objectivist Psycho-Epistemology," a virtual mirror of the title of Rand's [Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology], which nicely complements and supplements the material in Rand's work. Barbara Branden's . . . course was revised to include quoted passages from canonical Objectivist writing in [1969], and that version was transcribed by Roger E. Bissell, for forthcoming print publication . . . along with several additional essays by Branden, derived from lectures she gave in 1995, 2006, and 2011. Nathaniel Branden’s guest lecture on "the fallacy of the stolen concept" is also included in the forthcoming "Principles" book.

(I have omitted from the above passages citations and references, which can be found in the published version of our "Prologue" to the Symposium.)

What is most important for the purposes of today's announcement is that the book, which was forthcoming, has now arrived! It gives me great personal and professional pleasure to finally see it in print. "Personal" because I have made no secret of the fact that I loved Barbara dearly; and "Professional" because this is truly a wonderful collection of lectures that probe so many aspects of an underappreciated component of Objectivist philosophy: psycho-epistemology.

For those who may have the mistaken impression that Ayn Rand only focused on conscious, volitional and rational thinking as essential to the survival and flourishing of the individual, it may come as a surprise to discover that she paid much attention to what many thinkers, from Gilbert Ryle to Michael Polanyi, have termed the "tacit" dimensions of consciousness. Among those "tacit" dimensions that Rand examined were two essential components: "sense of life" and "psycho-epistemology." As I explain in Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, just as the conception of "sense of life" pertains to the "interrelationship between mental content and method from the vantage point of content," the concept of "psycho-epistemology" pertains "to the interrelationship between content and method from the vantage point of method." Like one's "sense of life," the development of one's habitual psycho-epistemology is normally a subconscious process that evolves over time.

And here is where Barbara Branden's work is significant. As Barbara explains in her very first POET lecture:

One of the most widespread of myths is the belief that everyone knows how to think, and that no learning process is required. Certainly no education in efficient thinking is offered, either by parents or by schools. We are taught to walk, to read, to write, to play baseball, but the most important of all human functions is left to blind chance, to trial and error, to each man's unaided efforts; and assuming that the knowledge of how to think is self-evident, people take their own mental processes as necessarily valid, as not to be questioned or examined.

Barbara's focus here is not just on the "Principles of Efficient Thinking" but on those often tacit practices that undermine the capacity of the individual to think efficiently. From my Foreword to the book:

In Barbara Branden’s lectures, we are introduced to much of the early Objectivist vernacular: the capacity to augment "focus," the contrast between "back-seat driving" and "front-seat driving," between "concrete-bound thinking" and "thinking in principles," the nature of insight, intuition, creativity, and language. Included here are extended discussions of the psycho-epistemological premises underlying, and social functions served by, evasion and repression, as well as some of the earliest Objectivist statements of the rules of definitions, genus and differentia, equivalence, fundamentality, circularity, negatives, obscurity, and the purpose of ostensive definitions. We are given a grand lesson in how to recognize the means by which efficient thinking is undermined, through "thinking in a square," the obfuscation of language, the use of dogma, "cue words," sloganeering, memorized maxims and the often unrecognized employment of irreducible primaries, floating abstractions, frozen abstractions, frozen absolutes, false axioms, false analogies, false alternatives, and the aforementioned "stolen concepts." At the root of the stolen-concept fallacy in particular is the error of "context-dropping," and in the end, it is the supreme importance of "context-holding" that makes possible "the psycho-epistemological habit of integration." Barbara’s perceptiveness shines throughout; she understands the inextricable connection between "context-holding" and respect for the "Law of Non-contradiction." Like Rand, she indicts "the very institution supposedly devoted to the pursuit of knowledge—that is . . . today’s universities," which provide "the most blatant examples of the failure to integrate ideas into a consistent system."

For a person like myself, who has spent the bulk of his professional career championing "dialectics" as "the art of context-keeping," this book is virtually a manual on the practice of that art. It emphasizes the various skills that one must employ in grasping the larger context in one's analysis of any object, event, issue, or social problem. In fact, it provides a gold mine of insights on how the practice of context-keeping is essential to reality-based integration.

I recommend this work to all those who are interested not only in the principles of efficient thinking and in identifying the ill-formed habits that undermine it, but also to all those who are interested in the history of ideas, especially in the history of Objectivism as a philosophy. There is simply no comparable work like this in print. Many of us know of the oral tradition in Objectivism; not enough of that tradition has been committed to print. This work has been a long-underappreciated contribution to the canon of Objectivism, which Rand herself endorsed, even after her 1968 break with both Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden.

Fortunately, the Estate of Barbara Branden has not only made these lectures available to us as a printed record of an important aspect of Objectivist intellectual history; we are also treated to three additional lectures that enlighten us as to the various nuances and interpretive reflections that Barbara brought to this subject in her later years.

The book is a powerhouse. Get it. Read it. Savor it. It should be made part of your Bucket Reading List. The chief lesson that you will take away from it is that, indeed, you must "think as if your life depends on it . . . because it does!"

Postscript: This announcement was also noted by Anoop Verma here, here, and on Facebook.

June 17, 2017

Song of the Day #1462

Song of the Day: Copacabana (At the Copa) features the words and music of Jack Feldman, Joseph Thornton, and Barry Manilow, who was born on this date in 1943. This coming week, I will begin what has now become an annual Summer series: my Saturday Night Dance Party, though there will be many days during the week when we will be partying with dance music from today and yesterday. There was a time when if I heard Barry Manilow's name announced on the radio, I'd roll my eyes; that changed as the years went by, especially when I discovered his superb jazz-infused album, "2:00 A.M. Paradise Cafe," which featured the wonderful Johnny Mercer lyrics to "When October Goes," for which Manilow composed the music [YouTube link]. But for our Brooklyn birthday boy, I figured in keeping with the coming Dance Party entries, I'd feature the song that won Manilow a Grammy for Best Performance, Pop Male. So check out Lola at the Copa on this Dance Remix, the 2012 Remix, Lola Goes Wild Remix, Maxi Dance Mix and of course, the original single [YouTube links].

June 07, 2017

Song of the Day #1457

Song of the Day: Raspberry Beret features the words and music of our birthday boy, Prince, who would have turned 59 today, were it not for his untimely death in April 2016. This song went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985, the first release off of "Around the World in a Day," by Prince and the Revolution. The song was considered "neo-psychedelic pop" but the funk is always detectable. Check out a clip of the original single (alas, the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson has restricted access to his music).

May 29, 2017

Rothbard's Impact on "How I Became a Libertarian"

On a day when I memorialize those who fought and put their lives on the line during times of war (like my Uncle Sam), I also remember those who dreamt of a world without war, whatever differences of opinion I may have had with them. Among these was the Austrian economist and libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard, who had a huge impact on how I became a libertarian. I wrote on a Facebook thread:

All I know is that Murray Rothbard had an immense impact on me personally and on the libertarian movement generally; his scholarship---from his multivolume Conceived in Liberty and his work on The Panic of 1819 and America's Great Depression to his mammoth Man, Economy, and State and Power and Market and his Ethics of Liberty and his polemical For a New Liberty---is remarkable in its breadth; and his work on Left and Right certainly made its mark. I own a copy of A New History of Leviathan, a work he coedited with Ronald Radosh, and therein are terrific essays coming from revisionist historians among the new left and the libertarian right (including Rothbard and the great libertarian historian Leonard Liggio). [In fact, my own copy of that wonderful volume is inscribed by both Radosh, who wrote "Towards democratic socialism!" on one page and Rothbard, who wrote "For liberty and anti-Leviathan" on the next page!]
It was Rothbard who introduced me to the trailblazing work being done by folks like Gabriel Kolko and James Weinstein on the new left (especially their valuable revisionist scholarship on the Progressive era) and Walter Grinder and John Hagel on the libertarian right. My mentor, Bertell Ollman, a Marxist political theorist, praised Rothbard, despite their disagreements, for the depth of his scholarship and the principled stances he took against the Vietnam War, when they worked together in the Peace and Freedom Party. (And Ollman was no stranger to libertarian and classical liberal thinking; he was actually a Volker fellow who worked personally under Friedrich Hayek at the University of Chicago.)
Whatever flaws Rothbard had (and who doesn't have their blindspots?), he was a huge presence in the emergence of modern libertarianism and was among the folks who were part of my own journey of "How I Became a Libertarian" (now a part of the volume I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians).

May 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1456

Song of the Day: Star Wars: A New Hope ("Throne Room / End Title") [YouTube link], composed by the legendary John Williams, was part of the Oscar-winning soundtrack to the 1977 first installment (later known as "Episode #4") in the "Star Wars" franchise. On this date, forty years ago, the film made its debut, and the most epic space opera in cinema history was born. It is no secret that Williams's "Star Wars" scores have been among the most majestic achievements in his repertoire and so important to the success of this franchise. So Happy 40th Birthday to the first film. And May the Force Be With You!

May 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1455

Song of the Day: Moonraker ("Main Title"), lyrics by Hal David, music by John Barry, was the theme to the 1979 James Bond film, starring Roger Moore, who passed away today at the age of 89. Sean Connery remains my favorite Bond, but Moore had his moments. This song was the third Bond theme sung by Shirley Bassey, who had previously recorded the vocal themes to "Diamonds are Forever" and, most famously, "Goldfinger" [YouTube links]. Bassey provides different renditions of the song at the film's opening and the more upbeat end credits [YouTube links]. RIP, Roger Moore; and my deepest condolences to those of his fellow Brits, who are mourning today the deaths of those attending an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, victims of a shameful act of terror.

May 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1454

Song of the Day: Casino Royale ("You Know My Name") features the words and music of David Arnold and Chris Cornell, who died yesterday at the age of 52. This 2006 song features Cornell's lead vocals, from the first 007 film starring Daniel Craig as Bond, James Bond. Actually, Craig's "Skyfall" (2012) is one of my favorite Bond flicks). But today's tribute goes to Cornell, another talent gone too soon. Check out the opening credits [YouTube link], and while you're at it, check out Cornell's transformative version of the Michael Jackson hit, "Billie Jean" [YouTube link]. RIP, Chris Cornell.

May 14, 2017

Derek Jeter Day in the Bronx

Today, in the Bronx, at the iconic Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees organization retires the Number 2 worn by its All-Star shortstop [YouTube link] from 1996 to his retirement in 2014. Derek Jeter remains pure class in my scorebook; he was the face of baseball for nearly two decades, especially at a time when the sport was being routinely sullied by juicing scandals. It is not by pure chance that this day of tribute falls on "Mother's Day"; Jeter has always spoken of how deeply his mother, his father, and his family have given him inspiration and love. Today, all of New York and baseball fans everywhere will have a chance to share in that love.

Jeter's #2 Gets Retired at Yankee Stadium

I was fortunate enough to see Jeter play quite a few times at the old Yankee Stadium. His eloquent speech at the closing of that Stadium [YouTube link], (a year before he was among those players who went on to open the New Yankee Stadium, with a 2009 World Series Championship), his final All-Star Game appearance, his farewell speech to the home crowd, his final home game, his final tribute to the crowd, and his final career at-bat against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park (where even the Fenway Faithful applauded him) remain among the most poignant moments of his storied career [YouTube links].

His drive and his dedication to win and his passion for the game were a marvel to behold and a joy to watch. He was an absolute gem both at the plate and on the field. He was a five-time World Series champion, which included a 2000 Most Valuable Player Award for the Subway Series against the New York Mets. More than anything, he was, with that classic "inside-out" swing, a clutch hitter (having more than 200 hits per season eight times in his career). He was someone whom the opposition feared when the game was on the line. It was no misnomer when he earned the nickname "Captain Clutch," since his postseason play was as sparkling as his regular season statistics (he retired with a career .310 regular season average, and with a comparable .308 postseason average, having 200 total hits in his postseason history). But his postseason stats are even more remarkable, because they were earned against the best teams in baseball. Who can forget that "Mr. November" [MLB link] moment at the Stadium in 2001? It was at a time when New York City had more than its share of real heroes, but, like Hall of Fame New York Mets' catcher, Mike Piazza [YouTube link] before him, Jeter gave symbolic meaning to New York grit, at the center of three consecutive miraculous Yankee Stadium victories in New York (despite losing the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks in seven games).

Jeter holds many all-time franchise records for the New York Yankees, including most all-time hits (3,465), doubles (544), games played (2,747), stolen bases (358), times on base (4,716), plate appearances (12,602) and at bats (11,195). He was the 1996 Rookie of the Year, a 14-time All-Star (including a Most Valuable Player All-Star Game award the same year he was named World Series MVP). He won 5 Gold Glove Awards, 5 Silver Slugger Awards, 2 Hank Aaron Awards, and a Roberto Clemente Award. He was the 28th player in Major League Baseball History to pass the 3,000 hit mark. Always a teammate with a "flair for the dramatic," his 3000th hit was a home-run on a day in which he went 5 for 5, driving in the winning run. He is, in fact, the only Yankee player with more than 3,000 lifetime hits (which ranks sixth all-time among Major League Baseball players, and the most all-time hits by a shortstop).

Pause one moment and think about that.

Jeter has more hits for the Yankees than Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and the last Yankee shortstop to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Phil Rizzuto.

Check out some of Jeter's greatest plays, along with some of his greatest defensive plays (including the "flip play" in the 2001 playoffs against the Oakland Athletics and the flying-into-the-stands catch against the Boston Red Sox in 2004) [YouTube links].

I should digress a moment to provide a little personal context for my own celebration of this great ballplayer. Being a Yankee fan my whole life, I rooted mainly for a losing team; this was not the "GM" of American baseball that I'd heard about from my elders, who lived through the 1940s and 1950s. In my lifetime, there were two years of World Championships that I celebrated: 1977, with Reggie Jackson smacking three home runs in a single game, and the amazing 1978 comeback team, led by the overwhelming dominance of pitcher Ron Guidry (25-3). That team was down 14 1/2 games in July to the Boston Red Sox, and went on to win a one-game playoff against their notorious rivals, before eventually taking the World Series for a second consecutive year over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After that, except for a World Series loss in 1981 and a few exciting, but ultimately frustrating, years of "Donnie Baseball" (led by Team Captain Don Mattingly), the Yankees saw very little of the postseason. The Yankees may have been a New York institution, but New York has always been a National League town. After all, it once supported two National League teams: the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. So from the time of the Miracle Mets of 1969 through the 1986 World Champion Mets, even the late 1970s Yankees were just a blip on the baseball radar (in fact, in their own miracle 1978 season, you couldn't even find them on the back pages of New York's daily newspapers because the newspapers were on strike!).

For me, therefore, it was no coincidence that with the arrival of Derek Jeter in pinstripes as the full-time shortstop of the Yankees in 1996, the team began a renaissance that ended its eighteen-year drought in the World Series. With his matinee idol looks, remarkably steady demeanor, and incredible talent, he seemed perfectly matched for a city that demanded nothing but the best from its sports heroes, "a larger than life presence in a larger than life town," as sportscaster Michael Kay has put it. And from 1996 through 2001, with teams chockful of talent and Joe Torre's managerial expertise, the Yankees won four out of five World Series contests. It is no understatement to say that so much of this success was tied to Jeter's growing maturity as a ballplayer. Later, in 2009, Derek Jeter slipped a fifth World Series ring onto his gifted fingers, with the opening of the new Yankee Stadium.

More than anything, Derek Jeter proved to be a genuine leader, not just as a Captain of the team, but as a gentleman of the sport, a beloved man who inspires young players even today. In my book, #2 will always be #1. It was an honor to watch this man's career unfold. Like All-Star relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, who holds the all-time record for saves, and who is, no doubt, headed for Cooperstown, I hope to see "Captain Clutch" enter Cooperstown as well when he becomes eligible in 2020. For now, I'm just looking forward to hearing the voice of the late Bob Sheppard [YouTube link] introducing Derek Jeter as he steps up to be honored by the team with which he spent his entire baseball career -- a rarity nowadays, for sure. It was quite emotional for this fan to say "farewell" [YouTube link] to the Captain (the Yankees paid tribute to him back in September 2014 [YouTube link]). But it will be sheer delight to welcome him back home for this tribute.

Jeter recently said: "No one had more fun that I did. You're playing a game. . . . I understand that it is your job, it's your profession. You have a lot of responsibilities. But at the same time, you're playing a game, and you have to have fun. And if you don't have fun playing it, I think it's impossible to be good at it. I had fun. Every moment on the field was fun for me."

Jeter made it fun to be a Yankee fan. But that fun transcended the team for which he played. It was one of the most important gifts he gave to the game of baseball: Long live the Captain!

Postscript I [15 May 2017]: Take a look at the plaque unveiled at Yankee Stadium in honor of Jeter during yesterday's ceremony, and Derek's speech as well. And check out Mike Lupica's column today in the New York Daily News.

Postscript II [16 May 2017]: It was reported by the Associated Press that the ceremony to honor Jeter "was the most-viewed program in the New York area in its time period on Sunday night and the most-watched non-game in the history of the YES network . . ." The ceremony was also televised on ESPN. Check out this really sweet Budweiser tribute to #2 [YouTube link].

May 03, 2017

Song of the Day #1453

Song of the Day: The Every Thought of You, words and music by Reid Hall and Chuck Moore, was, for years, the theme song of "Private Screenings," hosted by the late TCM pioneer, Robert Osborne, who was born on this date in 1932. The version performed on the show is by jazz vocalist Rene Marie, in a smoky jazz room sort of way. Listen to this lovely song at 6:26 in the closing credits of a show [YouTube link] in which Osborne interviewed Liza Minnelli. Osborne was always at the top of his game; as a film historian, he participated in a "Buy the Book" program designed for educators and students, introducing viewers to "The Fountainhead." Check that out here [YouTube link]. In the meanwhile, do check out Rene Marie; finding her music has been a real eye- and ear-opener. Just wonderful.

April 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1452

Song of the Day: Too Darn Hot, words and music by Cole Porter, was written for the 1948 musical, "Kiss Me, Kate." It's another one of those songs from Ella's Porter Songbook album, and is an appropriate conclusion to our Centenary Tribute to the Great Ella Fitzgerald, who will always be Too Darn Hot [YouTube link]. Happy 100th, Ella!

April 24, 2017

Song of the Day #1451

Song of the Day: I Can See It, music by Harvey Schmidt, lyrics by Tom Jones, is a highlight from "The Fantasticks," the original production of which ran for 42 years Off-Broadway. It is also a highlight of "My Name is Barbra," the first of two studio albums that were tied-in to Barbra Streisand's television special of the same name, which won five Emmy Awards and Streisand's first of four Peabody Awards. For this album, Streisand won her third consecutive Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Female. I was almost three years old when my mother returned from a Broadway show called "I Can Get it For You Wholesale," having enjoyed the production, but telling us that this one performer, "no beauty," had such a voice that she stole the show. "This girl is going places," Mom said. And boy has she. Streisand has collected ten Grammy Awards, along with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy Legend Award, a Special Tony Award, nine Golden Globe Awards, two Oscars, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, an AFI Life Achievement Award, and a Kennedy Center Honor. Even though we are in the middle of an Ella Fitzgerald Centenary Salute, which concludes tomorrow, I don't think Ella would have minded one bit giving a "shout-out" to Brooklyn Babs, who today celebrates her 75th birthday. This is one of my all-time favorite early Streisand recordings. Check out the song, arranged and conducted by Peter Matz, on YouTube.

Song of the Day #1450

Song of the Day: There's No You, music by Hal Hopper, lyrics by Tom Adair, was first published in 1944, but was covered on "Speak Love," the third of a series of albums that Ella recorded with jazz guitar great Joe Pass. There is a poignant rapport to the two artists as they "speak" to one another in this tender ballad. Check it out on YouTube.

April 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1449

Song of the Day: A Felicidade, music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes, is featured on the album Ella Abraca Jobim, and is the only song in our tribute not sung in English! The album features so many of the very famous and melodic Jobim songs, but this is one of those rarely heard gems, with the same wonderful Brazilian flavor one would expect from the great composer, and that touch of swing one would expect from Ella. Check it out on YouTube.

April 22, 2017

Song of the Day #1448

Song of the Day: Just One of Those Things, words and music by Cole Porter, was written for the 1935 musical "Jubilee." The song is featured on the first of Ella's great songbook albums, released in 1956 as the first album for a new label: Verve Records. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000 and one of fifty recordings selected by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. Check out Ella's rendition on YouTube.

April 21, 2017

Song of the Day #1447

Song of the Day: Love is Here To Stay, music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, was written for the 1938 film, "The Goldwyn Follies." This jazz standard has been recorded by so many artists through the years, and is another one of those that can be heard in two versions, like yesterday's featured entry: one, a solo version by Ella, the other a duet with Louis Armstrong [YouTube links], heard in the 1989 film "When Harry Met Sally."

April 20, 2017

Song of the Day #1446

Song of the Day: I Won't Dance, music by Jerome Kern, has two sets of lyrics: the first (in 1934 for the London Musical "Three Sisters") by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach, the second (in 1935, for the film version of the Kern-Harbach musical "Roberta") by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh. It is the latter version that remains the most recorded, and Ella's Grammy-Award winning rendition with Nelson Riddle (from "Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson") is one of the best. Check it out on YouTube. And also check out another recording of the song that Ella performed with Louis Armstrong [YouTube link].

April 19, 2017

Song of the Day #1445

Song of the Day: A-Tisket A-Tasket, a traditional nursery rhyme first recorded in the late nineteenth century, was the basis for the million-selling hit by Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Orchestra [YouTube link] in 1938. Lyrically embellished by Al Feldman and Ella herself, this is the song that got our Centenary songstress off to a swinging start. Today we begin our mini-tribute to the First Lady of Song, as we move toward the 100th anniversary of her birth on April 25th.

Ella 100: Celebrating the Ella Fitzgerald Centenary

Introduction

On April 25, 1917, Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia. As we approach April 25, 2017, I will be celebrating the contributions of one of the greatest jazz singers in music history in commemoration of the centenary of her birth. Back in November 2015, when Notablog celebrated the Frank Sinatra Centenary, I took note of the fact that Sinatra himself referred to Ella as "The First Lady of Song." She brought to jazz many of the things that Ol' Blue Eyes emulated: impeccable diction, wonderful intonation, and an almost innate ability never to sing the same song the same way twice. Her improvisational gifts extended not only to her vocal phrasing but to her achievements in that unique art of jazz singing known as scatting.

Ella was raised on a steady diet of music from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and the Boswell Sisters; in fact, it was largely in her embrace of Connee Boswell's style that she got her big breakthrough in 1934, when she competed in Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. An enthusiastic response from the typically critical audience and from the musicians themselves launched what would become one of the most extraordinary careers of any singer in American popular culture.

Through Benny Carter, a saxophonist in the house band at the Apollo that fateful night, Ella was introduced to many of Harlem's premier musicians; she eventually joined the Chick Webb band, with whom, in 1938, she scored a #1 hit, "A-Tisket A-Tasket," which sold one million copies--not bad for an ol' nursery rhyme. Over time, she recorded with bands led by the musicians who exemplified the changing sounds of the era, from the King of Swing, clarinetist extraordinarie Benny Goodman to Dizzy Gillespie, a trumpeter charging into a new era with the sounds of be bop. Ella's style, emergent in the Swing era, slowly incorporated the idioms of bop, which contributed to her mastery of the art of scat singing, a form of wordless, improvisational vocalizing that allowed the singer to use the voice as if it were another instrument in the band. She actually married the bassist in Dizzy's band, Ray Brown, with whom she adopted a son, Ray, Jr. It was through Ray's producer and manager, Norman Granz, that Ella began appearing in his Jazz at the Philharmonic series, eventually recording a series of "Songbook" albums in the 1950s and 1960s devoted to the works of Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, and, later, in 1981, Antonio Carlos Jobim. This critically acclaimed work brought her international recognition as one of the foremost intepreters of the Great American Songbook.

Such acclaim manifested in fourteen Grammy Awards, a National Medal of the Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. By the 1990s, Ella had recorded over 200 albums, giving her final concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991, the 26th time she had appeared at that iconic venue. She passed away at the age of 79 on June 15, 1996.

Ella's global impact makes it a difficult task to do a Centenary Tribute. Indeed, for years, I've been tributing this truly great singer with links to over seventy entries in "My Favorite Songs." I've cited Ella's renditions of the following songs, listed alphabetically--only, in this instance, I link not to my entries, but to YouTube presentations of her recordings, which means, you're a swinging click away from a touch of class. Prepare to be entertained: All of Me; All of You; All the Things You Are; All Right, Okay, You Win; Begin the Beguine; Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered; Bill Bailey (Won't You Please Come Home); Blue Moon; Blues in the Night; But Not for Me; Cheek to Cheek; Don't Be That Way; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; Early Autumn; Easy Living (with guitarist Joe Pass); (I Love You) for Sentimental Reasons; Give Me the Simple Life; Goody, Goody; Got to Get You Into My Life; The Glory of Love (with Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman; Goodnight My Love (with Benny Goodman); Have You Met Miss Jones?; Here's That Rainy Day; How Deep is the Ocean; How High the Moon; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; I Could Write a Book; I Got it Bad (and That Ain't Good); I'm Beginning to See the Light; I'm Confessin' (That I Love You); I'm Getting Sentimental Over You; In a Mellow Tone; It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing); It's All Right With Me; It's Only a Paper Moon; I've Got a Crush on You; Jersey Bounce; Jingle Bells; Joy to the World; The Lady is a Tramp (and check out her duet with The Chairman of the Board); Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!; Love for Sale; Mack the Knife; The Man that Got Away; My One and Only Love; My Romance; My Shining Hour; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Once I Loved (with guitarist Joe Pass); Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone; 'Round Midnight (live with Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown); Runnin' Wild; Santa Claus is Coming to Town; Solitude; Sophisticated Lady; Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most; Stairway to the Stars; Stella By Starlight; Sunshine of Your Love; Sweet Georgia Brown (live with the Duke Ellington Orchestra); Take the A Train; Tenderly (with Louis Armstrong); That Old Black Magic; That's Jazz (scatting with Mel Torme); These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You); This Can't Be Love; This Could Be the Start of Something Big; Too Close for Comfort; What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?; Whatever Lola Wants; With a Song in My Heart; and (If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini) [again: all YouTube links to enjoy!]

This list doesn't come close to the breadth of Ella's discography. Over the next week, leading up to April 25th, I'll feature just a few more gems from the Songbook of its First Lady.

And now the inevitable question: Can I give you a Top Ten list of Favorite Fitzgerald Recordings? Well, to paraphrase one of the classic lines from a Jerome Kern song I will highlight this week: I can't say... don't ask me! That's not a dismissal; it's just a reality. The woman recorded and performed so many songs in so many different arrangements throughout the years, that I would be hard pressed to pick ten specific recordings or performances. So let me just say: I love Ella. Start here and spend the next week with me, and you'll understand why.

April 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1444

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Suite") [YouTube link], composed by today's birthday boy, Miklos Rozsa, includes all of the sweeping themes for the grand 1959 epic "Tale of the Christ," starring Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur [YouTube documentary on Chuck]. This is, to my knowledge, the only suite I have heard that is different from any other pieces I have already highlighted from the soundtrack of my all-time favorite film. But what makes it so very special is that it features the composer himself conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (in 1979). It is a special treat to see this man so alive with the music of the score that remains his crowning achievement. It is a true genius that we honor today [pdf link to my Rozsa essay] on the 110th anniversary of his birth [YouTube documentary on Rozsa]. Tomorrow, we begin a week-long Centenary Tribute to another musical legend from an entirely different genre. Just don't drop your brown and yellow basket because within a week, it'll be filled with the glory of Ella.

April 17, 2017

Song of the Day #1443

Song of the Day: Eye of the Needle ("Love Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Miklos Rozsa for this 1981 film based on the Ken Follett spy novel. This lush romanticism shows us another side to the man who composed scores for fantasy films, film noir, historical and Biblical epics, not to mention magnificent orchestral concert works.

April 16, 2017

Song of the Day #1442

Song of the Day: Quo Vadis? ("Overture") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa for the 1951 MGM film adaptation of the Henryk Sienkiewicz novel, helps us to mark Easter, which is celebrated today by both Western and Eastern Orthodox Christians. The phrase "Quo Vadis?" ("Where Are You Going?") appears in the Latin Bible in both the Old Testament (based on the Tanakh) and the New Testament (including an apocryphal book). It is said to have been asked to the risen Christ by Peter as he hurried along the Appian Way, away from Rome, where he would face certain execution under Emperor Nero. This musical overture is quintessential epic Rozsa, whose music I will feature for the next three days, as we celebrate the 110th anniversary of his birth. A Happy Easter to all my Christian friends! Christos Anesti! And to all my Jewish friends who have been celebrating Passover this past week: a Zesan Pesach [that's a special link to the entire Elmer Bernstein score for "The Ten Commandments", given that Bernstein himself celebrated Rozsa by recording so many of his compositions over the years!]

April 06, 2017

Mr. Warmth is Gone But His Insults Live On

Don Rickles, the iconic comedian of insults, has passed away; I have busted an already busted gut several times through the years, watching his stand-up routines and sit-down interviews. An equal opportunity offender, RIP, Don [YouTube links].

March 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1440

Song of the Day: Johnny B. Goode features the words and music of Chuck Berry, who died today at the age of 90. A genuine rock and roll pioneer, Berry brought a wonderful R&B sensibility to his music.  This 1958 song [YouTube link] is one of his best, ranked in the Top Ten of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also a comedic-musical highlight of the 1985 film "Back to the Future" [YouTube link] with Michael J. Fox. RIP, Chuck!

March 06, 2017

Robert Osborne, RIP

I was sad to learn today about the death of Robert Osborne, aged 84, who was selected as the host of the nightly broadcasts of Turner Classic Movies, when it opened up shop in 1994. He had been absent from this year's TCM annual "31 Days of Oscar" salute (which coincides with my own "Film Music February"), and viewers knew that he had not been well.

TCM has set up an Osborne Tribute page, which provides valuable information about the Peabody Award-winner's life and work. He was a warm and classy presence on a network dedicated to showing a broad range of cinema classics, uncut and typically, in their original theatrical format, from the silents to the contemporary era. His knowledge of film was astounding. I very much valued his presence on "The Essentials" (and his foreword to the book version, celebrating "52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter.") But more importantly, I valued his wonderful way of introducing a film, with poignancy, with wit, and always with respect for the craft of the cinema. There's a really wonderful TCM tribute that was aired on Osborne's 20th anniversary with the network; "Ben-Hur" was one of his favorites, but seeing the multiple takes of him trying to pronounce "La Cienega Boulevard" are a hoot!

I had written to him with regard to the two vastly different film versions (one flat-screen, the other becoming the first "CinemaScope" film release) of the 1953 Biblical epic, "The Robe," which is, ironically, being broadcast tonight, the first night of a month-long tribute to TCM's Star of the Month, Richard Burton. But I'd received no reply; I knew he was ill, and doubted I'd hear back from him.

He was a massive presence to lovers of the cinema as a beloved host, and he will be missed by loyal viewers of TCM. RIP, Robert.

Ed: TCM has announced that it will devote 48 hours of its broadcast schedule (the weekend of March 18-19, 2017) to tributing Robert Osborne.

February 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1438

Song of the Day: Hacksaw Ridge ("One at a Time") [YouTube link], composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, encapsulates an extraordinary motif in this shattering 2016 film, which tells the story of Desmond Doss, who served as a conscientious objector during World War II, receiving the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of an estimated 75 infantrymen in the Battle of Okinawa, one man at a time. Andrew Garfield, who played Spiderman in two films, plays real-life superhero Doss, who refused to even hold a gun or to kill another human being in military engagement, but vowed to save human life as a medic on the battlefield. It is a role for which Garfield has earned a well-deserved 2016 Best Actor Oscar nomination. I have seen many films concerning "war and peace" in my life, and this Mel Gibson-directed Oscar-nominated Best Picture, which depicts all of the unspeakable horrors and miraculous heroism of battle, easily makes my Top Ten-ish list in that cinematic genre. [Ed: See also Lawrence Read's FEE essay, "Hacksaw Ridge Deserves an Oscar for Redefining Heroism."]

February 24, 2017

Song of the Day #1437

Song of the Day: Cinq Jours en Juin (Five Days in June: "Love Makes the Changes") [YouTube link] features the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and the music of Michel Legrand, who was born on this date in 1932. Legrand also directed this 1989 film, and in case you were wondering, the song is delivered with soul and grace by the only Ray Charles, accompanied by the greatest jazz harmonica player to have ever graced this earth, Toots Thielemans, both men no longer with us. The soundtrack is pure Legrand, but boasts a few pieces by some lightweight composers, folks like Frederic Chopin and Johann Sebastian Bach. In any event, Happy 85th Birthday to one of my all-time favorite musical innovators, a brilliant and legendary composer who also happens to be a remarkable jazz musician.

February 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1436

As I stated on Facebook:

Today, as our Film Music February series moves toward its final weekend, I tribute Manton Moreland---one of the greatest and most talented African American comic actors, a trailblazer who broke through the walls of the cinema with his remarkable timing and often improvised use of the double entendre. It's exhibited in today's featured music from Kay's soundtrack to this 1941 film.

Song of the Day: King of the Zombies ("Main Title") [YouTube link, full movie, check the first minute), composed by Edward J. Kay, is from one of those classic comedy/horror hybrids. The 1941 film opens with music over ominous drumming. Remember that drumming, because it is key to one of the most memorable lines in the movie (at 1:00:52). With "voodoo" drums playing in the distance, Bill Summers, played by John Archer, asks his valet, Jefferson Jackson, played by the utterly hilarious Manton Moreland: "What does that sound like to you?" Moreland replies: "I don't know, but it ain't Gene Krupa."

February 19, 2017

Song of the Day #1432

Song of the Day: Hell to Eternity ("Main Title") [YouTube link], music by Leith Stevens (who provided that great score for the splendid 1953 George Pal production of "War of the Worlds"), is an appropriate theme to highlight on this day of remembrance, a day we forget at our peril, when the United States government opened internment camps during World War II for Japanese Americans. The 1960 film stars Jeffrey Hunter, along with David Janssen (who played Dr. Richard Kimble in the trailblazing TV series, "The Fugitive"). It is a biopic about Marine hero Guy Gabaldon Pfc. (played by Hunter), who went on to fight in the Pacific theater of the war, using his considerable Japanese language skills in the Battle of Saipan, where he persuaded the Japanese commander to order the surrender of about 1000 troops and 500 civilians.

February 07, 2017

Song of the Day #1420

Song of the Day: Batman ("Trust"), composed by Prince, features sampled horn parts from jazz trumpeters Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss. This Prince soundtrack album to the 1989 film, directed by Tim Burton, stars Michael Keaton as our Caped Crusader. The film also boasts an utterly off the wall, over-the-top, but still classically Jack Nicholson performance in the villainous role of the Joker (formerly played in the 1960s campy TV series by Cesar Romero, and later played much more darkly by the posthumously awarded Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winner Heath Ledger in the 1998 film, "The Dark Knight"). Check out this song and the scene in which it unfolds as well as a rockin' Shep Pettibone 12" dance remix [YouTube]. And so concludes our mini-tribute to Prince's film music repertoire.

February 06, 2017

Song of the Day #1419

Song of the Day: Under the Cherry Moon ("Kiss"), words and music by Prince, is heard in the 1986 film, which featured the first of many collaborations between the artist and jazz pianist Clare Fischer. The soundtrack to the film was marketed under the title of "Parade." This song was a huge hit; it went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot 12" Singles Sales, Hot US Club Play, and Hot Black Singles. Check out the single (it's #11 at this link). The song has been covered by many artists, but among the most fun-filled recordings is the one by Tom Jones. And it's not unusual! [YouTube links]. I'm sure that today Gisele Bundchen is not the only person wanting to Kiss Tom Brady, for leading the New England Patriots to an epic, comeback, overtime 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

February 05, 2017

Song of the Day #1418

Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("When Doves Cry"), words and music by Prince, is featured in the 1984 film and was the biggest hit single from the soundtrack album. The song went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Black Singles chart, and Dance/Disco chart. It is one of those notable R&B-inspired tracks lacking a bass line, but certainly not lacking in soul. On the soundtrack album, Prince plays all the instruments in addition to providing the vocals. Check out the music video [video link]. Some football fans are going to be crying at the end of Super Bowl Sunday; maybe this song will ease the agony of de-feet. If not, then watch the commercials for a laugh or embrace Lady Gaga's halftime show for a little shock and awe.

February 04, 2017

Song of the Day #1417

Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("Darling Nikki"), words and music by Prince, hit the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart. It's a raw, sexually charged track from the 1984 film that prompted the use of "Parental Advisory" stickers on the soundtrack album, despite never having been released as a single. It has been covered by many artists, but there is only one Prince. Check out the film version [YouTube link].

February 03, 2017

Song of the Day #1416

Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("Purple Rain"), words and music by Prince, is the title track to the artist's quasi-autobiographical 1984 film. In 2016, I paid tribute to Prince on the occasion of his untimely death in a week-long celebration of his birthday in June. This week, as part of my annual celebration of film music, I feature a few classic songs from Prince's cinema repertoire. This iconic signature tune is one of his best. Check out the soundtrack album rendition on YouTube.

February 02, 2017

Song of the Day #1415

Song of the Day: King Kong ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by John Barry, has all those Barry signature touches of intrigue and mystery, which could be found in every one of the eleven James Bond film soundtracks he scored (and we shall not forget Ayn Rand, who was born on this date in 1905, was a fan of the early Bond films, especially "Dr. No," for which Barry was the uncredited arranger of the famous Monty Norman Bond motif, though there is lots of controversy surrounding who actually composed that theme). Sadly, this 1976 remake of the classic 1933 film doesn't quite live up to the majesty of the subject matter or the score, but the movie did introduce to the world of cinema, a wonderful actress in her first film role, Jessica Lange. The ending, like all the "King Kong" remakes does feel a bit like Groundhog Day (because the fate of our famous ape is sealed the moment he is brought to New York City). But this particular film features an ending that fans of the Twin Towers will never forget.

January 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1413

Song of the Day: Mary Tyler Moore Show ("Love is All Around"), composed and performed by Sonny Curtis, was the opening theme of an iconic TV show from the 1970s, which spawned a few spin-off shows as well ("Rhoda," "Phyllis," and "Lou Grant"). Sadly, today, Mary Tyler Moore passed away at the age of 80. This was one of those series that was part of my youth and gave me plenty of laughs (who can forget the death of Chuckles the Clown [YouTube link to full episode]?). Then again, I liked her going all the way back to the "Dick Van Dyke Show." Check out the theme song on YouTube, which includes variations of the theme as it evolved over the seasons during which it was on broadcast television (especially with that Cute Kitten Meow at the End Credits). RIP, Mary!

January 01, 2017

Song of the Day #1411

Song of the Day: Funky New Year, words and music by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bob Seger and J. D. Souther, was recorded by the Eagles, among the newest Kennedy Center Honorees, as the B-side to "Please Come Home For Christmas" [YouTube link], first made famous by Charles Brown. Check out the Funky single and a Funky live version too [YouTube links]. A happy, healthy, and very funky 2017 to all!

December 28, 2016

Song of the Day #1410

Song of the Day: Singin' in the Rain ("Good Morning"), music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed, made its debut in the 1939 film "Babes in Arms." But it was made super-famous by the wonderful singing-and-dancing trio of Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly, and Debbie Reynolds in the great 1952 movie musical "Singin' in the Rain" (and while you're at it, check out the original Garland-Rooney "Babes in Arms" performance) [YouTube links]. Yesterday, I posted a tribute to Carrie Fisher, who died at the age of 60. I have just learned of the death of her 84-year old mom. To have to post, a day later, a tribute to Reynolds, whose many movies and television appearances I so loved (from "The Debbie Reynolds Show" to "Will and Grace," where Reynolds debuted the "Told Ya So" dance [YouTube link]), just goes beyond tragedy. It is almost literally unbelievable to see within a few days, the deaths of celebrities such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and now, Debbie Reynolds. I am greatly saddened. For me, Debbie Reynolds was as "unsinkable" as Molly Brown. RIP, Debbie.

December 27, 2016

Song of the Day #1409

Song of the Day: Star Wars: A New Hope ("Princess Leia's Theme") [YouTube link], composed by the great John Williams, was first heard in "Episode Four," which for those who have been living under a galactic rock for 40 years, is actually the first film in the "Star Wars" franchise, which began in 1977. It is fitting to feature this theme in remembrance of the sad passing of the woman who first brought Princess Leia to life: Carrie Fisher, who died today at the age of 60. Daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, she was a gifted talent, who achieved many wonderful accomplishments in her life. But she will forever be identified with this role, which she also played in "The Empire Strikes Back" (Episode Five, 1980), "Return of the Jedi" (Episode Six, 1983), and "The Force Awakens" (Episode Seven, 2015). The setting of this epic space opera may have begun "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," but Fisher's force will be with us for light years to come. RIP, Carrie Fisher.

December 26, 2016

Song of the Day #1408

Song of the Day: Monkey features the words and music of George Michael, who, sadly, passed away at the age of 53 on Christmas Day 2016. Originally part of the duo Wham!, giving us a memorable song of the season ("Last Christmas"), Michael recorded a number of songs that have been among my favorites ("Feeling Good," "Kissing a Fool," "My Baby Just Cares for Me," and "If I Told You That," a duet with the late Whitney Houston). This track was a Top Ten R&B track that went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Dance Club Singles charts. A Jimmy Jam-Terry Lewis production, it was the fourth consecutive #1 hit from Michael's solo album, "Faith." It sported a deep bass line and a great sleaze dance beat. Check out the official video and the extended remix (with a few samples from "Hard Day" [YouTube links], another of Michael's adventures in funk). Back in 1987, when I was still doing the occasional mobile DJ gig, I'd have a ball with those two turn tables remixing the 12" vinyl records (remember those?) to packed dance floors. RIP, George. He'll be missed.

December 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1405

Song of the Day: With Plenty of Money and You features the words and music of Harry Warren and Alexander "Al" Dubin. Back in the sizzling summer, we celebrated a week-long tribute to the great Tony Bennett, who turned 90 on August 3rd. On that date, the singer was honored with an Empire State Building Light Show [YouTube link] and an all-star tribute concert that was recorded for a 2-hour primetime special to be broadcast tonight on NBC. This "song of the day" comes from an album originally titled "Basie Swings, Bennett Sings" but was also marketed as "Strike Up the Band." Either way, this song cooks. For music afficionados, see if you can hear a tiny lick of "Sweet Georgia Brown" in that burnin' Basie big band chart. Check out the swinging tune on YouTube.

December 13, 2016

Ralph Raico, RIP

I have just learned from friends and colleagues that historian extraordinaire, Ralph Raico, passed away. I first met Ralph when I was an undergraduate at NYU, attending various liberty intensives sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies. He was a celebrated member of the Circle Bastiat, which constituted an intellectual and activist salon; it included folks like Murray Rothbard, Ronald Hamowy, George Reisman, and Robert Hessen, and had some celebrated encounters with the Rand circle of the mid-to-late 1950s (with Reisman and Hessen joining the growing circle around Ayn Rand). Ralph's recollections of those encounters bordered on classical theater.

I remember Ralph as being a remarkably passionate lecturer, and a wonderfully kind and considerate scholar, who gave me deeply appreciated personal and professional advice in our various encounters through the years. And he never lacked for a hilarious sense of humor. A founder of the New Individualist Review, he was a libertarian who was often unwilling to cede to contemporary liberals the label of "classical liberalism." A principled and decent human being he was; another light of liberty has dimmed.

RIP, Ralph.

December 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1404

Song of the Day: This Happy Madness (Estrada Branca), music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes, with English lyrics by Gene Lees, was recorded by Jobim and Francis Albert Sinatra, who was born on this date 101 years ago today. Readers might recall that last year I did a three-week tribute in song on the occasion of the Sinatra Centenary. But December 12th never ceases to be a day to honor Ol' Blue Eyes. This particular song was recorded for the album, "Sinatra & Company," released in 1971, but is also to be found on the wonderful "Complete Reprise Recordings" of Sinatra and Jobim. A wonderful day to celebrate the talents of two of the finest artists to have ever graced this planet. Check out this lovely song on YouTube.

December 09, 2016

Song of the Day #1403

Song of the Day: Spartacus ("Overture"), composed by Alex North, is featured on this day, the 100th birthday of the very much alive actor, Kirk Douglas. From his starring roles in such movies as "Champion," "Lust for Life," and "The Bad and the Beautiful" (all for which he received Oscar nominations in the category of Best Actor) to "Paths of Glory" and his seven films with Burt Lancaster (including "Seven Days in May"), Douglas has been Hollywood royalty for decades. He was awarded an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement [YouTube link]. But there are few films that capture his grit at its most heroic than the Stanley Kubrick-directed 1960 blockbuster, "Spartacus." Happy birthday to the "Young Man with a Horn." And instead of singing Happy Birthday, I'd like to stand up and say: "I'm Spartacus."

John Glenn, RIP

One of my earliest memories as a child was sitting in front of the black-and-white TV we owned, which was the centerpiece of our living room. It was February 20, 1962. I had just turned two years old on February 17th, and the 20th was my mother's birthday (and the birthday of my best pal, Paul, who lived in the apartment next to us). Maybe it was because it was Mom's birthday, or maybe it was just because I was, at two years old, completely and utterly dazzled by the images I saw on the small screen that day.

John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, having lifted off from Cape Canaveral in his Friendship 7 rocket, among the very first group of astronauts of the young Mercury program. And he orbited our planet three times before making a dramatic splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is amazing to me that I have such vivid memories of that day in front of the television set; it would be my freshman orientation, so-to-speak, with what became a lifelong education and love affair with the very idea of space travel. In later years, we'd sit in front of the TV to see the Apollo 11 moonlanding and to view the first two human beings from the planet Earth to walk on the moon. I was pinned to the TV when Apollo 13's crew announced, "Houston, we have a problem." I saw a rover drive across the surface of the moon, and the Apollo-Soyuz dockings, and the heartbreaking, tragic Challenger disaster. I have never lost my childlike fascination with space, with the potential of space travel, and with the heroic spirit that motivated those space travelers, each taking "one small step for a man," and "one giant leap for mankind."

This is all quite apart from any of the political dimensions that surround the dawn of the space age, or the political career of Glenn, when he served as Senator of Ohio (and got mixed up in political scandal. Hat tip to Christopher Baker!).

For this two-year old, still lurking inside me, Glenn's flight still encompasses the majesty and wonder of human achievement.

And so it is with sadness that I learned of the passing of John Glenn yesterday, December 8, 2016. He provided me with my first encounter with space travel; that the memory has stayed with me in such a vivid way for over 54 years now is almost as remarkable as the event itself. It was Glenn who ignited, in this two year old, the seeds of the belief in a world of boundless possibilities.

RIP, John Glenn. And thank you.

Postscript: In the Facebook discussion that followed, some questions were raised about John Glenn's post-astronaut, political career, and, by extension, about the nature of government intervention that made the space program possible. I added the following comment:

Thank you Caroline, and Christopher, read the blog entry: I give you a hat tip! I added the point about the political ramifications of the space program (and the political scandals with which Glenn's name is linked) as outside the context of this specific post: how a 2-year old kid watched a man leave the ground atop a rocket, only to orbit the Earth three times and return safely to that Earth. That thrill is forever etched in my mind, regardless of what Glenn was (as a man) or who he became (as a politician). And regardless of the fact that the US space program was government-funded on taxpayer revenue seized by force, by definition, that achievement is what it is. Ayn Rand herself made the distinction of being able to celebrate the moon landing, as a triumph of human achievement, while being opposed to the funding of programs to propel man into space. She was deeply aware of the kinds of distortions in the evolving structure and development of production that resulted anytime the government has stepped in to socialize the risks of "development", as it did with the building of transcontinental railroads in the 19th century (see her essay, "Apollo 11," September 1969, "The Objectivist"). She wrote that the " 'conquest of space' by some men ... [was] accomplished by expropriating the labor of other men who are left without means to acquire a pair of shoes." She points out, of course, that in the space program, taxpayer funding notwithstanding, "the scientists, the technologists, the engineers, the astronauts were free men acting of their own choice. . . . Of all human activities, science is the field least amenable to force: the facts of reality do not take orders." This said, Rand was also aware of another sobering fact: that when government does become heavily involved in the directions of scientific research, what often results is an interventionist dynamic that alters everything from educational to economic institutions, resulting in a self-perpetuating system that leads to a kind of 'military-science-industrial complex' more suited to producing the means and weapons of mass destruction, rather than tools for mass creation. Check out my expanded section in the second edition of "Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical", in Chapter 12, "The Welfare-Warfare State," as well as the story of Project X in Rand's magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged."

I also added:

I should add that there is much to be said about what Murray Rothbard called the power of the market to transform the products emerging from coercive intervention into products that are of use to consumers, what he called, "a process of converting force to service." See Chapter 6 of my book, "Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism."

December 07, 2016

A Day of Infamy Remembered on Its 75th Anniversary

Seventy-five years ago, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in what Franklin Delano Roosevelt later termed "a date which will live in infamy." Without even raising any of the historical or political preconditions or effects of this singular event in world history, I'd just like to re-post a link to a Memorial Day tribute I wrote in honor of my Uncle Sam, the man who so influenced me as a child and young adult, that I dedicated my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical to him. I re-post this to show the very real human consequences of that historical event. It can be found on the Liberty and Power Group blog, a 2004 post, A Memorial Day Tribute to Uncle Sam.

December 02, 2016

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

On this day, marking the one-year anniversary of the San Bernardino terror attack, I pause to remember the victims and the survivors.

And yet, somehow, we have survived. There is a culture of life in this country, but especially in this city, New York City, the grandest city on earth, which in 2001 suffered a horrendous attack of its own.

Nothing seems to dampen this country's (or this city's) ability to rise above the rubble, not even a contentious election that has left many of us with the feeling that Armageddon is around the corner. Yet, from the moment Santa Claus comes riding into town at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on its 90th anniversary, surrounded by about a thousand cops, seen and unseen, with submachine guns, something good happens to this city.

Indeed, every time you think the world is heading for the apocalypse, just turn on the Hallmark Movie Channel, where they've been showing Christmas movies nonstop practically since Halloween! The other night I was watching Happy the Cat and Happy the Dog on The Happy Yule Log---and I'm a long-time fan of the ol' WPIX Yule Log, so you know you have to go a long way to move this New York loyalist! But moved I was. How could I not be?

And on Wednesday night, thousands of people gathered around Rockefeller Center in the pouring rain to watch the annual Christmas Tree lighting, along with Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Donald Trump (actually actor and SNL Donald-impersonator Alec Baldwin) and Hillary Clinton (actually SNL comic and Hillary-impersonator Kate McKinnon), striking a chord for unity. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can dampen the New York Values that light up our streets and our hearts at this time of year. This city is a universe unto itself, and if you've not seen the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall or the remarkable light displays that blanket Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, well, you ain't seen nothin'!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas; we live to grieve those who have lost their lives on American soil on this sad anniversary (in which people were murdered in a facility filled with celebratory Christmas decorations), but we embrace the warmth of a holiday season that reminds us how much life is worth living.

November 13, 2016

Song of the Day #1401

Song of the Day: This Masquerade features the words and music of Leon Russell, who passed away today at the age of 74. Like "A Song for You," this song is one of my favorite Russell compositions. It first appeared on his 1972 "Carney" album, but became a Top Ten Billboard Hot 100 and R&B hit for jazz guitarist and vocalist George Benson. The recording was Benson's first single release, appearing on his signature 1976 album, "Breezin'" and it went on to receive the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Check out the Russell original and Benson's recording as well [YouTube links]. And check out a more recent version by the son of Barbra Streisand: Jason Gould. RIP, Leon Russell.

November 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1400

Song of the Day: Hallelujah features the words and music of Leonard Cohen, who passed away on Monday, November 7th, at the age of 82. Featured on his 1984 album, "Various Positions," the song would go on to much fame in film ("Shrek"), and in renditions by John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, the jazz-infused Lon Hope, the "Gentle" alto Sax, Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris and our newest Nobel laureate for literature, poet-folk-rocker Bob Dylan [YouTube links]. But in remembrance of the remarkable songbook he left behind, it's fitting to return to the Cohen original [YouTube link]. RIP, Leonard.

November 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1399

Song of the Day: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ("Main Themes"), composed by the great Jerry Goldsmith, graced the original TV show in various iterations for its mid-1960s small-screen run. It led to a series of spin-offs and film adaptations, including a 2015 movie version. The show was inspired by Ian Fleming's James Bond series; indeed, Fleming contributed to the development of the original show, which featured two characters, one Soviet and one American, who join forces in a secret international counter-espionage agency called U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law Enforcement). The Soviet agent, Illya Kuryakin, was played by the handsome, blond David McCallum and the American agent, Napoleon Solo, was played by cleft-chinned Robert Vaughn. It was a fun show that I'll always remember from my childhood. I post this theme in remembrance of Robert Vaughn, who passed away today at the age of 83.

November 04, 2016

Don Kates, RIP

Many years ago, when I was an NYU undergraduate, I became a founding member of the NYU chapter of Students for a Libertarian Society. We staged many events over the years, from protests against draft registration under the administration of Jimmy Carter to all-day Liberty events covering everything from domestic to foreign policy. At one of these events, dealing with gun control and Second Amendment rights, we invited a speaker who turned political labels upside down. He was Don B. Kates, Jr., the editor of a remarkable collection of essays titled, Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out. The book was a revelation to me, and whether you disagreed or agreed with any of its contributors, one thing was for certain: Don Kates was a man who never tired of challenging the status quo. He was one of the most provocative writers and speakers who was ever featured at an event on the subject of gun control that I've ever witnessed then, or now.

Through the years, I have been privileged to be on his mailing list, enjoying his many enlightening posts and discussions, which always required you to pause and reflect, and occasionally, to just laugh out loud at the craziness of the world.

I was saddened to hear today that he passed away on November 1, 2016. I wish to send my deepest sympathies to his family and friends. He will be missed.

Postscript: On reflection, I remember that many years ago, Don had spoken to my mother a number of times on the phone, especially as I prepared for the SLS "gun control" event. He remarked that my mother had a voice like Lauren Bacall. Mom was elated. And he gave us a great laugh. He'd routinely ask me how "Lauren" was doing, after Mom had been diagnosed later with lung cancer.

September 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1394

Song of the Day: Velas, composed by Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins, is played with lilting beauty by Toots Thielemans on this standout Quincy Jones-Johnny Mandel-arranged track from the 1981 Quincy Jones album, "The Dude." The album itself received twelve Grammy Award nominations, and this track won in the category of "Best Arrangement of an Instrumental Recording" (though losing in the category of "Best Pop Instrumental Recording"). Quincy went on to take top honors as Producer of the Year, for this utterly superb album, one of my all-time favorites. The Toots track only provides another touch of class to an already classy album. Check out the original album cut, and while you're at it, check out his rendition of another famous Q track, "Killer Joe" [YouTube link] (written by Benny Golson). RIP, dear Toots.

September 19, 2016

Song of the Day #1393

Song of the Day: Sesame Street ("Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street"), composed by Joe Raposo, originally featured the ever-recognizable harmonica of the late, great jazz musician Toots Thielemans [YouTube link]. A vocal version often opened the series (and check out the Jimmy Fallon-Roots version as well) [YouTube links], while Thielemans closed it out in a strictly instrumental rendering. I just learned of the death of this jazz giant, who passed away at the age of 94 on August 22, 2016. He was one of my all-time favorite musicians. Now, while this theme closes our mini-tribute to TV themes for 2016, it also opens a two-day tribute to Toots. I first heard his talents on display when he whistled in unison with his melodic and inventive improvisational guitar playing, so deeply influenced by Django Reinhardt, on an original Toots composition [a .pdf file], which became his signature tune: "Bluesette" [YouTube link]. So when I was later introduced to his harmonica playing, I was utterly floored by what I heard. (In fact, he played a harmonica rendition of that classic composition in a live harmonica duet with Stevie Wonder [YouTube link].) Whether he was enriching the sounds of a film score ("Midnight Cowboy," "Sugarland Express" [YouTube links]), accompanying such artists as Vanessa Williams and Sting on "Sister Moon" [YouTube link], or conjoining his musical talents with the incomparable Michel Legrand for a lovely rendition of the main theme from the Oscar-winning 1971 Legrand film score for "The Summer of '42" [YouTube link], Toots could play that small instrument with all the dexterity of a jazz saxophonist. Check out his jazz work on such tunes as "Au Privave" [YouTube link] (a live recording with guitarist Joe Pass and pianist Oscar Peterson), "The Days of Wine and Roses" [YouTube link] (with jazz pianist Bill Evans), and "Manha de Carnaval" [YouTube link], from the first of a two-volume collection of melodic, lyrical Brazilian classics.

September 15, 2016

Zornberg's "Jews, Quakers and the Holocaust"

Jews, Quakers and the Holocaust: The Struggle to Save the Lives of Twenty-Thousand Children
By Ira Zornberg

Available in both Kindle and paperback editions from Amazon.com.


It is customary in reviews of this sort to state one's biases upfront. With author Ira Zornberg, I have an enormous bias. As I said in an interview in Full Context , Ira Zornberg had a "big influence on me." He was my Social Studies teacher at John Dewey High School, who was the first teacher in the United States to bring the study of the Holocaust to high school students." I credit him for his encouragement of my growing political philosophy and for my first forays into political writing and academic editing. Indeed, he was the faculty advisor of the school's social studies newspaper, Gadfly, of which I eventually became editor-in-chief. I knew that I was making waves when one of the front-page essays I wrote, criticizing the school's "Young Socialist Alliance," ended up face forward in the boy's bathroom, in the urinal, where it had been baptized by human excrement. If they ain't talkin' about you, or pissin' on you, you ain't makin' a difference. One of the lessons I learned early on.

But the lessons I learned from Zornberg in that trailblazing class on the Holocaust were lessons I simply could never have learned anywhere else or in any other gifted high school. At least back then, John Dewey High School was a shining beacon that encouraged independent study. With a school year divided into five cycles, the school provided specialized course offerings that ran the gamut from the Crusades to the Kennedy assassination. But Zornberg's course was unique for its intensity and sheer depth. We studied the origins of anti-Semitism, the birth of the national socialist movement in Germany, the waning days of the Weimar Republic, the rise of the Third Reich, and the tribalist. racist, and anti-Semitic cultural premises that empowered it. Such premises provided a rationale for a "Final Solution" that led to the inversion of the rule of law, the destruction of "undesirables," and a war against European Jewry that culminated in a network of concentration camps and the systematic slaughter of millions of people.

Ultimately, however, the biggest lesson that Zornberg taught me was to be true to your convictions, to engage your critics constructively, and to value civil discourse. I learned too that this was a man who embodied intellectual honesty and a sense of justice that required a recognition of the inviolability of individual human dignity. His serious commitment to the teaching of history and his remarkable capacity as mentor and guide, made an indelible mark on my young student's mind. Then, as today, I honor him, and I am proud to call him my friend.

So, when Superstorm Sandy hit, and I learned that Zornberg had lost virtually all of his library and his 40+ years of lesson plans, I offered to send him all the copious notes I took from his Holocaust class. After the October 10, 2013 fire that nearly consumed our apartment, I had the occasion to completely reorganize my file system, and among the things that survived were all my notes and papers from his superb course, which I attended as a senior at Dewey. I photocopied them and sent them to him; he expressed appreciation for the accuracy of my notetaking, which reflected the mind of a young student, whose answers raised even more questions, questions that could never be answered quite to my satisfaction. After all, students of history and even a generation of scholars who have written hundreds of books in the Holocaust, have been probing the madness of genocide for eons, and it is virtually impossible to wrap one's mind around the kind of phenomenon that could possibly give birth to a multiplicity of savage cruelties, ingenious forms of torture, and sophisticated instruments of mass murder, all used by real human beings to destroy the lives of other real human beings. I remember discovering Ayn Rand during that final year of high school, and I shared Leonard Peikoff's book, The Ominous Parallels, with my teacher. But the nightmare of the Holocaust remains deeply embedded in my mind, if only for the sheer scale of human horror that it exhibited.

Which makes reviewing his new book all the more wonderful---because this man of honor has turned out a book that reflects all the virtues and values he exemplified as a great teacher. And he is teaching us still. I was ecstatic to learn of my former teacher's continuing work in this area of study. His new book on the subject, Jews, Quakers and the Holocaust: The Struggle to Save the Lives of Twenty-Thousand Children, is more than a revelation; it is a testament not only to the horrors of Nazi Germany, but to the heroic, largely thwarted, efforts of some to save the lives of others: those who were slated for extermination by Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. As Zornberg tells us in his introduction, this book

describes the causes of the immigration crisis of 1939, the response of those who were the targets of its venom, the efforts of American Jews to assist people of their faith, the denial of locations for resettlement, the Kindertransport in Europe, and the struggle led by Christians who fought to save the lives of Jewish children. It identifies people who labored to save the lives of the Jewish children. It cites the arguments and acts of those who fought for the passage of the Wagner-Rogers Bill, and the arguments employed by its adversaries. The struggle to win congressional approval for that bill failed.
This is an American story because it is a part of the history and debate over the nature of U.S. immigration policies. . . . This story adds to our common knowledge of the U.S. immigration policies, and will hopefully provide an additional basis for constructive contemporary reasoning.

Zornberg provides us first with an historical context, a portrait of a complex "background" to the cataclysm that was to engulf Germay, Europe, and eventually the world. We move from the tribalist and racist biases that were deeply embedded in German culture to the birth of the Nuremberg Laws, which encoded not the rule of law, but the rule of Aryan blood and the criminalization of Jewish blood. He discusses at length the response of German Jews to this perversion of law. Many emigrated to other countries. Indeed, an estimated 60,000 German Jews were among the
emigrees, and many of them had fought loyally as Germans during World War I. They eventually reached Palestine due to a "transfer agreement" between the German finance ministry and the Jewish Agency in Palestine.

We are given glimpses of rapidly unfolding events that both expressed and magnified the anti-Semitism of the Nazi regime. One of those glimpses of discrimination was on display at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, including the last minute removal of Marty Glickman" of the U.S. track team from several Olympic track events (Glickman was a classmate of my mother's at James Madison High School).

In 1938, the Night of Broken Glass ("Kristallnacht") followed, and slowly the exits from Europe were closing to Jews who sought to escape from the onslaught of Nazi brutality. It was in the wake of Kristallnacht, Zornberg tells us, that the "Quakers were to assume important roles in the effort to assist Jews," focusing especially on rescuing Jewish children from German territories.

It is not that Jews were silent during these years of growing repression. But the response of Jews and non-Jews alike, in America, was far more complicated and complex. Anti-Semitism knew no national boundaries, and it was alive and well in the United States of America, a country whose various government sterilization programs for the "unfit" inspired Hitler himself.

Yes, the United States had a history of welcoming immigrants. Indeed, the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, was not a hollow symbol taking up space in New York Harbor. It gave expression to the principles of freedom that encapsulated the promise of America. And yet, throughout U.S. history, various quotas on immigration existed, and in the context of post-World War I America, the "Emergency Quota Act of 1921" was enacted, illustrative of the emergent, and growing, isolationist political culture. By the time of the Great Depression, with unemployment reaching historic heights, Zornberg writes, the demands for even greater "limits to immigration came from many quarters, and they provided a cover for those whose intent was to limit the immigration of Jews without openly saying so.

So, though many Jews fought hard to lobby Congress and other organizations to make America a refuge for those seeking freedom from Nazi tyranny, they were keenly aware that anti-Semitism was a reality in the U.S., and, Zornberg argues, this "helps explain why many Jewish organizations chose to be supportive of Christian efforts to assist refugees rather than assume the public face of those efforts," which would have only further fueled such anti-Semitism.

The portrait Zornberg paints of these heroic Christian efforts is both poignant and instructive.

The story is a testament to a Quaker act of human decency and it is at the soul of Zornberg's work in this extraordinary book. It is an inspiring tale that uplifts the human spirit. The attention to detail that Zornberg exhibits in his exploration of this historical episode is exemplary. We learn that politics is politics no matter what era of history we study. He examines in great detail the heroic roles of such people as New York psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Marion Kenworthy in calling for an American Kindertransport and of Clarence Pickett of the Quakers' American Friends Service Committee in fighting for the passage of the Wagner-Rogers Bill, which would have allowed for the entrance into America of 20,000 Jewish children under the age of 14. The bill never came to a vote, getting no help from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was clearly "not emotionally committed to saving European Jews." The political machinations that went on in the fight for this bill are revealed by Zornberg in all their shameful details.

Ultimately, of course, the Quakers were involved in worldwide efforts to stem the tide of terror; the historical record shows that the American Friends Service Committee "chose Jewish children from [their] homes and refugee camps in southern France for transfer to the United States under the auspices of the U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children," exhibiting "that interfaith activity on behalf of European Jews could be successful."

But this success, however modest, does not erase the dishonorable actions of politicians and various opinion-makers who brought the Wagner-Rogers Bill down to defeat.

I must say that Zornberg's epilogue alone is worth the price of admission. He reminds us that in 1939, when the Wagner-Rogers Bill was crushed by political cowardice, many Americans had embraced an Action comic book hero in Superman, a character developed by Jerry Siegel and Joel Schuster, two Jews living in Cleveland. Zornberg concludes powerfully:

As an adult, Superman fights the forces of evil, intent upon world domination. In embracing Superman as an American hero, Americans were embracing a survivng child, an alien, as a defender of our nation. This was something our lawmakers in the spring of 1939 refused to do.

The problem of immigration is surely one that continues to plague the U.S. political landscape to this very day; the issues may differ considerably from the crises of the 1930s, but the threats today are certainly no worse than the threats posed by the Third Reich. If nothing else, Zornberg's book provokes us to focus on yesterday's history and today's issues with the care of a highly-skilled surgeon's scalpel, rather than with the sledgehammer of the various demagogues among us.

This is a five-star book that I cannot more strongly recommend. In a summary of the above review, I say at Amazon.com ("A Provocative History That Speaks to Contemporary Immigration Issues"):

Zornberg’s new book, Jews, Quakers and the Holocaust: The Struggle to Save the Lives of Twenty-Thousand Children, is more than a revelation; it is a testament not only to the horrors of Nazi Germany, but to the heroic efforts of some to save the lives of those who were slated for extermination by Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. … The story of the Quaker’s attempts to save the lives of Jewish children is a story of human decency that reveals the soul of Zornberg's work; it is an inspiring tale that uplifts the human spirit…. The problem of immigration is surely one that continues to plague the U.S. landscape to this very day; the issues may differ considerably from the crises of the 1930s, but the threats today are certainly no worse than the threats posed by the Third Reich. If nothing else, Zornberg's book provokes us to think through yesterday's history and today's issues with the care of a highly-skilled surgeon's scalpel, rather than with the sledgehammer of the various demagogues among us. This is a five-star book that I cannot more strongly recommend.

September 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1385

Song of the Day: The Night Of [YouTube link], music by Jeff Russo, opens each episode of the tense HBO miniseries that recently concluded its summer run. The show was to star the late James Gandolfini, who retains a posthumous executive producer credit; his role was subsequently offered to Robert DeNiro, but due to scheduling conflicts, it was ultimately played superbly by John Turturro. And so begins our annual-ish tribute to television themes en route to the Emmy Awards, which will be broadcast on Sunday, September 18th. Though seemingly simple in its composition, this show's theme seems to take its 'cue' from "Psycho" and "Jaws," warning us of the ominous things to come. After viewing hours of touching tributes today, we have come to the night of September 11th. The twin beams of light from downtown Manhattan can be seen clearly from my apartment in Brooklyn, in tribute to the shattering events that occurred on 9/11/2001, destroying the WTC Twin Towers. There is a bit of irony to commence a mini-tribute to television themes with a show centered on a murder mystery in a post-9/11 America. Indeed, over the years, not even television series have been able to sidestep the ultimate "reality show" that took place on this day, fifteen years ago.

WTC Remembrance: Fifteen Years Ago - Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine

My annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center," turns this year to my own personal reflections on the fifteenth anniversary of the day that my hometown was attacked in 2001, a day that changed our lives forever. These reflections emerge from my viewing of a series of VHS tapes that I used to record the tragic events of that day and the days, weeks, and months that followed. My focus for this essay is exclusively on the unfolding minute-by-minute television coverage from 8:46 a.m. to midnight on the day of terror that we commemorate today.

I have to admit that this essay was one of the most difficult, and yet cathartic, pieces I've ever written in my entire life. I invite readers to view the newest addition to my annual series here.

I also provide this index for those readers who would like easy access to the previous entries in this series:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial

2016: Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine


Never forget.

Postscript: Much appreciation to Ilana Mercer, who has noted the newest essay on her blog here. She writes:

I recall calling Chris Matthew Sciabarra around the time September 11 happened. Like the best of New York, Chris was hyper, in fight-but-never-flight mode. That’s my Chris. And he has commemorated the attack on the greatest city in the world—was I overcome by patriotism when I visited New York!—his hometown, in the most personal way each year.

Postscript 2: Much appreciation to Rational Review News Digest for making this the lead commentary in their September 11th edition. See here. Special thanks to long-time colleague and friend Thomas L. Knapp for noticing.

August 29, 2016

Song of the Day #1382

Song of the Day: Say, Say, Say, words and music by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, appears on McCartney's "Pipes of Peace" album, and spent six weeks at number 1, stretching from 1983 to 1984. Produced by long-time Beatles producer, George Martin, it was the seventh top ten hit for MJ within the "Thriller"-dominated year of 1983. Check out the Bob Giraldi-directed video, the 12" Jellybean Benitez remix, and a 2015 re-release by McCartney, in which the vocal roles of the duet partners are reversed [YouTube links]. (And speaking of collaborations, check out this really rare video of a spontaneous "collaboration" with James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Prince on the same stage!). Today, would have been Michael Jackson's 58th birthday. Though he is no longer with us, we can still "remember the time." [YouTube video flashback]. And we can also revel in the fact that he has left us with music open to such diverse interpretation--from the rock sounds of Chris Cornell and the jazz tribute album, "Swingin' to Michael Jackson," to a wonderful "Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson," and the classically-trained "2 Cellos" and Hungarian pianist Bence Peter [YouTube links].

August 17, 2016

Song of the Day #1379

Song of the Day: The McLaughlin Group ("Main Theme") [Television Tunes link] opened up this show every week, where viewers have been treated since 1982 to shouting matches between the discussants, among them, regulars such as Patrick Buchanan and Brooklyn-born Eleanor Clift. I often thought that only New Yorkers could really appreciate the ability of the discussants to speak louder and louder over each other, but the show has always been syndicated and appreciated nationally. Sadly, the host of the show, John McClaughlin, missed his first show in the entire run of the series last weekend [YouTube link] (though he still provided the voiceovers for the opening and the "Issue 1," "Issue 2" and so forth announcements). He passed away yesterday at the age of 89. I don't know how or if the show will continue, but it certainly provided this political junkie with a half hour of entertaining discussion of current events every Sunday morning. Check out also an alternative rendering of the theme, an orchestral version of the theme, a YouTube remembrance, his appearance in the film "Independence Day," and his famous "Bye Bye" [YouTube links].

August 16, 2016

Song of the Day #1378

Song of the Day: Holiday, words and music by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens, spent five weeks as the #1 Billboard Dance Club Song for Madonna from her 1983 self-titled debut album. The song was produced by the famous South Bronx DJ John "Jellybean" Benitez. We post it today as part of our Summer "Saturday Night Dance Party," extended into a Tuesday, in celebration of Madonna's birthday. Like Prince and Michael Jackson, she was a 1958 baby. Unlike them, she is still with us. As an honored member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she has carved a remarkable career. And having seen her in concert, I can say she gives a great show and honors all of those, including her fallen comrades, who have had an impact on her music. Check out the original album track and her original video (made with considerably less production value than the videos to come!) [YouTube links]. Then check out this massive mash-up [YouTube link] with the classic R&B hit, "And the Beat Goes On," by The Whispers (one of my all-time favorite SOLAR groups).

August 11, 2016

U.S. Foreign Policy: The Boomerang Effect or How the Chickens Come Home to Roost

Readers should check out an extraordinary full-length New York Times Magazine exclusive, "Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart."

So much of what is discussed in this article provides us with too many examples of the unintended consequences and boomerang effects of U.S. foreign policy, a lesson in how the "chickens come home to roost," whatever the intentions of the initial actors in history.

Of course, U.S. foreign policy cannot be evaluated as a sole causal agent in the history of the Middle East, and the Times series does not even suggest this; after all, the U.S. has been involved in the Middle East for a century or so, but the tribalist and ideological insanity that has been embedded in that part of the world has gone on for centuries. I've had a lot to say about this for over a decade now. So I've taken an opportunity to provide readers with an index to many of the essays I've authored on the subject over the years:

"Understanding the Global Crisis: Reclaiming Rand's Radical Legacy" (March 2003) [a .pdf file]

"History and Oil" (December 2003)

"Dick Cheney’s Words of Wisdom, Circa 1992" (27 December 2003)

"Flames and Oxygen"(27 December 2003)

"A Question of Loyalty" (November 2003 - January 2004) [a .pdf. file]

"Consequences: Intended and Unintended" (11 April 2004)

"The Birth of a Narcostate" (13 June 2004)

"Weighing in on a Foreign Policy Debate, Again" (29 July 2004)

"Education and Nation-Building in Iraq" (15 August 2004)

"Unintended Consequences Not Unforeseeable" (12 September 2004)

"Freedom and 'Islamofascism'" (6 October 2004)

"Fascism: Clarifying a Political Concept" (8 October 2004)

"America First" (10 October 2004)

In December 2004, I turned my attention to a five-part review of Peter Schwartz's book, The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America, published on the Liberty and Power Group Blog of the History News Network:

"Peter Schwartz and the Abandonment of Rand's Radical Legacy, Part I: Introduction / Schwartz's Core Arguments" (6 December 2004)

"Peter Schwartz and the Abandonment of Rand's Radical Legacy, Part II: Foreign Aid and the United Nations" (7 December 2004)

"Peter Schwartz and the Abandonment of Rand's Radical Legacy, Part III: Saudi Arabia" (8 December 2004)

"Peter Schwartz and the Abandonment of Rand's Radical Legacy, Part IV: The History of U.S. Foreign Policy" (9 Decemer 2004)

"Peter Schwartz and the Abandonment of Rand's Radical Legacy, Part V: The Current War / The Folly of Nation-Building / The Inextricable Connection between Domestic and Foreign Policy" (10 December 2004)

Additional essays followed:

"The Costs of War, Part 1" (23 March 2005)

"The Costs of War, Part 2" (25 March 2005)

"Iran, Again" (3 November 2005)

"ARI, Iraq, and Healthy Dissent" (22 December 2005)

"Iraq: A Perception Problem?" (22 March 2006)

"A Crisis of Political Economy (1 October 2008)

None of the above essays, intensely critical of U.S. foreign policy, has anything to do with my own thoughts about September 11th 2001, the date on which a vicious attack on the home of my birth forever altered our lives. I've written 15 essays, beginning on that infamous date, and continuing each year in an annual tribute to those who lost their lives, those who saved lives, and those who have lived and learned to build again. Check out the index to those essays "Remembering the World Trade Center." A new essay in that annual series will be posted on the 15th anniversary of the attack: September 11, 2016.

August 08, 2016

Song of the Day #1376

Song of the Day: Basin Street Blues, music by Spencer Williams, lyrics by trombonists Jack Teagarden and Glenn Miller, has been recorded by so many great jazz artists through the years. But today, we highlight a classic version by the late great Dixieland trumpeter Al Hirt and the late, great Dixieland clarinetist Pete Fountain. Fountain passed away on Saturday, August 6, 2016; he was a spirited player who was greatly influenced by the King of Swing, Benny Goodman, and New Orleans clarinetist Irving Fazola. Check out the Hirt-Fountain rendition of this classic Dixie-jazz tune on YouTube.

August 07, 2016

Song of the Day #1375

Song of the Day: The King and I ("Hello, Young Lovers"), music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is one of the highlights from the 1956 film score of this classic Broadway musical. I highlight the film version, which starred the Oscar-winning Yul Brynner as the King of Siam (a role he immortalized on the Broadway stage, and for which he won the 1952 Tony Award as "Best Featured Actor in a Musical"), in the same year that he played the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II in the DeMille epic, "The Ten Commandments." Brynner starred opposite the lovely Deborah Kerr, who lost the Best Actress Oscar, but won the Golden Globe for her role as Anna Leonewens. In the film, her singing voice was dubbed by one of the greatest invisible talents of the silver screen: Marni Nixon, who just passed away on July 24, 2016. Dubbed the "American cinema's most unsung singers," she was the singing voice of Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" and the singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady." Check out her rendition of this unforgettable song from the film version of "The King and I" [YouTube link].

August 05, 2016

Song of the Day #1373

Song of the Day: Taking a Chance on Love, music by Vernon Duke, lyrics by John La Touche and Ted Fetter, is a popular standard first published in 1940 and featured in the 1940 musical, "Cabin in the Sky," with an all-black cast, where it was sung by Ethel Waters and Dooley Wilson [YouTube link] and in the 1943 film version, featuring Waters with Eddie "Rochester" Anderson [YouTube links]. It has been recorded by countless artists, but it is an especially poignant way of noting how much Bennett credits the African-American contributions to his own exploration of the jazz idiom. So, we end our tribute on an upnote with an uptune, from a magical 1959 Bennett album: "In Person!," featuring a very jazzy Bennett with the ever-jazzy Count Basie and His Orchestra; check it out on YouTube, and take it from one who knows: Always take a chance on love! For love, love of his music, his art, his fans, the special people in his life, is the driving force of Bennett's career. This may conclude our mini-tribute, but there's no doubt he'll appear again on my ever-expanding "favorite song" list.

August 04, 2016

Song of the Day #1372

Song of the Day: Yesterday I Heard the Rain, words and music by Gene Lees and Armando Manzanero, is the title song of Bennet's 1968 album, but can also be heard in a live version with Count Basie and a duet with Alejandro Sanz [YouTube links; this last from Bennett's 2012 "Duets II" album]. Like Sinatra, Bennett could deliver a ballad and infuse it with the heartache he most certainly experienced at points in his life. That he has triumped over this heartache and remains with us, still performing at 90, is a milestone worth celebrating. Last night, the Empire State Building provided the native New Yorker with a lovely light show in honor of his 90th birthday. Check it out on YouTube. Tomorrow, we conclude our mini-tribute; after all--where there is heartache in losing a love (and Bennett felt that heartache), there is always the need to take a chance on love, no matter how young or old you may be.

August 03, 2016

Song of the Day #1371

Song of the Day: This is All I Ask, words and music by Gordon Jenkins, is an appropriate way to say "Happy Birthday, Tony Bennett," for on this day in 1926, he was born. From Nat King Cole to Frank Sinatra [YouTube links], this standard has been recorded by many artists. And yet, there is a special resonance in the lyric, on this day more than any other, as Bennett sings: "As I approach the prime of my life, I find I have the time of my life, Learning to enjoy at my leisure all the simple pleasures. And so I happily concede, That this is all I ask, This is all I need . . . Take me to that strange, enchanted land grown-ups seldom understand. . . . And let the music play as long as there's a song to sing. And I will stay younger than Spring." For fans, Tony will always be "younger than Spring." This was the title track from Bennett's 1963 album, but first appeared in a different arrangement on his 1961 album, "Alone Together." Check out the 1961 version and the more intimate 1963 version [YouTube links], with the opening accompaniment of his pianist and long-time musical director, Ralph Sharon. He also recorded it in a duet with Josh Grobon [YouTube link] for his 2012 album, "Duets II," released in conjunction with his 85th birthday. Well, Tony is still going strong at 90, the "prime" of his life has been given a long extended remix for the benefit of generations of fans who still appreciate his boundless talent and energy. Happy birthday to a fellow New Yorker of Italian descent. Stick with us through Friday, when we conclude our mini-tribute to an American treasure.

August 02, 2016

Song of the Day #1370

Song of the Day: The Touch of Your Lips, words and music by Ray Noble, who wrote the song in 1936, has been recorded by many artists through the years, most notably and sensitively by jazz trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker (with some nice guitar work by Doug Raney) [YouTube link]. It was the title track from his 1979 album. But our birthday boy of the week also provides us with an unforgettable rendition, a magnificent collaboration with the immortal pianist Bill Evans, from their 1975 album "The Tony Bennett - Bill Evans Album." Check out the two lyrical masters on YouTube.

August 01, 2016

Song of the Day #1369

Song of the Day: Skyscraper Blues, music by Gordon Jenkins, lyrics by Tom Adair, is from the 1959 Bennett album, "Hometown, My Town," featuring reflections in song on the city of his birth. The orchestrations of Ralph Burns are wonderful; the big band featuring such jazz artists as tenor saxman Al Cohn, guitarist Al Caiola, and trombonist Billy Byers.This more than 7-minute track plays almost like a symphony of changing sounds, moods, and hues, encapsulating the lonely blues and swinging ways that Bennett's New York City can evoke in any individual who might become almost overwhelmed by the greatest skyline, the greatest sights, and the greatest sounds of the greatest city on earth. Check it out on YouTube.

July 31, 2016

Song of the Day #1368

Song of the Day: Last Night When We Were Young, music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Yip Harburg, has been recorded by many artists through the years, but it was a highlight from Frank Sinatra's classic 1955 album, "In the Wee Small Hours." It is among the songs that appears on Tony Bennett's 1992 album, a tribute album, "Perfectly Frank," to the man who called Bennett "the best singer in the business," as I point out in my kick-off essay, "A Tribute to an American Treasure: Tony Bennett at 90." Bennett had recorded this song on his 1960 album "To My Wonderful One" [YouTube link]. But there is something about this loving, whispery version [YouTube link] on the Sinatra tribute album that drives home the fact that theirs was a mutual admiration society. Today kicks off our six-day tribute to Bennett, whose 90th birthday is on Wednesday, August 3rd.

Celebrating an American Treasure: Tony Bennett at 90

A "Song of the Day" Tribute to Tony Bennett

For the next six days, I will be featuring a Notablog tribute in honor of a great American artist as part of my "Song of the Day" series: "Celebrating an American Treasure: Tony Bennett at 90."

Introduction

Today, Sunday, July 31, 2016, I begin a mini-tribute to Tony Bennett (a Wikipedia link that provided me with the basic information herein). Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, this man would become one of the greatest vocal interpreters of The Great American Songbook. On Wednesday, August 3rd, he will celebrate his 90th birthday. Like Frank Sinatra, whose centenary we celebrated last year, Bennett recorded so many albums that I grew up listening to in my home, which was always alive with music, seemingly every waking hour of every day. Like Sinatra, Bennett was a talented Italian American singer nourished on a diet of swing and jazz. But unlike Hoboken's best, Bennett was a native New Yorker, a child of Astoria, Queens (indeed, one of his finest gifts to those who live in Astoria, was his founding of the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts, for high school students). He is a man who, like Sinatra, saw his ups and his downs, but who grew to embrace, without compromise, the music that inspired him and even the painting that he embraced as a creative product of his boundless imagination.

Favorite Songs

It is almost impossible to come up with enough songs in tribute to the great entertainer, because anyone looking at "My Favorite Songs" would find him among my most cited singers: "A Child is Born," "Darn that Dream," "The Days of Wine and Roses," "Falling in Love with Love," "For Once in My Life," "Give Me the Simple Life," "The Good Life," "Have You Met Miss Jones?," "I Could Write a Book," "I Didn't Know What Time it Was," "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "If I Love Again," "If You Were Mine," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "I'll Be Seeing You," "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)," "In a Mellow Tone," "It Was Me," "I've Got Your Number," "I Wanna Be Around," "Just in Time," "The Lady is a Tramp," "Let's Face the Music" (also check out a sweet duet version with Lady Gaga [YouTube link]), "Let the Good Times Roll," "The Moment of Truth," "My Baby Just Cares For Me," "Nuages," "Once Upon a Summertime," "Polovetsian Dance No. 2," "Put on a Happy Face," "The Shadow of Your Smile," "Street of Dreams," "There'll Be Some Changes Made," "Thou Swell," "Until I Met You," "We'll Be Together Again," "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)?," "You Don't Know What Love Is," and "You Must Believe in Spring." Without a doubt, my all-time favorite album of Tony's is and remains: "I Wanna Be Around," and nearly all of the songs from that album are on the list above.

My Top Ten (in alphabetical order)

I could easily give you a Top Ten list of my favorite Bennett recordings, not in any particular order except alphabetical (and all the titles below are hyperlinks to their original Bennett recordings, as featured on YouTube):

1. "For Once in My Life" [YouTube link]. Stevie Wonder may have had the bigger chart hit, but he's always said, "This is Tony's song." Appropriately, Tony did a version of this song in a tribute to Wonder in the TV special celebrating "Songs in the Key of Life" [YouTube link]. And the two also did a ballad duet rendition of the song on Bennett's "Duets" album [YouTube link].

2. "The Good Life" [YouTube link]. The lead-off track on Bennet's great "I Wanna Be Around" album, this one rose to #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1962.

3. "If I Love Again" [YouTube link]. This one also appears on "I Wanna Be Around," and it is one of the most sensitive, heart-breaking renditions of this song ever recorded.

4. "If You Were Mine" [YouTube link]. Obviously, a champion of communicating heartbreak, Bennett recorded this one for the "I Wanna Be Around" album as well.

5. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" [YouTube link]. Written by two Brooklynites (George Cory and Douglass Cross), this one became a signature tune sung by the boy from Queens, one of two officially recognized anthems for the city of San Francisco (joining the song "San Francisco," title theme from the 1936 film). It peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100.

6. "I Wanna Be Around" [YouTube link]. This one still remains one of the great, bitter "screw you" songs in the history of lost love. It is the title song from my all-time favorite Bennett album, released in 1963.

7. "Just in Time" [YouTube link] . Introduced in the 1956 musical, "Bells are Ringing," Tony scored a big 1960 hit with this one.

8. "The Moment of Truth" [YouTube link]. From his album, "This is All I Ask" and as a bonus track on the CD release of the album "I Wanna Be Around," this one swings hard.

9. "Put on a Happy Face" [YouTube link]. So good, I picked it TWICE (by accident) for "My Favorite Songs."

10. "The Shadow of Your Smile" [YouTube link]. Bennett delivers the utterly definitive version of a classic Oscar-winning "Best Original Song" from the Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor 1965 film, "The Sandpiper" (and this song has been recorded umpteen times by artists as varied as jazz pianist Bill Evans and dance group D Train! [YouTube links]). Bennett's recording actually won the 1966 Grammy for "Song of the Year." His rendition, with its introductory lyrics intact (not heard on the original score), was arranged and conducted by the man who composed and arranged the original film score: Johnny Mandel, who also collected a Grammy for "Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media," a perfect match for the shatteringly beautiful backdrop of Big Sur, featured in the film. The lyrics were written by Paul Francis Webster. And the score itself features the achingly beautiful trumpet work of Jack Sheldon.

So those are my Top Ten Bennett songs, alphabetically arranged; as for my Number One Bennett impersonator, there is only one: Alec Baldwin [among these "Saturday Night Live" skits, check out, especially, the Baldwin "Tony" interview with "Phony Bennett" played by the real one!].

Bennett's Career

Bennett emerged on the music scene in the early 1950s, a child of the Sinatra generation, who would go on to sell over 50 million albums worldwide. Bennett was impacted by many of the same artists that Sinatra listened to, from Bing Crosby to Louis Armstrong (and one of my favorite jazz violinists, the great Joe Venuti). He served in World War II, and didn't get his first musical break until 1949, when Pearl Bailey asked him to open for her in Greenwich Village. Signed to Columbia Records, he was warned by Mitch Miller not to sound like an imitation of Sinatra, though it was impossible for anyone in that era not to have been touched by the greatness of Ol' Blue Eyes. His artistry deepened with his collaborations with the great jazz guitarist Chuck Wayne (a man whose "consecutive-picking technique" greatly influenced the approach of my own brother, jazz guitarist Carl Barry, to whom Wayne was a dear friend). Wayne became Bennett's musical director for his first LP, "Cloud 7" in 1954, but by 1957, Bennett began his long musical relationship with pianist Ralph Sharon, with whom Bennett embraced an even deeper jazz idiom, resulting in albums featuring Herbie Mann, Nat Adderly, Art Blakey, and several with the Count Basie Orchestra. For me, the heights of his intepretive jazz work can be found on two magical sessions with the immortal pianist Bill Evans.

Yet the times they were a changin', musically speaking, and as the rock era came to dominate the music scene, Bennett fell into a great depression, his art form seemingly lost. He had no recording contract, no concerts outside of Las Vegas, a failing marriage, and increasingly severe tax problems with the IRS. He suffered a near fatal cocaine overdose in 1979. But with the help of his son Danny, he began to turn his life around. Stressing the music that made him grand in the eyes of generations of fans, he reached the MTV Generation, winning a 1995 Grammy for Album of the Year for his "MTV Unplugged" concert. Recognized for his achievements, he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. He has won 2 Emmy Awards, and 19 Grammy Awards (mostly in the category of "Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance"). In 2001, he became a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner." In 2005, he was inducted as an honoree of the Kennedy Center, and in 2006, he was honored with the National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters Award.

It is no coincidence that Frank Sinatra, the singer whose centenary I marked with a three-week tribute in November-December 2015, called Tony Bennett "the best singer in the business." Over the next week, we'll have a chance to hear a few of the reasons why Sinatra was so moved. Our tribute starts today with a beautifully appropriate "Song of the Day," a sign of their personal, mutual admiration society: "Last Night When We Were Young," a track from the 1992 album, "Perfectly Frank," Bennett's tribute to one of his musical heroes.

When our celebration is complete, I will list all the songs of the tribute here, with their accompanying links.

July 04, 2016

Song of the Day #1362

Song of the Day: America, words and music by Prince, extends our Saturday Night Dance Party to a Monday in celebration of Independence Day. It is from the album "Around the World in a Day," issued by Prince and the Revolution. The lyrics are of what one philosopher may have called "mixed premises," but any song that includes stanzas like "Communism is just a word, But if the government turn over, It'll be the only word that's heard," and in a paean to "America the Beautiful," tells us, "America, America, God shed his grace on thee, America, America, keep the children free," can't be all that bad. Check it out in a live version on YouTube and a rare 12" extended mix and dance your way through a wonderful and safe Independence Day.

July 01, 2016

The Mobs Line Up at Brooklyn's L&B Pizzeria

Anytime, anyone of my out of town friends show up in my home town, Brooklyn, it is a necessity to take them to the famed pizzeria, established by Ludovico Barbati in 1939 in the Gravesend section of this wonderful borough of New York City. I've lived in Gravesend my whole life, and L&B offers probably the best Sicilian pizza (the so-called "square slice") you'll ever eat anywhere. They put the mozzarella on the bed of the pie, and top it with a tangy sauce and grated cheese that will make your mouth water; and if you're into Italian ices and Spumoni, there are fewer places in New York that offer anything creamier or more refreshing.

To my knowledge, the only mob ties to the famed pizzeria are the mobs that line up awaiting their slices, sitting in the outdoor "Spumoni Gardens", especially in the summer months. Today, I learned differently.

Remarkably, last night, for the first time in eons, my sister and I stopped by at L&B for a square slice; around the same time, the grandson of Ludovico, the 61-year old Louis Barbati, co-owner of the current restaurant he built on 86th Street in Gravesend, was murdered in his backyard in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, his family inside the home. It is being called a "mob-tied" hit. Apparently, back in 2012, a mob war almost erupted over accusations that some folks had stolen the L&B secret-tomato-sauce recipe. And today, perhaps a casualty of long-time disputes, Louis Barbati is gone.

I've heard of mob wars over narcotics and neighborhood turf, but not this. I truly extend my heartfelt sympathies to the Barbati family.

Ed. Note: We learned the day after that apparently the murder was the result of a botched robbery. All the more senseless and tragic.

Song of the Day #1360

Song of the Day: To Each His Own ("Main Title"), composed by Victor Young, is from the 1946 film that won Olivia de Havilland her Academy Award for Best Actress, and today, on July 1st, we celebrate her 100th birthday. (She and her sister Joan Fontaine, with whom she had an estranged relationship, are the only sisters to share the distinction of having won a Best Actress Oscar each.) Ironically, there was a popular Livingston-Evans song released in that same year, but it is unrelated to the film. How can one go wrong, then, picking the main theme from the film that brought Olivia her Oscar, when the music was composed by the great Victor Young, in fine melodic form. Check out the lush opening credits on YouTube.

June 28, 2016

Song of the Day #1359

Song of the Day: Put a Little Love in Your Heart, words and music by Jackie DeShannon, Randy Myers, and Jimmy Holiday, was a top 5 DeShannon hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and was also one of the songs found on the jukebox of the Stonewall Inn, the bar and its surrounding area now a National Monument. But back in 1969, it was a virtual war zone, when just another routine police raid sparked a riot, whose effects have continued to reverberate throughout our culture. I have always seen this day as an essentially libertarian achievement, one that ultimately aimed for the recognition of the rights of individuals, who felt the sting of social and political policies designed to oppress, to humiliate, to dehumanize, and to marginalize people because of who and how they love. So "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," and celebrate that date in 1969, when men and women of difference stood up and said: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" [YouTube links]. We've come a long way since then; "don't ask, don't tell," which made a whole class of people dishonest by definition, is no longer our military policy, and same-sex marriage has recognition across the country in our civil laws. But in a world that fears difference, a backlash is not hard to fathom (Orlando is only the tip of the unimaginable). It has been said that "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance," and whoever said it (there have been historical debates) uttered a truth that our culture forgets at its peril. For the whole point of liberty is not to create a society of homogenization, hypocrisy, and conformity; it is to provide a safe haven for difference.

June 25, 2016

Song of the Day #1358

Song of the Day: Hollywood Tonight features the words and music of Brad Buxer, Teddy Riley, and Michael Jackson, who, on this date in 2009, passed away at the age of 50. This was the second single released from the 2011 posthumous album, "Michael." The video is a paean to Jackson in every way, and the lead dancer, Sofia Botella knocks it out of the park in getting down some of MJ's classic dance moves. The track went to #1 on the Billboard Dance Chart, and it's not hard to see why. Check out the original mix (and video), the Throwback Mix, and DJ Chuckie Mix [YouTube links]. This is the official start of our "Saturday Night Dance Party," where every Saturday from now until the end of summer, a dance floor staple from the 1970s to today will be the featured "song of the day." What better way to kick off our celebration of the dance floor (and many New Yorkers will be dancing at the weekend's Gay Pride Events) than to remember the King of Pop whose music and talent as the quintessential "song and dance" man of his generation still uplifts the spirit, even on a sad June day of remembrance.

June 07, 2016

Song of the Day #1350

Song of the Day: 1999, words and music by Prince, is one of my absolute all-time favorite tracks from The Artist (especially the extended album version) [YouTube link]. Come on now, everybody, "Don't Ya Wanna Go! . . . Everybody, everybody say 'Party'." This was the title track from that 1982 classic album, it has a wonderful groove. Like Michael Jackson, Prince was a child of 1958; today would have been his 58th birthday. Both men are gone, having never reached 58, but on this Prince birthday, we can still "party like it's 1999," in tribute to him; it is reported that he left behind enough recorded music in his vaults for albums that could be issued one per year for the next century! Tomorrow, we switch gears big time: a mini-tribute to some of the music of Broadway, in honor of the Tony Awards on June 12th.

June 06, 2016

Song of the Day #1349

Song of the Day: I Feel for You, words and music by Prince, first appeared on Prince's self-tited 1999 album. Check it out here (YouTube link). There have been other versions of this song, including one by the Pointer Sisters and the other by Rebbie Jackson (MJ's sister). But I have to admit that my favorite version is the one featuring, come on, altogether now: "Chaka Khan," Chaka Khan..." Here's the single version, the biggest hit of Chaka's career, but I love the extended version. I mean, how can you miss with Chaka's vocals, Stevie Wonder's harmonica, rapper Melle Mel, and The System's David Frank? For Chaka, it peaked at #3, but was on the Hot 100 for 26 weeks.

June 05, 2016

Song of the Day #1348

Song of the Day: Nothing Compares 2 U, words and music by Prince, for a side-project band called "The Family" from their self-titled 1985 album. Sinead O'Connor had a huge hit with this one, but I still love the original Prince version. Check out that original here, and the O'Connor version here [YouTube links]. I should note that on June 3rd, America lost one of its most controversial and entertaining cultural icons and nothing compared to him either: "The Greatest" Muhammad Ali.

June 04, 2016

Song of the Day #1347

Song of the Day: U Got the Look, words and music by Prince, was the highest charting single on the Sign O' the Times album, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also featured singer Sheena Easton. Check out the rhythmic track on YouTube. Prince wrote for many other artists, and was never intimidated in playing with the greats whom he idolized. Ironically, it is said that he truly idolized Michael Jackson, and was deeply saddened by MJ's passing ["We're always sad when we lose someone we love," he is quoted as saying]. Both men, born in 1958, are now gone; their rivalry, sometimes intense, prevented the two of them from ever recording a duet together. But that is now an asterisk in music history (though Prince did pay tribute to MJ in concert performances of "I Want You Back," "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough," and "Shake Your Body"). Prince did have the chance to work with other musical giants; check out this wonderful collaboration between Prince and Miles Davis from a 1987 concert. Though it's not yet his birthday, Prince will be celebrated all afternoon today in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration section, a party hosted by Spike Lee.

June 03, 2016

Song of the Day #1346

Song of the Day: Sign O' the Times, words and music by Prince, is the title track of his 1987 album.  The song sure showed that Prince had his fingers not only on the frets of the guitar, but on the fret of social ills that plague us till this day. Check out the official video on YouTube.

June 02, 2016

Song of the Day #1345

Song of the Day: Delirious, words and music by Prince, was a notable single from the 1982 Prince and the Revolution album "1999." The song was a Top Ten Hit (reaching #8 on the Hot 100) and offered a quirky, literally "delerious" rhythm. Check it out on YouTube.

June 01, 2016

Song of the Day #1344

Song of the Day: Controversy, words and music by Prince, begins our mini-birthday tribute to the Purple One, who tragically passed away last month, but whose birthday we will celebrate on June 7th. And I'll have plenty of Prince songs featured in next year's February Film Music Month (and in a special musical project I have planned for the Summer of 2016). I have already listed several Prince classics on "My Favorite Songs" list: check out "Baby I'm A Star", "I Wanna Be Your Lover," and "Let's Go Crazy.") Today, I begin with one of my favorites; it showed an edgy musician who was willing to play with his audience: "Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?" he asks at the beginning of the song, which has a nice groove. It was the title track to his 1981 album, and though it went no higher than #70 on the Hot 100 or #3 on the R&B chart, clearly the dance club crowd was ahead of the groove, bringing the title to #1 on the Hot Dance Club chart. Prince was very protective of his recorded music, so check out the link to a live version here.

May 28, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday to Nathan's Famous

Today, Nathan's Famous, a worldwide food chain, celebrated its 100th anniversary (having started as a hot dog cart) at its landmark Coney Island address, where, for 2 hours, they offered customers hot dogs for their original 1916 price: 5 cents a piece. You had to agree to buy two!

Brooklynite I am, but crazy I am not. Temperatures in the 90s and millions of people on line for a 5-cent hot dog. No. Not gonna happen.

So we bought packaged Nathan's hot dogs, cooked 'em up, and had a blast. Not quite the same taste as the one's sold in Coney Island, where the chefs swear that it is the salt water in the air that gives them their distinct taste, but a celebration nonetheless.

April 29, 2016

Song of the Day #1341

Song of the Day: The Ten Commandments ("The Red Sea") [YouTube link], composed by Elmer Bernstein, provides a musical backdrop for what remains one of the greatest cinematic moments in motion picture history: Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 film's rendering of the parting of the Red Sea [YouTube link]. The Jews are liberated after ten plagues, the last brought about by Pharoah's mocking of God, resulting in the death of the first born of Egypt, including Pharoah's own son. A vengeful Pharoah (played by Yul Brynner), chases the Jews through the desert. But Moses shows the power of God; as a pillar of fire blocks the Egyptians, he lifts his arms, allowing the Jews to escape through the midst of the waters, and subsequently destroying Pharoah's chariots in their pursuit after the pillar dissipates (celebrated on the seventh day of the Passover holiday). Charlton Heston plays Moses in the way that only Heston could play it; the film's screenplay is not the most contemporary, but its reverence is genuine. It is said that Heston was in the last film of the old Bibical epics, and the first film of the modern Biblical epics, "Ben-Hur," one which did not dispense with the intimacy of characterization, while retaining the cinematic grandeur that only Hollywood could deliver. To all my Jewish friends and colleagues, celebrating the last day of Passover, I wish health and happiness.

April 27, 2016

Song of the Day #1340

Song of the Day: Me and Mrs. Jones, words and music by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Cary Gilbert, was a #1 hit for Billy Paul, and is surely one of the most memorable soul tracks of my pre-teen youth. Sadly, Paul passed away on April 24, 2016. This has been a pretty tough year for those of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, as the artists who provided the soundtrack of our lives have passed on. It's a reminder of our own mortality; but music lives forever. Listen to the original Paul hit and a nice cover by Michael Buble.

April 21, 2016

Song of the Day #1339

Song of the Day: Let's Go Crazy, words and music by Prince, who recorded this as Prince and the Revolution, a Minneapolis rock band formed in 1979. The song went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, a mega-hit from the 1984 soundtrack album, the Oscar-winning "Best Original Song Score" to the film, "Purple Rain." I am happy that I had the opportunity to see this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician perform this blazingly hot song live in concert; today, he passed away at the young age of 57. His music broke through various genres and he leaves a legacy of musical treasures released and yet-to-be-released. I will miss him. Check out the album version of this song, which tells us of an "afterworld . . . of never-ending happiness," something he has given to his fans for generations to come [YouTube links].

April 05, 2016

Song of the Day #1338

Song of the Day: Calamity Jane ("Secret Love"), music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Weber, was composed for the 1953 movie musical, where it was introduced by the incomparable Doris Day, who celebrated her 92nd birthday on April 3rd. With a melody based on the opening theme of the A-major piano Sonata D.664 [a Wilhelm Kempff version on YouTube] of Franz Schubert, this song was released before the film, and made it to #1 on both the Billboard and Cashbox charts, before going on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song. For years, fans have lobbied the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to give Oscar recognition to Day for all of her wonderful film performances through the years, from the title role of this film to her co-starring role with Kirk Douglas in the 1950 Bix Biederbecke-inspired film, "The Young Man with a Horn" (and that was the legendary Harry James providing the trumpet work) to the 1956 Hitchcock thriller "The Man Who Knew Too Much," opposite Jimmy Stewart, where she introduced another Oscar-winning Best Song, "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)." Check out this lovely Grammy Hall of Fame single by the lovely lady who knew how to sing it in a film clip and in the longer studio version [YouTube links]. And check out this sweet Shirley Bassey tribute to Doris as well. A belated Happy 92nd Birthday to one of the world's greatest animal lovers, who will always be an Award-winner in my songbook!

March 29, 2016

Song of the Day #1336

Song of the Day: The Miracle Worker ("Main Title: Helen Alone") [YouTube link] was composed by Laurence Rosenthal for the brilliant 1962 film, starring Oscar-winning Best Actress, Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan and Oscar-winning Best Supporting Actress, Patty Duke as Helen Keller. I grew up watching "The Patty Duke Show" on television, but this was another side of Duke entirely. As Ayn Rand observed in her essay, "Kant versus Sullivan," Duke gave a "superlative performance" as the young Keller both on the Broadway stage and in the screen version of what Rand called "the only epistemological play ever written," for its depiction of the way in which human beings grow to understand words and their referents. Rand praised Bancroft as well, for illustrating a fierce "titanic" determination to transform a young girl with little sensory contact to reality into a thinking human being. Sadly, Patty Duke passed away today at the age of 69. But I'll never forget laughing to her TV show, and crying when she utters the word "water" in this film's finale. The expressive Rosenthal score puts to music the aloneness and alienation that Keller must have experienced as a child before her cognitive liberation by Sullivan.

March 27, 2016

Don Heath, RIP

After hearing the tragic news of the passing of Tibor Machan, I am saddened to report of the passing of another light of liberty: Don Heath, who passed away on March 25th, after suffering a massive coronary. We last corresponded in February, after hearing reports of his being cancer-free for five years, and I wished him well.

I knew Don from the 1990s when he assisted me, no matter how many times I interrupted him, during my years of research and writing, in the preparation of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. A man with a delightful demeanor and sweet personality, he was always a joy to talk to or to see. My condolences to his friends and family for this devastating loss.

March 25, 2016

Tibor Machan, Friend and Colleague, RIP

I have just heard that yesterday, Thursday, March 24, 2016, Tibor Machan passed away. He was my dear friend and colleague of many, many years, and I can hardly believe it. I know he was very sick for many months, and I'd been in touch with him regularly. He never forgot my birthday (and sent me a birthday e-card back in February, while awaiting a CAT Scan!), and I never forgot his. We last corresponded at the beginning of March, about the great film, "Judgment at Nuremberg." He was an indefatigable warrior for liberty, with a larger-than-life personality ... and handshake. He published hundreds of articles and scores of books that covered more topics than I could count, so important to the emergent modern libertarian movement, whether one agreed or disagreed with this or that point.

I first encountered the name of Tibor Machan when I found a book called The Libertarian Alternative, which had "selections in social and political philosophy" from a vast array of libertarian thinkers. This 1974 edited collection offered a kaleidoscopic vision of so many different approaches to the defense of liberty, from authors as diverse as Nathaniel Branden, Roy Childs, Milton Friedman, John Hospers, Israel Kirzner, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, James Sadowsky, Thomas Szsaz, and Joan Kennedy Taylor. I largely credit that book with opening the door to what became a vast library in libertarian thinking; I never knew that it would also be a door that would lead to correspondence with many of its authors, some of whom became my teachers ... and friends.

Though I had published before in New York University periodicals, I had never been professionally published outside of the university, from which I earned my B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. So it was Tibor Machan who first engaged me when I emerged from the university, with the idea that I was going to drag dialectical method and libertarian thinking into constructive engagement with one another. My first attempt, "The Crisis of Libertarian Dualism," an article published in Critical Review in 1987, elicited a stern response from Tibor, to which I replied in the Spring/Summer 1988 issue of the journal. It was clear that we were on the same side, politically, even though my criticisms of certain forms of libertarianism must have raised my colleague's eyebrows just a bit. A year later, Tibor would publish my very first professional article on Ayn Rand, entitled, "Ayn Rand's Critique of Ideology," [.pdf link] which appeared in the Spring 1989 issue of Reason Papers. Suffice it to say, that single article did more to propel my percolating work on Rand as a dialectical thinker than any publication or presentation I'd done. I sent it to scores of people I'd never met, most of whom responded with courteous and respectful criticisms that only propelled my interest in the subject exponentially. I met scholars such as Douglas Rasmussen, Douglas Den Uyl, and so many other individuals, who I am today, proud to call my dearest friends and colleagues; many of them eventually became advisory board members for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, which I co-founded with Bill Bradford and Stephen Cox in the Fall of 1999. And I was proud to publish Tibor's essays in that journal (indeed, JARS eventually published seven essays written by Tibor). He was a regular subscriber to the journal, and never lost an opportunity to praise it, or severely criticize a particular essay that enraged him. His emotional range was remarkably wide. One might say his passion burned: you could feel the deep warmth of a friend, and the scalding fire of a critic, in the same conversation. But in the end, it was that deep warmth that touched my heart.

I will always thank him from the bottom of that heart for all the opportunities he gave me and especially for all of the support he showed me when so many were shocked at the 1995 appearance of the first edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. So incensed was he by the chorus of boos that he provided a rousing endorsement for the book. He was especially supportive during some of my own darkest medical adventures. He was a comrade, a colleague, and a friend to the end, and I will miss him very, very much.

March 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1335

Song of the Day: Toccata [YouTube link] is an adaptaion of the fourth movement of Albert Finastera's First Piano Concerto, in this instance featured on the classic progressive rock album, "Brain Salad Surgery," arranged by Keith Emerson (Carl Palmer did the percussion movement). Emerson tragically died on March 20th of an apparent suicide. Emerson, Lake,& Palmer were perhaps among the most significant keyboard-driven rock/classical/jazz fusion groups to grace the genre. They were often dismissed by critics as "pompous" and "pretentious" like most other bands in the genre, but there was always a touch of envy in that critique, for few rock keyboardists could integrate that fusion with the effectiveness of Keith Emerson. The piece has an almost cinematic feel to it, suited for the sci-fi screen.

March 09, 2016

Song of the Day #1334

Song of the Day: Love Me Do, words and music by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, was the first single released by The Beatles in 1962 in the United Kingdom, and later, in 1964, in the United States, where it went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. And the British Invasion was underway (even if the original version released in the U.S. had Andy White on drums and Ringo Starr on tamborine, though versions with Starr on drums, and Pete Best before him, were also recorded). Leading the charge of this invasion, however, was the man who worked behind the scenes as a producer, the so-called Fifth Beatle, who was no Fifth Wheel: the deeply talented and visionary George Martin, who passed away yesterday at the age of 90. Martin was an amazingly prolific producer, arranger, and composer, for both the recording studio and the cinema. He produced over 20 #1 singles in the US and 30 #1 singles in the UK. And he was responsible for the string arrangements brought to one of my all-time Beatles favorites, "Eleanor Rigby," something that was influenced, he acknowledged, by the work of the great film score composer Bernard Herrmann. But it's best to start at the beginning; check out the original UK single, with Ringo on drums, and remember the love [YouTube links].

February 29, 2016

Song of the Day #1333

Song of the Day: Alone Together, words and music by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, is featured on the Gleason production "Music for Lovers Only," and includes another sparkling Hackett solo. The 2016 88th Annual Academy Awards gave its "Best Original Song" statuette to Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes for "Writing's On the Wall" from the Bond flick, "SPECTRE," and the "Best Original Score" went to the immortal Ennio Morricone for "The Hateful Eight." Meanwhile, having closed out our Film Music February yesterday, we can now conclude our Centenary tribute to Jackie Gleason. "And Away We Go...." Check out the warmth of Hackett's trumpet in this track [YouTube Link], which could only have been produced by a warm and loving Jackie Gleason. In this cantankerous political season, I can think of nothing more triumphant than a full-hearted embrace of the cultural contributions of The Great One, who arose from the blisters of his childhood and even above the bluster of his most famous characters to Leap Up and Declare, with undiluted joy: "How Sweet It Is."

February 28, 2016

Song of the Day #1332

Song of the Day: I Cover the Waterfront ("Main Title"), music by Johnny Green, lyrics by Edward Heyman, was originally released in 1933 as a popular song, inspired by the 1932 novel of the same title, written by Max Miller. The book also inspired a 1933 film, which right before its release, was re-scored to include this song. It has been recorded by so many artists, including everybody from Billie Holiday to Sarah Vaughan [YouTube links]. In keeping with both our Film Score February music tribute, which in its final three days intersects with our mini-tribute to the Great One, Jackie Gleason, I should mention that this song was also featured as an instrumental, with a sweet solo by the great trumpet and cornet player, Bobby Hackett, on Gleason's first album, "Music for Lovers Only," which still holds the record for the album longest in the Billboard Top Ten Charts (153 weeks). And so, we end our annual Film Music February, but we're going to give one more encore to Jackie tomorrow, thus concluding our mini-Gleason tribute. In the meanwhile, enjoy the Oscars tonight, especially those competitive categories dealing with music! For now, just dim the lights, and check out the Gleason and Hackett rendition [YouTube link].

February 26, 2016

The Jackie Gleason Centenary: Celebrating an American Icon

"A SONG OF THE DAY" GLEASON TRIBUTE BEGINS WITH "THE HUSTLER"

Facebook Announcement: The first episode of the famous television series "The Honeymooners" made its debut in prime time, and so I've waited for prime time to debut this essay in honor of the man who gave "The Honeymooners" life: Jackie Gleason. One hundred years ago today, Jackie Gleason was born. Since my celebration of Gleason's Centenary intersects with my Annual Film Music February Tribute, I have decided to post an exclusive Notablog essay (and brief musical series) on the importance and impact of Gleason, and to highlight music cues from films in which Gleason appeared on the culminating Oscar weekend of Film Music February.

This essay can be found in the Essay Section of the Sciabarra "Dialectics and Liberty Site" but I am reproducing it here as a Notablog Exclusive.

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Today, Friday, February 26, 2016, I begin a mini-tribute to one of the greatest entertainers to have ever graced American culture: Jackie Gleason. Just as I grew up listening to the music of Francis Albert Sinatra, an artist who was the focus of my centenary celebration in November-December 2015, so too did I grow up watching the television shows, and films, and listening to the music produced by the man whom Orson Welles called "The Great One," Jackie Gleason. Gleason was a native Brooklynite, born in my hometown one hundred years ago on this date.

Though he was a co-recipient (with Perry Como) of the 1955 Peabody Award for his contributions to television entertainment, his career is notable for what he didn't get: despite five Emmy nominations, for situation comedy ("The Honeymooners"), variety shows ("The Jackie Gleason Show"), and general Recognition ("Best Comedian"), he never won an Emmy. Despite three Golden Globe nominations, he never won a globe. Despite an Oscar nomination as "Best Supporting Actor" in "The Hustler," he never won an Oscar (though he did receive the Golden Laurel Award for the performance). And despite having produced nearly 60 albums that charted on The Billboard 200 album chart, including
"Music for Lovers Only"---which was the #1 album of 1953, spending 153 total weeks within the Billboard Top Ten (nearly twice the number of weeks in the Top Ten that Michael Jackson's opus, "Thriller," which, with 78 weeks in the Top Ten [and 37 weeks at #1], and at 100 million worldwide units sold, is the biggest selling album of all time)---he has never been recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, not even with a "Hall of Fame" induction. Indeed, Gleason practically gave birth to the genre of "mood music" and his first ten theme albums sold over a million copies each.

It being "Film Music February," it should be said that it was film that inspired Gleason to produce such albums. So impressed was he by the capacity of film scores to magnify emotions on screen, especially in romantic scenes, he once said: "If [Clark] Gable needs music, a guy in Brooklyn must be desperate." Let's not forget that Gleason himself was no slouch in the melody department; he was, after all, the composer of the themes to The Honeymooners ("You're My One and Only Love") and "The Jackie Gleason Show" ("Melancholy Serenade").

But his talent could have been stillborn if he did not battle his way out of poverty and parental abuse. His mother was an alcoholic, whose first son Clemence passed away from spinal meningitis at age 14. Determined to protect her second son, she tied young Jackie to a chair during the day while she imbibed in the bar downstairs. When he showed his fine skill at loosening knots, his mother nailed the windows shut. The only solace he had was to go with his father on weekends to see Vaudeville at Brooklyn's Halsey Theatre, and to soak up the comic antics of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in the silent films of his childhood. He had decided that this is what he wanted to be when he grew up: an entertainer. He started school too late, because of his mother's paranoid antics; he attended Public School 73, and John Adams and Bushwick High Schools, but he was never to graduate with a high school diploma. His father abandoned the family in 1925, something for which Jackie always blamed himself, and ten years later, his mother succumbed to complications from alcoholism. He had to quit school, and fought loneliness, alienation, and the ever-empty wallet, by hustling pool halls to make money (experiences that served him well years later for a film role that netted him an Oscar nomination).

He was alienated and depressed and he self-medicated by overeating. Indeed, he spent his life battling the side effects of living large after living so small---smoking too much, drinking too much, eating too much. But those binges were not possible without the ability to earn a living. He quit school, and he began a quest to become an entertainer. His first efforts at fame were humiliating failures, whether attempting stand-up routines on stage or playing bit parts in early Warner Brothers comedies . At first, he was good at stealing the material of others, like Milton Berle, and making it his own. But he hung out with people across entertainment, including many jazz musicians. I suspect that it was the jazz bug that made Gleason's comedy so infectious, for it was at its best when it was improvisational. Lou Walters caught his show, and gave Gleason a chance to perform in a Broadway revue, "Hellzapoppin'." By the late 1940s, he got his big break, landing the role of Charles A. Riley for the first TV incarnation of "The Life of Riley," a show for which William Bendix was famous to the radio audience. He eventually was seen on the DuMont Network's "Cavalcade of Stars." Whereas Gleason was never really a stand-up comic, he was superior in an ensemble setting, where he played off of his co-stars with utterly perfect timing. He was notorioius for very little rehearsing and for hilarious ad-libbing.

Gleason's show capitalized on the great music scene in New York City; he brought in fine musicians, and even a Busby Berkeley-type dance troupe, the June Taylor Dancers, whose precision choreography was always a highlight of the show. But the show allowed him to nourish his strengths; he developed sketch comedy routines drawn from the real-life characters of his youth: Reginald Van Gleason III, the Poor Soul, and Joe the Bartender (with Frank Fontaine playing Crazy Guggenheim) among them.

Most importantly, though, Art Carney joined the cast of the "Cavalcade of Stars" in 1950, but his experiences acting with Gleason went far beyond single-sketch comedy. Indeed, the two starred together in a 1953 Studio One production, "The Laugh Maker," which showed audiences that Gleason's talents went beyond the comedic. He had some serious dramatic acting chops, as they say in the business. He portrayed the tortured comedian who sought compulsive laughs to hide his insecurities. By 1954, CBS gave him a contract larger than any in the history of television, offering him $100,000 a year for the next 15 years to appear exclusively on their network. Among his first changes to the CBS line-up were producing back-to-back filmed episodes recorded before a live audience of "Stage Show," which offered viewers a half hour of music that embraced everyone from Duke Ellington to Elvis Presley; and that was followed by a full 30-minute version of "The Honeymooners," as a self-contained situation comedy. So identified was he with the Every Man, with a dream of making it big that he was celebrated as an American icon. Years later, a life-size statue of Gleason, dressed in the bus driver uniform of Ralph Kramden, was placed outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.

Ultimately,it was the chemistry of Gleason and Carney that boosted the early "Honeymooners" sketches within the "Cavalcade of Stars," the highest rated show for the fledgling DuMont network. The show was subsequently sold to CBS in 1952 and, renamed "The Jackie Gleason Show." It was being watched by one third of the nation's television viewers by 1953.

"The Honeymooners" came to dominate "The Jackie Gleason Show." Early on, with Audrey Meadows replacing Pert Kelton as Alice and Joyce Randolph replacing Elaine Stritch as Trixie, the stage was set for a spin-off that led to 39 half-hour episodes that have become known as "The Classic 39," and it was in later years that those 39 were syndicated, permeating pop culture with a slew of scripted and unscripted sayings that became part of the American vernacular:

"A-Homina-Homina-Homina"

"You're a Riot, Alice, You're a regular Riot."

"I'm King of the Castle"

"Bang, Zoom, To the Moon"

"I Got a Big Mouth"

"She's a Blabbermouth!"

"One of these days, Alice, POW, right in the kisser!"

While the episodes that preceded these were preserved in kinescopes (the so-called "Lost Episodes"), "The Classic 39" were filmed with an advanced Electronicam system, as were all "Honeymooners" episodes that followed the 39 half-hour season. And for those who have not seen the post-39 "Lost Episodes," I recommend them highly: they were written for an hour-long "Jackie Gleason Show" slot, and included episodes that will have you laughing to the point of needing oxygen, and crying, for the remarkable poignancy shown in such episodes as "The Adoption" (a 1955 episode that was remade subsequently in 1966 as a musical version).

The Kramdens and the Nortons win a riotous trip through Europe: England, Spain, Paris, Rome, and even behind the Iron Curtain. And by this point, Gleason was already pioneering original musical numbers into the sketch comedy; this became a staple of the so-called "Color Honeymooners" when Gleason's show moved to Miami Beach, Florida (and Sheila McRae replaced Audrey Meadows as Alice and Jane Kean replaced Joyce Randolph as Trixie).

Though Gleason never received in life the awards and accolades he deserved, his ensemble players brought out the best in each other: Art Carney, after all, won six out of the dozen Emmy nominations he received, and of these six, four were for his work on "The Jackie Gleason Show" and one for his stint on the Classic 39 of "The Honeymooners." Carney, of course, went on to receive a "Best Actor" Oscar award for the 1974 film, "Harry and Tonto." And Audrey Meadows, nominated for four Emmys during this period, won a single statuette for her work on "The Jackie Gleason Show."

But let's grasp just who was the center of this universe. It was Gleason who was Every Man. He gave expression to every person's natural fears, desires, dreams, and disappointments, with comedic genius and with a simple flair for showing poignancy and empathy. When he goes on a television competition show, in search of "The $99,000 Answer," and [SPOILER ALERT!] loses on his very first guess, your laughter is covering a bit of sadness for every disappointment you've suffered in the hopes of getting that grand payoff that will make your day, or that will help every loved one you know. Even if he loses a "mere bag of shells," you can't help but feel for him.

One other thing stands out, however, in "The Honeymooners." In Pictures of Patriarchy, Batya Weinbaum tried to place the show under the rubric of typical patriarchy (South End Press, 1983, 119-20)). But let's not kid ourselves: This was not the idyllic picture of the 1950s: this wasn't "Father Knows Best" with the family unit living behind a white picket fence, graced by the wisdom of its Father Figure; this wasn't even "I Love Lucy," in which Ricky Ricardo gets to regularly remind his crazy red-headed wife Lucy that she needs to go see a "phys-i-kee-a-trist." And even if you were expecting a loudmouth "King of the Castle" who was always right, just how Ralph advertised himself, what you more often understood was that Alice Kramden was the only one playing with a full deck in this situation comedy. She was the smartest, most rational, most practical, and most loving wife on television, loving enough to forgive her husband the flaws of his endless foibles. [Ed: I found this essay, "Alice Kramden: The First TV Feminist," after posting my tribute and it's worth taking a look at!] I once co-edited a book called Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand; it would not surprise me if somebody suggested a book entitled Feminist Interpretations of "The Honeymooners"
(or, perhaps, "The Honeymooners" and Philosophy) because there are few women in 1950s television that could have rivaled Alice Kramden as a character both strong and loving and virtually always right. (Oh, and don't kid yourself, some scholar out there would contribute an essay based on the Eddie Murphy-inspired homoerotic idea, only this time filtered through the lens of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, that the real love affair here is between Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton, since women, like Alice, are merely the mediating presence in a triangle between men who share a "romantic" bond that is unconsummated. Alice suggests as much on more than one occasion that the two of them act like a married couple!)

By 1959, David Merrick offered Gleason the chance to perform in "Take Me Along" on Broadway. For this role, Gleason won the only major award in his career, as Helen Hayes handed him the Tony Award for " Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical" He began his speech with, "I have always wanted to meet Helen Hayes, and it couldn't have been at a better occasion." He went back to television with a show called "You're in the Picture," which bombed and literally played for one week on the tube. The following week, he got on television and made such fun of how bad the show was, that he charmed the audience back to his good graces. He finished out his season with "The Jackie Gleason Show" reimagined as a talk show.; But in 1961, despite unpleasant memories of his early years in Hollywood, he returned to Hollywood, and received triumphant reviews for "The Hustler," losing his Oscar to the tidal wave that was "West Side Story." This was followed in 1962 with a Gleason-inspired story of a mute simpleton who falls in love with a prostitute and her daughter; it was Gene Kelly who directed "Gigot." And in that same year, he starred with Mickey Rooney and Anthony Quinn in "Requiem for a Heavyweight," the big screen adaptation of Rod Serling's small screen masterpiece. Quinn later lauded Gleason for his ability to get everything right in one take; he likened his artistry to the pure talent of Frank Sinatra in this regard. A year later, Gleason added another film credit to his growing filmography, and with it came the first hearing of the "catchphrase," "How Sweet It is!," from the film "Papa's Delicate Condition."

All was ready for his triumphant return to television, with band leader Sammy Spear, and the sketch comedy that made him famous. In 1964, however, Gleason decided to move the entire show to Miami Beach, Florida. CBS knew Gleason was difficult to work with, but he was irreplaceable. On August 1, 1965, the cast, the press, and a swinging Dixieland band boarded the Great Gleason Express, and thousands of tourists lined the parade route to Miami. But Gleason was dismayed that "The Honeymooners" in syndication was doing better than his current show; so he reinvented the show, with a reboot of the Honeymooners later dubbed "The Color Honyemooners" with Sheila McRae and Jayne Keene taking the roles of Alice and Trixie, respectively. He'd eventually end those episodes with another classic sign-off, "Miami Beach Audiences are the greatest audiences in the world!" (probably because most of their inhabitants had migrated from New York City!)

Eventually, CBS and Gleason went their separate ways as cultural mores seemed to change. But Gleason kept moving. He did "Smokey and the Bandit" and its two sequels with Burt Reynolds. He starred in "Izzy and Moe" with his old pal Carney; opposite Laurence Olivier in the two-man 1983 HBO special, "Mr. Halpern and Mr. Johnson," and with Tom Hanks in "Nothing in Common" (1986). He suffered through the filming of that movie, knowing that complications from colon cancer had metastasized to his liver. But he gave the performace of his lifetime, and when he passed away on June 24, 1987, his fans seemed to have uttered, in one united voice, "Baby, You're the Greatest." On the Centenary of his birth, he remains "The Great One."

Referenes: In addition to drawing from online sources such as Wikipedia, this article drew material from such video recordings as "Golden TV Classics: The Jackie Gleason American Scene," "A&E's Biography, Jackie Gleason: The Great One," and DVD collections of "The Honeymooners" including the "60th Anniversary Edition of "The Honeymooners" Lost Episodes: 1951-1957," "The Honeymooners: 'The Classic 39 Episodes' and several DVD editons of "The Color Honeymooners" and "Honeymooners" holiday specials aired in the 1970s.

Song of the Day #1330

Song of the Day: The Hustler ("Main Theme [Stop and Go]" and Various) [YouTube link], is a masterful soundtrack composed by Kenyon Hopkins in the kind of superb jazz idiom for which he is known. The main theme begins with the unmistakable sounds of jazz alto saxophonist Phil Woods. I can think of no better way to kick off a few days in celebration of the Jackie Gleason Centenary, than to start with the claustrophobic black and white 1961 film that netted him Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations as "Best Supporting Actor," in his role as the great pool player, Minnesota Fats (though there are questions about the authenticity of the story of Minnesota Fats). Authentic or not, there are no stunt doubles for Gleason: He plays pool authentically from beginning to end. As my Centenary tribute essay indicates, Gleason hung out in pool halls from the time he was a young teenager. Now, in some instances, there was a stunt double used for Paul Newman, who plays Fast Eddie Felson, who salivates at the prospect of competing against Fats. Newman earned an Oscar nomination too, but he's probably the only Oscar winner who received an Oscar for the same role in a sequel, entitled "The Color of Money" a 1986 film in which he co-starred with Tom Cruise (though I've always believed that the Academy awarded Newman the gold because the membership knew that he really deserved it for his shattering performance of a lifetime in "The Verdict"). Nevertheless, I'm going to echo the Gleasonian phrase here: "How Sweet it Is" with a twist; for in this movie, the tension makes you wonder "How Sweaty It Is" in the pool hall. ("How Sweet It Is" is the Welcoming Traffic Sign that graces the Brooklyn exit off the Verrazano Bridge; that's how much this man is celebrated as Brooklyn's son!)

Newman's tension rises because his respect and awe rise as he watches the artistry of his competitor. He marvels at the way Fats plays with cool confidence, with the grace of an Astaire and the grit of a Cagney. Though I highlight the Main Theme here, I've taken the liberty to add two other tracks from the score, illustrating Hopkins's terrific jazz sensibility. On the first additional track, you have entered the pool hall [YouTube link]; it sounds like a smoke-filled room, with immaculate pool tables, and the grit of a jazz score in the background just to keep the atmosphere a little naughty. And finally, the second additional track is the Suite [YouTube link], featuring some of the finest jazz players of the era, or any era, including Woods and trumpeter Doc Severinsen. In any event, take a look at this scene [YouTube link] in which Gleason doesn't just embody Fats because of the simple weight parallel. He becomes Fats, moving "like a dancer" and using a cue stick "like he's playing the violin," as Newman's Felson tells us.

February 21, 2016

Song of the Day #1325

Song of the Day: The Thing from Another World ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Dimitri Tiomkin, opens this chilling 1951 sci-fi/horror film. There have been remakes [YouTube link], but there is just nothing like the original. In truth, I first saw this film at the Sommer Highway Theatre in Brooklyn, New York, which, sadly, no longer exists. Today, it's a Walgreen's. When I was 5 years old, I went with my Uncle Sam and my sister Elizabeth to see this film in a double feature with the 1933 classic film, "King Kong." I'd never seen either film; it was just prior to their endless appearances on classic TV movie shows like Channel 2's (WCBS) "The Late, Late, Late Show," or, perhaps, Channel 7's (WABC) "The 4:30 Movie," or Channel 9's (WOR) "Million Dollar Movie" or, Channel 11's (WPIX) "Chiller Theatre." In any event, I attempted to see "King Kong" but "The Thing" was the first feature; then came Intermission (where, maybe, they'd show a cartoon or two). The theater was dark suddenly, and Kong was finally going to begin, but the crowd of kids was chanting with a single voice, rising in decibels with each passing second: "KONG! KONG! KONG! KONG!" Well, I didn't know what to expect when that curtain rose. And my uncle and sister definitely sensed that this 5-year old was getting a bit panicked. "Are you okay?," they asked. "Well," I explained, "it's a little noisy." I would not allow my apprehension to rise up to visible fear and I would not admit it to anybody, brave young 5-year old tough Brooklynite that I was. "Very loud," I said. "Well, maybe we should come back and see this some other time. It's okay," they both assured me. Relieved, to say the least, I said, "Okay. Sounds good." And we headed for the exits. So, though I later got to see the original Kong on the big screen, it was not to be on this day; but "The Thing" [full-length feature film link] was great '50s sci-fi, and Tiomkin's music provided just the right amount of rising tension throughout the film.

February 19, 2016

Song of the Day #1323

Song of the Day: Sophie's Choice ("Love Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Marvin Hamlisch, is a soft, loving theme that cushions the blow of an utterly devastating film. I only saw this film about a year ago, and was deeply affected by the horrors it depicts during the years of the Nazi holocaust. Without referring to the "choice" that Sophie must make in the film, I can say that it reminded me of Ayn Rand's novel, We the Living, which depicts the horrors of Soviet communism, in one important sense: the insanity of totalitarian political systems that allow no choices except among forms of death and decay. It is all the more fitting to remember that nightmare on this day, which is a "day of remembrance" for those who were the subject of Executive Order 9066, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, allowing the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps within the United States during World War II. Ironically, it was film that first made me aware of those camps, when I first saw "Hell to Eternity," as a child, a 1960 movie with Jeffrey Hunter (who played Christ in the 1961 film, "King of Kings") and David Janssen (who was "The Fugitive" in that remarkable television series of the 1960s). Those camps certainly were not extermination camps, but they are a symbol of what happens during wartime, when individual rights are abrogated both at home and abroad. In any event, the 1982 film gave Meryl Streep a much-deserved Oscar award for Best Actress, and Hamlisch received a much-deserved nomination for Best Original Score, losing out to the iconic John Williams score for "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial." It is difficult to find a moment of joy or laughter in films of this nature, but I will never forget Sophie's admiration of Stingo's seersucker jacket [YouTube link]. The film's house was situated in Brooklyn, New York, and it stands still on Rugby Road in Flatbush.

January 18, 2016

Song of the Day #1304

Song of the Day: Take it Easy, words and music by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, a member of the Eagles, who recorded the song with that group. It's one of those Eagles Essentials, their first single (released on May Day in 1972), a part of a greatest hits collection that, at 29 million sales, remains second only to "Thriller" (30x Platinum), for having the greatest domestic sales of any album in the history of the charts. It's hard to believe, given what I said the other day, but Glenn Frey, today, joins the growing choral group in the heavens. Check the song out on YouTube; thank you for all the wonderful music you've left behind for us to enjoy.

January 14, 2016

Song of the Day #1303

Song of the Day: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 ("Snape's Demise") [YouTube link], composed by Alexandre Desplat, is an amalgam of several themes from the climactic final film of this classic fantasy series, based on the J. K. Rowling novels. Alas, today, we mourn the passing of actor Alan Rickman, who embodied the character Severus Snape in each of the eight feature films of that remarkable series. It is two weeks into the New Year, and we've already lost high profile artists Natalie Cole, David Bowie, and Alan Rickman. We mourn even for Celine Dion, whose husband, Rene Angelil, lost his long battle against cancer. There is nothing unusual about witnessing such a natural part of the life process on a daily basis, but I didn't expect Notablog to become an almost hourly obituary; we'll take it as it comes.

January 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1302

Song of the Day: Let's Dance, not to be remotely confused with the great Benny Goodman Theme Song, features the words and music of David Bowie, who tragically passed away yesterday, January 10, 2016. For some, this song, the title track from Bowie's 1983 album, was David's movement into the kind of commercial success that apparently takes the "edge" off your music--a polite way of saying "sell-out." But for me, the song brings me back to 1983, dancing in the hottest clubs on Fire Island, where DJs regularly kicked down the artificial walls that separated various genres of pop-dance music. You could hear scalding sets of remarkable mixing that brought together everyone from Bowie to Michael Jackson to the Clash; you could revel in a kaleidoscope of materials that went from disco to post-disco to new wave to early hip hop. Perhaps this mash-up was a natural by-product of bringing Bowie together with Nile Rodgers [YouTube link; some nice recollections by Rodgers of Bowie], of Chic fame. Ah, the universality of music; the power of memory. Check out the Bowie-Rodgers collaboration on YouTube.

January 02, 2016

Song of the Day #1301

Song of the Day: Unforgettable, words and music by Irving Gordon, was originally a truly unforgettable 1951 hit, arranged by the great Nelson Riddle, for Nat King Cole [YouTube link]. But those of us from a later generation, remember it for reasons that, today, are especially poignant. On New Year's Eve, Natalie Cole, daughter of the great Nat King Cole, passed away at the age of 65. Natalie was a successful singer of pop music, but it was not until her remarkable album, "Unforgettable . . . With Love," that she truly embraced the niche that was so deeply engrained in her DNA. A talented, swinging, jazz vocalist, she walked away with the 1991 Grammy for Album of the year, largely on the technological triumph of a title-track duet between Natalie and her dad. I'll never forget how, when the title song actually won a Grammy for Best Song, there being no statute of limitations for song-writing recogntion, the songwriter, Irving Gordon, still alive and kicking ass, 40 years after having written the song, took to the stage to accept the Grammy. There was no shutting up Mr. Gordon. It was just after Michael Bolton had performed his own Grammy Award-winning rendition (for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance) of "When a Man Loves a Woman", and without missing a beat, Gordon celebrated the fact that it was still possible to win awards for songs such as his, while attacking songs that "scream, yell, and have a nervous breakdown," in which the singers performing them "have a hernia" delivering the lyric. "Unforgettable" was a new beginning for Natalie. Throughout the years, I've highlighted a number of her performances on "My Favorite Songs," including "Almost
Like Being in Love
," "Avalon," "Baby It's Cold Outside," "Jingle Bells," "The Music That Makes Me Dance" (a wonderful song from the Broadway musical that never made it to the film version of "Funny Girl"), "My Baby Just Cares For Me," "A Song for You," "Thou Swell," "Too Close for Comfort," and "What You Won't Do For Love." It seems only natural, then, that I choose a genuine favorite of mine, with which Natalie will forever be associated: the Grammy-winning title track, and Best Record, and Best Song, from her Grammy-winning album, which, through the miracle of modern technology, enabled her to sing an other-worldly duet with her immortal father: "Unforgettable" [YouTube link]. Like her father, Natalie's contributions to the world of music will remain unforgettable. I will miss her.

January 01, 2016

Song of the Day #1300

Song of the Day: Feeling Good, words and music by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, has been heard every third or fourth second on American television, as Volvo has been killing us with the Avicii version of this classic jazzy standard [YouTube link]. But the song made its debut in the stage musical, "The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd," which received 6 Tony award nominations in 1965. It turned out two other fine songs, "The Joker" and "Who Can I Turn To?" But there have been some very nice renditions of this song through the years; it was performed in the 1964 UK tour by Cy Grant and the 1965 US Broadway cast recording by Gilbert Price. Among the other definitive recordings, from her album "I Put a Spell on You," Nina Simone; the English rock band Muse, Sammy Davis, Jr., Billy Paul, George Michael, and Michael Buble. I hope every one within earshot of Notablog is "feeling good" as we welcome 2016 on this New Year's Day. This is the 1300th "Song of the Day" and there ain't no luckier number than 13!! (And check out this nice Newley-Davis duet of Newley-Bricusse songs.)

December 13, 2015

JARS: New December 2015 Issue and A Forthcoming 2016 Blockbuster

You folks didn't think that I've been listening to so much Frank Sinatra over the last 19 days, leading up to "The Frank Sinatra Centenary", that I forgot to work diligently with my colleagues toward the production of the year-end edition of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, did you?

From our home page:

Volume 15, Number 2 (Issue 30, December 2015) of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, published by Pennsylvania State University Press, is the current issue, continuing our tradition of multiperspectival, interdisciplinary studies of Ayn Rand and her times. And like every issue in the history of the publication, we always take pride in publishing the work of at least one new contributor to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, a further indication of just how important the study of Rand has become. The current issue is our thirtieth issue; we have published a total of 290 essays by 152 different authors (obviously, some authors have been published in JARS more than once). The bottom line is that if someone had told me in 1999 that such statistics were possible, I would not have believed them. At most, I figured there were a few dozen scholars out there who would be willing to publish in a Rand journal, but even fewer, once you consider that some authors in Rand-land would refuse to appear in a journal that would dare "sanction" the publication of essays from Slavoj Zizek, Bill Martin, and Gene Bell-Villada to George Reisman, David Kelley, and various members of our Editorial and Advisory Boards, to name but a few. But those authors outside our orbit have always had an open invitation to publish in this journal; if the Berlin Wall can fall down, anything is possible.
And so, in concluding our Fifteenth Anniversary Year, we offer another provocative issue. Eric B. Dent and new JARS contributor John A. Parnell, contribute an essay that makes the Objectivist case for reconciling economics and ethics in business ethics education. Continuing the pedagogical theme, Edward W. Younkins discusses the treatment of business and businesspeople in Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and how these paradigmatic heroic portraits have been used in college-level business courses.
We then move onto the conclusion of Roger E. Bissell's Opus (Part 1 appeared in the December 2014 issue of JARS), which rethinks issues in epistemology, logic, and "the objective," by mining the insights of Rand's unit-perspective view of concepts. The issue ends with a lively discussion between Michelle Marder Kamhi and Fred Seddon, inspired by Seddon's December 2014 review of Kamhi's book, Who Says That's Art? A Commonsense View of the Visual Arts.

NEW DECEMBER 2015 JARS

Readers can access the full abstracts and contributor biographies relevant to the contents of this year-end edition of the journal.

I'd like to continue quoting from the announcement of the new JARS, because, well, 'you ain't seen nothin' yet':

JARS readers should savor the new December 2015 issue, because we won't publish another issue until next December. 2016 is going to be a banner year in the history of this journal. The December 2016 issue will be the first double-issue in our history (Volume 16, nos. 1 & 2). Our "Call for Papers" on the topic of "Assessing the Work and Legacy of Nathaniel Branden" has resulted in a symposium of considerable size, featuring submissions from an international group of scholars, providing critical, interpretive perspectives from disciplines as varied as literature, history, politics, and, of course, psychology. In fact, a sizable proportion of our contributors have no connection to Objectivism whatsoever, but they speak as professional psychologists who learned much from the man who many consider to be the "father" of the self-esteem movement in contemporary psychology. The issue will also include the first print publication of "Objectivism: Past and Future," a 1996 transcribed Branden lecture (and Q&A session). And we will also publish the most extensive annotated bibliography ever assembled of Branden's work and the existing secondary literature. This will be such an historic issue, that Pennsylvania State University Press, which typically publishes a regular print run, and its JSTOR electronic version, has also committed to the publication of a stand-alone e-book / Kindle edition.

If you're not a subscriber now, join the excitement and subscribe today! Check out our 2016 price schedule here.

December 12, 2015

Song of the Day #1297 (The Sinatra Finale)

Song of the Day: That's Life, words and music by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, is one of my absolute all-time favorite Sinatra recordings, an album title track that went to the Top Five (a #4 singles hit) on the Billboard pop chart, smack in the middle of the rock-dominated Beatles era. It also hit #1 on the Easy Listening chart for three weeks (December 1966 to January 1967). It had been previously recorded by others, including O. C. Smith [YouTube link]. But unlike Smith's slower, bluesier version, Sinatra swaggers through it and makes the song his own. He first performed the song on his television special, "A Man and His Music, Part II." The TV version, however, takes a backseat to the recorded version [both YouTube links], which was produced by Jimmy Bowen and conducted by Ernie Freeman.

Uplifting a glass, Francis Albert Sinatra offered this toast on more than one occasion: "May you live to be 100, and may the last voice you hear be mine." Sinatra passed away in 1998, at the age of 82. But if I were blessed to live to 100, the loveliness of his recorded performances gives me the opportunity to hear "The Voice" on my way to the Pearly Gates... or whetever warmer climates my Maker has in store for me. But today is not about obituaries; it is about births, rebirths, resurrections. For today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra. We conclude with One Hundred toasts to a man who was indeed a poet, the so-called "poet laureate of loneliness," but no less a poet of joy. He was the recipient of Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys (and he has three stars on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame," commemorating his work in film, television, and recording, respectively). I've tried to provide this tribute with a widescreen version that encompasses all of his artistry, but ultimately, I have always returned to song, for it is here that his magic conjoins the supreme method actor to the supreme musician. He could introduce the Grammy Awards [1963 video], and haul home a wagon full of them. He was a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner (1965), a Grammy Trustees Award Winner (1979), and a Grammy Living Legend Award winner (1994; presented to him with style by U2's Bono) [Grammy video link]. He has five albums and eight singles inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Among his "Hall of Fame" albums are: "Come Fly with Me" (1958; inducted in 2004); "Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely" (1958; inducted 1999); "In the Wee Small Hours" (1955; inducted 1984); "September of My Years" (1965; inducted 1999); and "Songs for Swingin' Lovers!" (1956; inducted 2000). Among his "Hall of Fame" singles: "The House I Live In" (1946; inducted in 1998); "I'll Never Smile Again" (1940, with Tommy Dorsey and the Pied Pipers; inducted in 1982); "I've Got the World on a String" (1953; inducted in 2004); "I've Got You Under My Skin" (1956; inducted in 1998); "My Way" (1969; inducted in 2000); "One for My Baby" (1958; inducted in 2005); "Strangers in the Night" (1966; inducted 2008); and the "Theme from 'New York, New York'" (1980; inducted 2013). I've got links to each of them on "My Favorite Songs."

It took a bit of thought to come up with a musical finale best suited for the occasion. "My Way" could have played the part, but it is already among my ever-growing list, used thematically for a commercial by Hall-of-Fame-bound Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, to mark his retirement from professional baseball. Surely the lyrics, written by Paul Anka are even more appropriate for Francis Albert Sinatra, who retired several times along the way, only to come back to that music, which was hard-wired into his DNA. He sings of a life that's full, acknowledges the few regrets he's had along the way, and takes pride in the "charted course" he planned. He admits his doubts, his loves, his joy, his "share of losing." He concludes with the ultimate statement of individual integrity: "For what is a man, what has he got, if not himself, then he has naught to say the things he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows, I took the blows. And did it My Way."

Alas, given my policy of never repeating a song, I can still appreciate its significance as one of Sinatra's signature pieces. But, for me, the very first words of the song provide an almost maudlin context. If this Centenary Sinatra Tribute has proven anything, it is that the end was not near, even when Sinatra passed away in 1998. When I think of Sinatra, so many themes come to mind, so many definitive renditions of songs from the Great American Songbook that were stamped by Sinatra in an almost autobiographical way. As appropriate a song as "My Way" was, for Sinatra, a statement of individual integrity, it is still sung when "the end was near." That end will never come as long as humans have ears to hear with and minds and hearts to think and feel with.

I conclude this tribute with one of those quintessential Sinatra recordings, which expresses the guts of the kick-ass "I-ain't-beaten-yet" genre that Sinatra championed. This is the Sinatra for whom the end is never near and it certainly resonates with me and so many others, expressing a universal motif for people who have faced life head on, and who won't give in to anything or anyone who "get[s] their kicks, stompin' on a dream." When you focus on these lyrics, it is as if Sinatra could have written the song himself. He is the prizefighter personified who gets knocked down, bruised, battered, bloodied . . . but still, somehow, gets back on his feet and stays in the ring. . . He stands up because, and only because, this is a life worth living and fighting for.

That's life (that's life) that's what all the people say. You're ridin' high in April, shot down in May. But I know I'm gonna change that tune, when I'm back on top, back on top in June.
I said that's life (that's life), and as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks stompin' on a dream. But I don't let it, let it get me down, 'cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin' around.
I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king. I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing: Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race.
That's life (that's life), I tell you, I can't deny it, I thought of quittin' baby, but my heart just ain't gonna buy it. And if I didn't think it was worth one single try, I'd jump right on a big bird and then I'd fly.
I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king. I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing: Each time I find myself layin' flat on my face, I just pick myself up and get back in the race.
That's life (that's life), that's life, and I can't deny it, many times I thought of cuttin' out, but my heart won't buy it. But if there's nothing shakin' come this here July, I'm gonna roll myself up in a big ball a-and die.
My, my!

Sinatra could understand and communicate a remarkable range of human emotion, for he lived it: as an actor, a singer, a concert performer, he could embody everything from grief to ecstasy, from defeat to defiance. We complete our tribute and commemorate his birthday as one of the greatest artists to have ever graced this world. Bravo, Ol' Blue Eyes.

The entire series of essays, songs, and Facebook announcements have been collected and edited into a single essay, which can be found on my website: "The Frank Sinatra Centenary: Celebrating an American Icon."

December 11, 2015

Song of the Day #1296

Song of the Day: Drinking Water (Agua De Beber), music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Brazilian lyrics by Vinicius de Moreas, English lyrics by Norman Gimbel, was not in the original line-up of songs that appeared on the 1967 Grammy-nominated album "Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim." (Though one thing is for sure: I don't think Sinatra was drinking water!) Instead, it appeared in the 1971 album, "Sinatra & Company"; it was also included in the fully reconstituted Sinatra-Jobim collaboration, a 20-track compilation, "Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings," released in 2010. I did a double "Song of the Day" dose on December 8th, and I can still list almost every song Sinatra ever recorded with Jobim, so I'm squeezing at least one more in before tomorrow's finale. It's just such a melodic, lyrical, flowing tune, with lyrics like "Your love is rain. My heart the flower." All I can say is: Rio hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics, and if, in the Opening Ceremonies, there is not a single mention of Jobim and all the other magnificent Brazilian artists who gave birth to this lilting melodic genre, impacting American music, and music throughout the world: Well, it's practicaly grounds to boycott the Games! In any event, celebrate this Sinatra-Jobim collaboration [YouTube link]. And for those who would like the DVD collection of all four "Man and His Music" television specials, one of which featured Jobim, check it out on Amazon.com.

Song of the Day #1295

Song of the Day: Strangers in the Night features the English lyrics of Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder,and the music of Bert Kaemfert, who actually composed the instrumental as part of the score for the 1966 film, "A Man Could Get Killed." The Sinatra recording is the title track of his 1966 album (also featured on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra"), and was one of only two singles of his in the rock era to go to #1. It reached #1 on both the Hot 100 and the Easy Listening charts. The album became Sinatra's most commercially successful release among the many he released throughout his career. And in 1967, though he won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for "A Man and His Music," he received two additional Grammys recognizing this song: Record of the Year (his first win in this category, despite seven former nominations) and Best Male Vocal Performance. Over the years, this was never one of my all-time Sinatra favorites (and it is said that it wasn't one of Sinatra's own all-time favorites either). It was akin to the case of Stevie Wonder, an artist who has given us such brilliant albums as "Innervisions" and "Songs in the Key of Life,"and an array of wonderful compositions, from "Superstition" to "All in Love is Fair" to "Another Star." And then he receives an Oscar for Best Original Song and a matching Golden Globe for "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (from the 1984 film, "The Woman in Red"). Like Sinatra's "Strangers," Wonder's tune became his most commercially successful single, going to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot R&B, and Adult Contemporary charts. As I said, Wonder's song was really never one of my favorites (and the critics were not kind to it either). But then, it grew on me. And that was primarily due to the fact that I watched the 1999 Kennedy Center Honors, where Stevie was one of the honorees. One tribute segment featured jazz pianist Herbie Hancock accompanying jazz vocalist Diane Schurr, who spoke authentically about how she, as a blind woman, had received such inspiration from Wonder. What followed was a completely altered jazz-infused rendition of the song; if you have never seen or heard it, check out this musical magic on YouTube, and you'll find out why it eventually became an entry on "My Favorite Songs." But "Strangers" is another matter entirely. It was difficult to like, and became increasingly difficult to embrace as the culture grabbed onto it, satirized it, and butchered it countless times to the point of sacrilege. It was even the title of a gay porn film (and the lyrics lend themselves to the chance meetings of people in forbidden places) and then came a Teddy and Darell 1966 gay parody [YouTube link] that is now considered part of Queer Music History 101. In any event, I gave in because something in that song just grew on me over time, particularly because of its fade out, when we hear that utterly famous Sinatra-ism. All together now: "Do-Be-Do-Be-Do." It became one of those phrases that have been eternally incorporated into the American Zeitgeist from Sinatra's repertoire (another being "Ring-a-Ding-Ding!", the title track from Sinatra's 1961 album). It just endears the song to me on another level entirely. In the 1970s, I used to wear a T-Shirt that said, on successive lines: "To Be is To Do" - Socrates; "To Do is to Be" - Sartre; "Do Be Do Be Do" - Sinatra. A Centenary Tribute to Sinatra without this would just not be complete. Listen to the original #1 Hit by Frank Sinatra on YouTube. Stay tuned for a Double "Song of the Day" today!

December 10, 2015

Song of the Day #1294

Song of the Day: September of My Years, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is the title track of an album released in late 1965, to coincide with Sinatra's 50th birthday. The festivities led to a surge of popularity, or, what might be termed a resurrgence of interest in one of America's great talents. The singer received the Grammy Awards for Album of the Year in two successive years: with this album and the 1967 album, "A Man and His Music" (he holds the record for having won this award three times, tied with Stevie Wonder, and several other artists; "Come Dance with Me" was Sinatra's first win in this category). Yes, in the rock-and-roll era of the 1960s, non-rock artists (like Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Stan Getz, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, and Astrud Gilberto) still had a chance in hell to win Album of the Year. The title tune from Sinatra's album offers just one moment from a blockbuster collection of music, jam-packed with reflections on the "autumn" of his life. It includes one of my absolutely all-time favorite Sinatra recordings: "It Was a Very Good Year" [YouTube link] for which he won a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Male. This was the same year that Sinatra was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (previously awarded only once before, in 1962, to one of those who had a great impact on our Centenary birthday boy: Bing Crosby). This album was arranged and conducted by the great Gordon Jenkins. This song is also found on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Listen to it on YouTube. Throughout this Centenary tribute, I've mentioned several times that Sinatra made an impact on jazz, just as jazz made an impact on Sinatra; but people have wondered whether it is proper to call him a "jazz singer." In truth, Sinatra defied strict categorization, but the great musician and composer, Billy May, who was one of the seminal arrangers and conductors of some of the finest songs in the Sinatra Songbook, once said: "If your definition of a jazz singer is someone who can approach [a song] like an instrumentalist and get [the written melody] across but still have a feeling of improvisation, a freshness to it, and do it a little bit differently every time, then I would agree that Frank is."

December 09, 2015

Song of the Day #1293

Song of the Day: Somethin' Stupid, words and music by C. Carson Parks, is a duet with Frank and his daughter Nancy Sinatra. It appears on the 1967 album, "The World We Knew." It is also featured on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra." This song sung between two lovers hit Number One on the Bilboard Hot 100 singles chart, a near-miraculous occurrence in the rock era, perhaps helped a bit by Top 40 DJs who insisted on calling it "The Incest Song." But in truth, Sinatra scored 209 hits on Billboard's pop singles chart; 127 of these made the Top 20, 70 of these made the Top 10, and 10 of them peaked at Number One. As I pointed out back in July 2015, Sinatra actually was featured on the first #1 single ever recorded for the first national Billboard chart in 1940. He hit #1 again with "There Are Such Things" in 1942; "In the Blue of the Evening" in 1943; "All or Nothing at All" in 1944; "Five Minutes More" in 1946; and "Mam'sele" [YouTube links] (from the 1947 film, "The Razor's Edge"). But only two additional Number Ones came to Sinatra in the post-1958 "rock era" of the Hot 100 chart: "Strangers in the Night" in 1966 and this sweet duet in 1967 [YouTube link].

December 08, 2015

Song of the Day #1292

Song of the Day: You Were There, words and music by Buz Kohan and Michael Jackson, was performed by Michael Jackson in 1989 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Sammy Davis, Jr. in show business. Michael's performance received an Emmy Award nomination. Today, marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of Sammy Davis Jr., an inner-circle member of Sinatra's Rat Pack. Check out Jackson's performance [YouTube]. Throughout my "Song of the Day" entries, the reader will find so many celebrations of Davis's artistic talents. He was one of the great "song-and-dance men" of any generation and was unafraid to tackle songs from any generation. Check out the highlighted songs from my own list. First and foremost on that list, of course, is Davis's own rendition of MJ's "Bad," [YouTube link], and then a dazzling Davis line-up, including: "Come Back To Me"(with a bit of "Birth of the Blues") recorded live with the slammin' swingin' Buddy Rich Orchestra jazzing up the Vegas strip at the Sands Copa Room [YouTube link]; with that same band and setting doing "I Know a Place" [You Tube link]; "MacArthur Park," with its lush orchestration [YouTube link]; "Me and My Shadow," performed with Sinatra and a little Ring-a-ding-ding charm [YouTube link]; "Once in a Lifetime," which Davis performed in a 1978 Broadway revival of "Stop the World: I Want to Get Off" [YouTube link]; a Disco-fied "That Old Black Magic" [YouTube link]; the jazzy "Too Close for Comfort" [YouTube link]; an absolutely lovely rendition of "We'll Be Together Again," performed with Brazilian classical and jazz guitarist Laurindo Almeida [YouTube link]; a definitively terrific version of "What Kind of Fool Am I?" [YouTube link]; and "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)?" [YouTube link]. Even though I feature "I've Got the World on a String," as part of the continuing Centenary Sinatra Tribute, I have added this MJ tribute song, where the "Six Degrees of Sinatra" work out quite well. After all, the young Michael Jackson once did a comedic Sinatra Tribute of sorts [YouTube link]. MJ was actually present for what Sinatra's son, Frank Jr., called his father's last great day in the studio. Quincy Jones, who had produced albums for both Sinatra and Jackson, conducted the orchestra for that 1984 album, which would be Sinatra's last solo production: "L.A. is My Lady." During the sessions, Michael and Frank hung out together. Quincy said it was remarkable to see the two most dominant artists of their generation chatting, laughing, and taking photos together [YouTube links]. And they were certainly both united by their love of Sammy Davis, Jr., who would have turned 90 on this date. So here's to the unique bond between Sammy, Mikey, and Frankie. All of them gone too soon.

Song of the Day #1991

Song of the Day: I've Got the World on a String, music by Harold Arlen, with lyrics by Ted Koehler, was first heard in the 1932 Cotton Club Parade, introduced by both Cab Calloway and Bing Crosby. The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1953, and reached #14 on the Billboard "most played" chart. It appeared as the lead track on his 1956 album, "This is Sinatra!", which constituted his first Capitol Records compilation set. Arranged by Nelson Riddle, it became a staple of the Sinatra Songbook, and was recognized in 2004 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences as a Grammy Hall of Fame recording. It is one of those songs that is almost inseparable from Sinatra's rendition, even though it has been covered by so many wonderful artists through the years. Indeed, I'll never forget an instrumental rendition by sweet trumpeter Bobby Hackett [YouTube link; and that's Carl Kress on guitar), who went on to record so many of those romantic mood music albums produced by The Great One, Jackie Gleason. Gleason was so impressed by how background music magnified romantic scenes in the cinema that he once said: "If [Clark] Gable needs music, a guy in Brooklyn must be desperate!" [And be warned: the Jackie Gleason Centenary is Coming in February!] Johnny Carson [YouTube link] turned that same thought around; he once acknowledged the role of Sinatra's music as background to his own romantic encounters and he asked Sinatra: "When you're in a romantic mood, and you're trying to 'make out,' whose records do you put on?" Check out the Carson link for Sinatra's answer (and a surprise guest). Well, this song may not be soft, cuddly, and "romantic," but it celebrates the ecstatic state of being in love. And if its bouncy rhythm helps you in your romantic romps, more power to you! Because no Centenary Tribute is complete without this swinging original Sinatra recording [YouTube link].

December 07, 2015

Song of the Day #1990

Song of the Day: The World We Knew (Over and Over) features words and music credits given to Bert Kaempfert, Carl Sigman, and Herbert Rehbein. It is the title track of a 1967 studio album that gave Sinatra a few hits on the rock-dominated Billboard charts. This song hit #30 on the Hot 100, and #1 on the "Easy Listening" chart, while his duet with his daughter Nancy (Somethin' Stupid," coming soon...) actually hit #1 on both charts. It is also featured on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra." This particular song is actually based on a German composition by Bert Kaempfert. A throwback of sorts, since Kaempfert served in the German army in World War II, which, back in 1941, at this precise time, was on the verge of joining its Axis allies (Japan and Italy) in a declaration of war against the United States. (Rehbein was actually conscripted into the German army in 1941, but was assigned to the Music Corps, stationed in Crete, becoming a POW in Belgrade, until the end of World War II.) Literally, the world everyone once knew was about to change forever. And it is on this date in 1941 that Pearl Harbor was devastated by a brutal Japanese "surprise" attack, which, in retrospect wasn't much of a surprise at all, since the tensions between the U.S. and Japan were severely strained for years. Well, here it comes... the Sinatra connection the reader is waiting for (our Sinatra version of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"): it was in the 1953 film, "From Here to Eternity," which won eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Sinatra, that we follow the trials and tribulations of soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the months before that "date which will live in Infamy." Check out this song on YouTube. And while you're at it, check out a nice picture book from last night's CBS Grammy Special commemorating Sinatra 100.

December 06, 2015

Song of the Day #1289

Song of the Day: All of You, words and music by Cole Porter, has been recorded by many artists through the years, including jazz pianist Bill Evans, for his album, "Sunday at the Village Vanguard," his final recording with his famous trio that included Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums [YouTube link]; ten days after this live performance, the pathbreaking, innovative bassist, LaFaro, died tragically in an automobile accident. This song was recorded late in Sinatra's career, on September 17, 1979. Sinatra did a wonderful recording of the song "All of Me," which talks of a broken love affair, with poignant lyrics: "You took the part, that once was my heart, so why not take all of me?" But this song has a decidedly different message, perhaps more appealing to the "Fifty Shades of Grey" generation, with its "I'd love to take complete control of you" motif. The song first appeared on Sinatra's 1980 album, "Trilogy: Past, Present, Future," and it is found on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra," as well. Listen to the Chairman of the Board with this swinging Billy May arrangement [YouTube link]. Tonight a Grammy all-Star Las Vegas bash, taped on December 2nd, is being shown on CBS television to honor the Sinatra Centenary. Sinatra himself did many TV specials, including the three "Man and His Music" specials, which included, in its third installment, that lovely section with Jobim [see here in my opening essay], and one with The First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald; check them out in "The Lady is a Tramp" [YouTube link].

December 05, 2015

Song of the Day #1288

Song of the Day: Nice 'N' Easy, music by Lew Spence, lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman (then Marilyn Keith), is the mid-tempo title track of Sinatra's 1960 album of ballads, which went to Number One on the Billboard album chart. The songs were all arranged by the gifted Nelson Riddle. It is also featured on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra." It's one of those Sinatra recordings that has to be included on any list of his classics. Check it out on YouTube.

December 04, 2015

Song of the Day #1287

Song of the Day: Come Dance with Me, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is the title song of Sinatra's 1959 album, which won the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year. Sinatra also won a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Male, and Billy May got a Grammy for Best Arrangement. The song can also be found on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Check out the wonderful May arrangement for a Swingin' Saloon Singer [YouTube link].

December 03, 2015

Song of the Day #1286

Song of the Day: Something's Gotta Give, words and music by Johnny Mercer, was first performed by Fred Astaire in the 1955 musical "Daddy Long Legs." Among the many other renditions of this song is Frank Sinatra's, which can be found on his 1959 album, "Come Dance with Me!" (and also on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra").The 1959 album, which spent two-and-a-half years on the Billboard chart, is the second of a trilogy of Capitol albums arranged by Billy May, preceded by the iconic "Come Fly with Me" (1958) and followed by "Come Swing with Me!." Mercer's lyrics are just wonderful, but Sinatra's ad-libbed, "Awe, let's tear it up," at the end -- just classic Blue Eyes Magic. This Sinatra rendition was later featured in the 37 minutes of film of the same name that survived, but was abandoned when its star, Marilyn Monroe, passed away, tragically. Check out Sinatra, with that fabulous Billy May arrangement [YouTube link].

In the light of yesterday's tragic shootings in San Bernadino, California, not too far from where members of my family live and work, I prefaced today's "Song of the Day" announcement on Facebook, with the following message:

So much is going on in the world around us that is tragic. And yet, I move forward with today's Sinatra Centenary "Song of the Day": "Something's Gotta Give." It's an idiomatic expression that there is just no 'give-and-take' between an "irresistible force" and an "immovable object," bless Johnny Mercer. Well, folks, Sinatra sings this one with joy and swagger; Billy May's arrangment is pure swinging bliss. But if I May, at some point, in this world of tragedies, indeed, "Something's Gotta Give." The day we stop enjoying music, and its cathartic grace, is the day we stop enjoying life. In that spirit, celebrate life and enjoy the music.

December 02, 2015

Song of the Day #1285

Song of the Day: Only the Lonely, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is the title song of the 1958 album we visited yesterday, a Sinatra collection of "torch songs" (songs that might be called "torturous songs" or "songs of spiritual torture or torment," a derivative of what I call the wider "Slit Your Wrists" music genre, which can include both ballads and uptunes, so-to-speak). It is said that Sinatra considered this song of his repertoire to be his favorite. It is, as author Will Friedwald notes, the "most classically oriented Sinatra recording . . . which opens with a Chopin-like piano solo played by Harry Sucoff, a classical pianist." The song can also be found on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Listen to it on YouTube. Tonight, though, nobody will be lonely at the Wynn Las Vegas's Encore Theater, where many artists gather to throw a 100th birthday bash in honor of Sinatra, which will be broadcast in prime time on CBS television on December 6th. In the meanwhile, don't forget to check out Turner Classic Movies, whose "Star of the Month" is, appropriately, Frank Sinatra. Starting tonight, and every Wednesday throughout the month, the Prime Time hours will be devoted to Sinatra films and concerts. It kicks off with the Emmy- and Peabody-award winning television special, "A Man and His Music," which marked Sinatra's 50th birthday year. Fifty years later, we're celebrating A Century of Sinatra (a Facebook link; for those interested, my daily postings to Facebook since the tribute began on November 24th, has included some interesting give-and-take among various participants, including me).

December 01, 2015

Song of the Day #1284

Song of the Day: Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, was introduced by Jane Withers in the 1944 Philadelphia stage show, "Glad to See You," which never quite made it to Broadway. This song was one of those saved by Sinatra's rendition of it. Indeed, it wasn't until it appeared on Sinatra's 1958 album, "Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely," that the song became a hit, and a jazz standard sung by vocalists and played by many jazz instrumentalists thereafter. Sinatra's way with a ballad led jazz legends like trumpeter Miles Davis and tenor saxophonist Lester Young to sing his praises. Miles once said that when he played "Porgy and Bess," a collaboration with the great arranger, Gil Evans, he wanted his trumpet to sound like Frank Sinatra. Both Miles and Lester wanted their solos to tell a story, in the way that Sinatra had perfected vocally. Even Quincy Jones maintained that Sinatra used his voice like a jazz saxophonist. The Enny Monaco Quartet ["Sinatra on Sax"] would agree, as would jazz pianist Oscar Peterson [YouTube links]. This song is also featured on Disc 2 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Check it out on YouTube.


November 30, 2015

Song of the Day #1283

Song of the Day: Witchcraft, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, was released as a Sinatra single in 1957, and spent 16 weeks on the Billboard singles chart, topping off at #20. This song was originally presented strictly as an instrumental in the musical revue, "Take Five." Sinatra actually recorded it on three separate occasions, but this one, featured on Disc 2 of "Ultimate Sinatra," is the 1957 single release [YouTube link]. It was also performed on a 1960 television special, "The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis," marking the return of Sargeant Elvis Presley from his military service in Germany. Presley became the King for a whole new generation of young rock and roll fans; Sinatra knew a bit about this kind of frenzied, wild fan response, given his regal reign during the bobby-soxer generation. Like Sinatra, Presley was a multifaceted entertainer, taking on stage, screen, and song. Check out the Sinatra-Presley TV special duet on YouTube, with Sinatra singing Presley's "Love Me Tender," and Presley taking on "Witchcraft."

November 29, 2015

Song of the Day #1282

Song of the Day: Sunny, words and music by Bobby Hebb, has been performed and recorded by hundreds of artists over the years. The song can be heard on an album that got mixed reviews, but it is nonetheless a meeting of giants: Sinatra and Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington. The album, "Francis A. and Edward K," which was released in 1968, was to be orchestrated by Duke's longtime partner, the superb lyricist and arranger: Billy Strayhorn, born 100 years ago on this date. So we celebrate the centenary of another giant of the music world. Sadly, Strayhorn passed away before the sessions began, and the orchestrations and arrangements were left to long-time Sinatra collaborator, Billy May. This well-known song gets a fine treatment, with those patented opening trumpet figures by Cootie Williams; check it out on YouTube.

November 28, 2015

Song of the Day #1281

Song of the Day: Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week), music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, was a Columbia hit single for Ol' Blue Eyes in 1944. It provides just the slightest indication of the swinging ways to come. This one can be found on Disc 1 of "Ultimate Sinatra," arranged by Alex Stordahl. What other song would have been a better choice on ... a Saturday!? Check it out on YouTube. And let's not forget that guys like New York-based Jonathan Schwartz have been hosting variations on "Saturday Night with Sinatra" radio shows on various channels and streaming services for umpteen years now; for Philly-based radio disc jockey Sid Mark, it's the syndicated "Sounds of Sinatra," heard usually the morning after "the loneliest night of the week."

November 27, 2015

Song of the Day #1280

Song of the Day: Time After Time, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Sammy Cahn (both of whom knew a thing or two about writing songs that were Sinatra hits), was first introduced in the score to the 1947 MGM musical, "It Happened in Brooklyn," by Sinatra and also Kathryn Grayson. (The film also starred Peter Lawford, a future Rat Pack member.) It can also be found on Disc 1 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Recently, the Sinatra rendition of this song was heard in an episode of the summer TV series, "Aquarius," inspired by actual events, though mixed with a large dose of historical fiction. In the series, starring David Duchovny, we follow the early days of the infamous Manson family, responsible for the Tate-LaBianca murders in August 1969. You know you transcend "time" when your music is heard in a period piece in the years when psychedelic rock reached its peak. Sinatra never much cared for rock, even if he did a few covers of rock songs, without much success. His views of rock were probably on a par with those of the original "Tonight Show" host and comedian, Steve Allen, who saw the genre as eternally inferior to jazz, and regularly did "mock" poetry readings of the lyrics from the rock hits of the day. Allen once joked that rock and roll was based on three chords, and two of them were wrong. In any event, listen to Frank Sinatra's take on "Time After Time" [YouTube link] (not to be confused with rocker Cyndi Lauper's song of the same name [YouTube link], whose retro video actually opens with Lauper watching a scene from "The Garden of Allah," a 1936 film starring Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer).

November 26, 2015

Song of the Day #1279

Song of the Day: The House I Live In features the music of Earl Robinson, and the lyrics of Abel Meeropol (under the pen name of Lewis Allan), both of whom were later identified as members of the Communist Party during the McCarthy era. In 1953, Meeropol actually adopted Michael and Robert, the orphans of convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs were executed in 1953 for their acts of espionage in passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. The Robinson-Meeropol song is heard in a 1945 short film, directed by Albert Maltz, who would go on to be one of the Hollywood Ten. Being associated with some of these individuals kept the pressure on Sinatra, who was herded before investigators to answer questions with regard to his involvement with associations that had alleged "red" or "pink" connections. Seeking to travel to Korea to entertain the troops with the USO, Sinatra was offended that these investigators were impugning his patriotism; in the HBO documentary, "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All," he relates his answer to those who questioned his love for America: "they could take the Korean War and shove it up their asses." With this, he walked out of the investigation room.

It's a tad ironic, perhaps, that, in 1962, Sinatra ended up starring in one of the most controversial Cold War thrillers of the day, based on a favorite novel of JFK's, written by Richard Condon, which was filled to the brim with tense international communist conspiratorial intrigue, an emergent by-product of the Korean War: "The Manchurian Candidate," directed by John Frankenheimer. Sinatra's film performance is surely a highlight of his acting career. In any event, Sinatra's involvement with "The House I Live In" was primarily due to his view that the song celebrated an America without bigotry or prejudice. He had heard the epithets spewed against Italian Americans throughout his whole life; he was a greaseball, a wop, a guinea bastard, a mobster, simply by virtue of his ethnicity. His hatred of ethnic prejudice extended to a principled stance against all forms of racism and bigotry. At the conclusion of World War II, the world had to confront the ugly reality of anti-Semitism, which had propelled many regimes throughout history toward discrimination and violence against Jews. But the Nazis fell to a level of human savagery that cashed-in on long-held cultural biases to justify the mass extermination of Jews (Nazi racial "cleansing" of the Third Reich targeted others as well, including many "inferior" ethnic, religious, and political groups, and even sexual "deviants" of the "pink triangle").

In any event, this song was actually first heard in the musical revue, "Let Freedom Sing." In the film, there's a small plot set-up; Sinatra walks out of a studio, where he's just completed a recording, and he sees a bunch of kids fighting over this one kid who is different from them; he's Jewish. They are taunting this one kid, and Sinatra asks the gang if they're Nazis. They object; some of the kids say that their dads went to fight the Nazis. And Sinatra asks them that if their dads got hurt in battle, did they get blood transfusions? Well, sure. He asks the Jewish kid if anyone in his family were blood donors, and the kid says that both his mom and dad were donors. He asks the kids, would their dads have rather died in battle than receive blood from people of another religion? He tells them to think, or he could have simply said, "Check your premises," because we're all human beings with human blood. He says he's Italian, and some others may be Irish, French, or Russian, but we are all Americans. He then tells them a story about the first airstrike by Americans against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. It was successful due to the skill of Meyer Levin (by the way, a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School and a member of its Hall of Fame [a BTHS .pdf file]), whose bomb hit and sunk the Haruna, a Japanese battleship.

For all its controversy as a short-film, with its "commie" messages like, uh, "freedom of religion," the film moves into song, as Sinatra asks the opening question "What is America to Me?" He provides a lyrical celebration of American freedom and democracy, of "the right to speak my mind out," a paean to the American people of "all races and religions," and their values. This certainly didn't strike me as a piece of red propaganda, but I can understand the ways in which the material can be interpreted as "pinko," given its historical context and the people who were involved in its making. In the end, however, a special Honorary Oscar and Golden Globe were awarded to the short film, which can be seen on YouTube.

Right now, I count my blessings that I am eating a Thanksgiving meal in America, in the same Brooklyn, New York of Meyer Levin, in the "house I live in." A Happy Thanksgiving to all!

November 25, 2015

Song of the Day #1278

Song of the Day: In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, music by David Mann, lyrics by Bob Hilliard, is the title track from a 1955 album regarded by many to be the greatest of Sinatra's career. Ths song is also featured on Disc 2 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Sinatra delivers the song in that personally reflective manner, which bathes the lyrics with his own yearnings and lovelorn loneliness. It speaks to any of us who has ever fallen in love and felt the sting of its loss. Listen to this classic on YouTube.

November 24, 2015

Song of the Day #1277

Song of the Day: From This Moment On, words and music by Cole Porter, was written in 1951 for the composer's musical, "Out of This World," but it was dropped, only to be included later in the 1953 MGM film of the musical, "Kiss Me Kate." The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1957, with a mid-tempo swinging arrangement by Nelson Riddle, for the album, "A Swingin' Affair!." It can also be found on Disc 2 of "Ultimate Sinatra." As today's lead essay explains, with this entry, we begin a 19-day tribute to Ol' Blue Eyes, culminating on December 12, 2015, the 100th anniversary of the day of his birth. Check this song out on YouTube.

November 15, 2015

Song of the Day #1275

Song of the Day: Paris Was Made for Lovers, with music by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Hal Shaper, is the title track from the 1972 British comedy-drama film, known alternatively as "A Time for Loving." My favorite version of this song was a live Legrand performance from an early 1970s Monsanto special (see link below). Of course, today, there is every reason in the world to remember one lyric from Legrand's song: "Paris Was Made for Lovers... Why Else Would Paris Even Be There?" I've never been to Paris, but my heart has visited its residents since Friday the 13th of November, and it aches because they, who have known the horrific wars of the twentieth-century, conquered by the Nazis, liberated by the Allies, have now been introduced to a war of the twenty-first century, one that I know only too well because it showed its ugly face in my city, my home, on September 11, 2001. We can debate the reasons for this bloodshed from here to eternity, but there is simply no doubt about the utter savagery of those who have the self-righteous audacity to claim that they kill in the name of their God. These premodern jihadists have brought back all the premodern means of murder; they've sawed off heads and crucified "heretics." But they use modern technology to assist them in their coordination of terror. We've heard of the "Stolen Concept Fallacy," where one requires the truth of that which one is simultaneously trying to disprove; maybe we can call this one the "Stolen Technology Fallacy," where one requires all the technological gifts of a civilized society, including social media and satellite technology, while in the process of trying to destroy the very civilization that has made such gifts possible. If I lived in Paris, I'd want to deny such murderers the capacity to use anything that wasn't invented prior to the seventh century. And I'd introduce them to one more premodern innovation as a reward for their brutality: The Guillotine. Paris Was Made for Lovers, Not Haters. Listen to the godly Legrand sing of the love of his city [.mp3 link]. And may God bless the people of Paris as they mourn the lives that have been taken from them.

October 14, 2015

Song of the Day #1274

Song of the Day: 'Round Midnight, music by jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, with lyrics later provided by Bernie Hanighen (though others further embellished the tune over time), was published in 1944, but it is thought that Monk had written the song in the mid-1930s. In keeping with the theme of this list, "My Favorite Songs," this one is not just my favorite Monk song, but, perhaps, one of my all-time favorites in the history of jazz. There are so many recorded performances of this wonderful jazz standard (perhaps the most recorded song written specifically by a jazz composer): the first version ever recorded, by Trumpeter and Big Band leader Cootie Williams (with a youthful Bud Powell on piano), the original rendering by Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald (with Oscar Peterson on piano), and Carmen McRae (of course) [YouTube links]. Among other performances: from the Oscar-winning soundtrack of the 1986 film with Best Actor-nominee, saxman Dexter Gordon, "Round Midnight", featuring Bobby McFerrin's "instrumental" vocal and Herbie Hancock's impeccable piano [YouTube link], the Miles Davis-John Coltrane masterpiece [YouTube link] from the 1957 Davis album ("'Round About Midnight"), and an utterly brilliant acoustic jazz guitar solo performance by the incomparable Joe Pass [YouTube link]. The list goes on and on, but I should note that among my favorite versions, there are two that stand out: the first, by the "Divine" jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan, recorded live from her "In Performance at Wolf Trap" (presented on PBS TV on 28 October 1974) [mp3 link; her "Scattin' the Blues" is from the same concert, and don't forget another one of her live versions of "'Round Midnight", in which Sassy scatted, alongside be-bop trumpeter extraordinaire Dizzy Gillespie in 1987 [YouTube link]), and the second, by the often overlooked, but never underappreciated, trailblazing jazz guitarist Chuck Wayne, whose rendition appears on his classic 1963 album "Tapestry" [mp3 link]. Chuck was a family friend, and his style of "consecutive-alternate picking" had a deep impact on my own brother, Carl Barry, who is, of course, my all-time favorite guitarist. Chuck even played at my brother's wedding to Joanne, my sister-in-law, who just so happens to be one of the best jazz singers on earth. Chuck's version of this Monk classic is probably my favorite instrumental interpretation. We are two years away from the Monk Centenary; I'm glad to have brought more attention to his work in this mini-tribute on the occasion of the 98th anniversary of his birth. Long live Monk!

October 13, 2015

Song of the Day #1273

Song of the Day: Straight, No Chaser, composed by Thelonious Monk, with lyrics provided by Sally Swisher, has become one of the great jazz standards of the Monk legacy. Check out Monk's original 1951 recording (and that's Milt Jackson on vibes), and versions by Miles Davis, with Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, and, of course, Carmen McRae [YouTube links].

October 12, 2015

Song of the Day #1272

Song of the Day: Ruby My Dear, composed by Thelonious Monk, is another jazz standard that emerged from the work of this celebrated pianist. It was named after Monk's first love, Rubie Richardson. Check out Monk's solo piano version of this tune, Monk with John Coltrane, and Monk with Coleman Hawkins [YouTube links]. And, once again, one of the finest jazz vocalist interpreters, Carmen McRae, provides us with another wonderful take on a Monk song, from her album "Carmen Sings Monk," with lyrics by Sally Swisher, renamed "Dear Ruby" [YouTube link].

October 11, 2015

Song of the Day #1271

Song of the Day: Blue Monk, composed by Thelonious Monk, has become a jazz standard. It was featured on the artist's album, "The Thelonious Monk Trio," with bassist Percy Heath and drummer Art Blakey. Check out the original Monk recording, and other renditions as well, including one featuring the lyrics of Abbey Lincoln, another vocal version by Carmen McRae and finally, a swinging solo piano performance by McCoy Tyner [YouTube links].

October 10, 2015

Song of the Day #1270

Song of the Day: The Ballad of Thelonious Monk, words and music by Jimmy Rowles (with a little help from Jimmy McHugh), is a tribute to the legendary, lovably off-center jazz pianist, who was born on this date in 1917 (and who actually passed away on my 22nd birthday on 17 February 1982). The most hilarious and joyous rendition of this was performed by that wonderful interpretive jazz songstress Carmen McRae, recorded live at Donte's in Los Angeles, California in 1972 for her album "The Great American Songbook," with a group that included Rowles on piano, Joe Pass on guitar, bassist Chuck Domanico, and drummer Chuck Flores. Rowles's tune is a country-and-western paean to a jazz master [YouTube link]. We'll be tributing the Monk for a few days here at Notablog.

October 04, 2015

Song of the Day #1269

Song of the Day: Goodbye Mr. Evans [YouTube link to various renditions], composed by the incomparable jazz alto saxophonist, Phil Woods, was written as a tribute to the equally incomparable jazz pianist Bill Evans, who passed away on 15 September 1980. On 29 September 2015, the composer of this lovely paean to Evans, passed away. Two of my all-time favorite jazz musicians gone, 35 years apart, in September, standing on either side of the Equinox. Of Evans, Miles Davis was once criticized by the 'brothers' who could not understand why he'd hired a white pianist, to which Miles is said to have replied: "You find me a brother who plays like that, and I'll hire him." Miles knew what Bill brought to jazz, and jazz has never been the same since. Much the same can be said about Phil Woods; a disciple of Charlie Parker, who married Parker's widow, he took the bop linguistic of Parker to another level. From his brilliant Grammy-winning orchestral work [YouTube link] with Michel Legrand to his amazing small group recordings to his triumphs even in pop music (who can forget his melodic solo on Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are"?), Woods was one of the greatest jazzmen of his generation. I had the privilege of seeing both Evans and Woods in small group settings, the former at the Village Vanguard, the latter at The Bottom Line. Their virtuosity was matched only by the creativity of their individual musical imaginations. So it is fitting to remember Woods, who passed away on Tuesday, at the age of 83, with this tune (for which the legendary Steve Allen later provided lyrics), Phil's own celebration of another jazz master. Check out Phil Woods and the Festival Orchestra, performing this wonderful composition, as well as a Phil Woods Quartet rendition (and among so many others, check out tenor saxman Scott Hamilton's version as well). [YouTube links]. Goodbye Mr. Woods. Gone, but, like Mr. Evans, never forgotten, for the loveliness he left to this chaotic world.

September 11, 2015

WTC Remembrance: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes - A Pictorial

My annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center," turns this year to the extraordinary new tower that has risen from the ashes of that terrible day in 2001, when nearly 3000 people lost their lives in the most horrific attack on this country's soil in history. We have done a lot of "looking back" over the years of this series; today, even as we look back and honor the memory of the murdered, we look forward to an infinite realm of possibilities through the sheer will and imagination of the human mind.

I invite readers to take a look at that pictorial; it can be found here.

Here is an index for those who would like easy access to the previous entries in this annual series:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial.

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial.

August 29, 2015

Song of the Day #1267

Song of the Day: Sunset Driver, words and music by Michael Jackson, is an unreleased demo recorded during the "Off the Wall"-"Thriller" period, but never issued. It has that classic groove and vocal by MJ, who was born on this date in 1958. It can only be found on a box set entitled "The Ultimate Collection." Check it out on YouTube. (And check out the new video for a song previously highlighted here, "A Place with No Name.")

July 31, 2015

Song of the Day #1264

Song of the Day: I'll Never Smile Again, words and music by Ruth Lowe, has the distinction of being the first #1 single on the "National List of Best Selling Retail Records," the first national Billboard chart, 75 years ago this week. The recording by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, with the Pied Pipers and a young singer named Frank Sinatra, hit Number One on the 27th of July 1940 and held onto the top spot for 12 weeks. There had been other charts, compiled from sheet music sales and "music machines" (or phonographs), but this was the first that polled retailers. The song has been recorded in other wonderful renditions, including those by the Ink Spots, the Platters, and a spirited jazz rendition by Bill Evans [YouTube links] from the album "Interplay," featuring guitar great Jim Hall, trumpeter extraordinaire Freddie Hubbard, and the immortal rhythm section of bassist Percy Heath and drummer Philly Joe Jones. But this Dorsey rendition is perhaps most important because it helps us to spotlight the centennial year of the birth of the Chairman of the Board, something we will officially celebrate from Thanksgiving 2015 until Ol' Blue Eyes' 100th birthday on 12 December 2015. Enjoy the sounds of a melancholy Grammy Hall of Fame recording that should only bring smiles to every listener [YouTube link].

July 04, 2015

Song of the Day #1263

Song of the Day: You're a Grand Old Flag features the music and lyrics of George M. Cohan. It was actually written for his 1906 stage musical, "George Washington Jr." All I know is that I came from an era when we were taught songs such as this in elementary school, and they made an indelible mark on my educational upbringing. I know the words backwards and forwards, and no matter how many Yahoos love it, there is a humble quality inherent in its lyric, for no matter how deeply it tributes the "free and the brave," it is "never a boast or a brag." Check out the wonderful version performed by James Cagney, the iconic gangster who won an Academy Award for Best Actor, playing one of the great song and dance men of all time, in the 1942 bio flick, "Yankee Doodle Dandy" on YouTube. And a Happy Independence Day. May the revolution that made every heart beat true for the "red, white, and blue" live forever!

June 28, 2015

Song of the Day #1262

Song of the Day: One, a song written by Harry Nilsson, and covered by Three Dog Night in 1969, reached the Top 5 on the Billboard pop chart. It was also among the Top 40 songs on the Stonewall Inn jukebox on this date in that year, when the historic riots against police raids took place. I mark this date each year, which today inspires the annual NYC LGBT Pride Parade. Indeed, it takes just One individual to stand up and fight for the right to exist and to pursue personal happiness. One may be "the loneliest number," as the lyric says, but in the wee small hours of this date (most people were actually out on the night of June 27th, but it was technically after midnight when the 27th melted into the 28th), and the NYPD pushed into the Stonewall Inn for just another routine raid. This time there would be nothing routine about it. Many Ones stood up and pushed back. Long live the Stonewall Rebellion and freedom and equality under the rule of law! Check out the Three Dog Night rendition on YouTube.

June 25, 2015

Song of the Day #1261

Song of the Day: Leave Me Alone, words and music by Michael Jackson, appeared initially only on CD versions of his post-Thriller album, "Bad." Today marks the sixth anniversary of the entertainer's passing. It's a sad anniversary for those of us who continue to enjoy the gifts he left behind. (Yesterday, we remembered James Horner, who also had a connection to MJ: he did the scoring for "Captain EO" [YouTube full-length clip].) Check out the song, with its irresistable melodic hook and shuffle beat matched to stunning video visuals on YouTube. That work received a Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 1990. And while you're at it, check out the Pentatronix Tribute to the Evolution of Michael Jackson [YouTube link].

June 24, 2015

Song of the Day #1260

Song of the Day: Apollo 13 ("Re-Entry and Splashdown") [YouTube link], music by James Horner, is an appropriate way to honor the brilliant composer who passed away tragically on 22 June 2015 in a plane crash. The 1995 film, directed by Ron Howard, and starring Tom Hanks, is a tribute to the rational human spirit,which triumphs against all odds. This particular cue gives us a glimpse of Horner's manner of exhibiting the central theme of a film score through a prism of variations that both reflect and propel the action on screen. He did this through over 150 soundtracks, from "Aliens" to "Titanic," an unforgettable legacy to the art of the score.

June 12, 2015

Song of the Day #1259

Song of the Day: Horror of Dracula ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by James Bernard, captures all the genuine horror of the Hammer Studio's 1958 red-blooded color reboot of the classic Bram Stoker tale. The film starred the late, great Christopher Lee in the title role, with Peter Cushing playing his classic nemesis, Dr.Van Helsing, in this and a few vampire sequels (though the two starred in 22 films together, ranging from "Hamlet" to Hammer Horror). Lee passed away this week but left a stupendous legacy of chills and thrills for his legion of fans in the horror, fantasy, and sci-fi genres (indeed, who can forget his classic duel as Count Dooku with Yoda in "Star Wars, Episode Two: Attack of the Clones" [YouTube link]. He will be missed.

May 25, 2015

Song of the Day #1251

Song of the Day: Bugle Call Rag, composed by Jack Pettis, Bill Meyers, and Elmer Schoebel, was first recorded as "Bugle Call Blues" in 1922 by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (whose personnel included Pettis and Schoebel). Taking a lick from the military morning trumpet call, the song jumps off and swings to a glorious finish. Nothing, but NOTHING compares to the Dean Kincaide-arranged version that was delivered on live radio by the Benny Goodman Big Band, featuring an utterly scorching solo by Harry James. James was so much the matinee idol of the jazz trumpet that my mother, a screaming teenager back then, nearly fell out of the balcony of the Brooklyn Paramount, watching him in concert with the Goodman band. You can listen to many of the actual studio recordings of BG during the era, but it was in live performance that the great clarinetist earned his stripes as the King of Swing. Check it out here and also the original 1922 Kings rendition, a rendition by Jack Pettis and His Pets in 1929, a Glenn Miller version, and one by the 101 Strings Orchestra. Memorial Day is normally a somber holiday; let's take a cue from the New Orleans spirit that remembered the dead with musical celebration; if the departed were going to Paradise, they'd have soared there with this jazz classic.

April 07, 2015

Song of the Day #1244

Song of the Day: What a Little Moonlight Can Do, words and music by Harry M. Woods, appears as the first track on "The Centennial Collection," marking, today, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billie Holiday, whose repertoire ran from swing to blues, and whose voice captured the depth of struggles both personal and societal. A life cut short by the long-term tragic effects of substance abuse, she was a trailblazer for so many singers who followed, from Frank Sinatra (whose centennial we celebrate later this year) to Janis Joplin to Cassandra Wilson (who issues a tribute album of her own this week). And for those who haven't seen the underappreciated, heart-wrenching 1972 bio-pic, "Lady Sings the Blues," do check out the Oscar-nominated performance of Diana Ross. I picked this tune (first performed by Violet Loraine in the 1934 film, "Road House"), for, despite her personal agony, Holiday could swing through the sadness. Listen to her on YouTube [music link] in 1935 with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra, in a recording that also features the King of Swing, Benny Goodman. Long Live Lady Day!

March 07, 2015

Song of the Day #1239

Song of the Day: We are the World, words and music by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, was released on this date in 1985. A quintessential Quincy Jones production, the song raised millions of dollars to feed the hungry through USA for Africa. It brought together performers from every genre of music, everybody from Ray Charles, Billy Joel, and Cyndi Lauper to Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder. Its melodic hook brought it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. Today, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of an enduring musical collaboration. It took a lot of work and received four Grammys: Record of the Year; Song of the Year; Best Music Video, Short Form, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Check out the official video on YouTube.

February 27, 2015

Song of the Day #1233

Song of the Day: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Leonard Rosenman who was nominated for Best Original Score for this 1986 film. This theme takes its first cue from the original television theme, as provided by composer Alexander Courage, and then takes us back to old civilizations (1980s America) in search of the extinct species of humpback whales, whose calls will reply to an alien signal that threatens life as we know it. I don't think there is a more joyous, more enduring "Star Trek" film in the whole film franchise, and some of the credit rests on the great shoulders of Leonard Nimoy, whose Mr. Spock has become an institution of Americana. Sadly, Nimoy passed away today, but Spock will go on and on: Live Long and Prosper, indeed.

February 22, 2015

The Legacy of Nathaniel Branden: Memorial and a JARS Call for Papers

Today, the Atlas Society, John and Danis Fickewirth, and the family of Nathaniel Branden are sponsoring a memorial gathering to honor Branden's life and achievements. Having passed away in December 2014, Nathaniel Branden will be honored at Ebell of Los Angeles (743 S Lucerne Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90005) from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM (PST). Through an arrangement with my friend, Duncan Scott, a wonderful film and television writer, director, and producer, the memorial will be streamed live here. After the streaming, a video of the service will be provided for viewing some days later. I will provide a postscript to this blog entry as soon as the video link is made available.

Today, I would like to announce that The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies has issued a Call for Papers for a forthcoming symposium that will assess the legacy and work of Nathaniel Branden.

I would like to mention that this symposium has been long-planned; it was, in fact, in the planning stages while Nathaniel was still with us, and he was aware that the journal was working toward a discussion of his legacy. I know that he and his wife, Leigh, were enthusiastic about our proposal. We already have several internationally known scholars on board. I look forward to seeing a discussion that will honor the journal's commitment to fostering scholarly dialogue through a respectful interdisciplinary exchange of ideas, drawn from a variety of interpretive and critical perspectives.

Anyone who would like to submit proposals for contributions to the symposium, should write to me at chris DOT sciabarra AT nyu DOT edu. Further details will be provided in my introduction to the next issue of the journal, which will be in the hands of subscribers in July 2015 (Volume 15, No. 1).

Unable to attend today's memorial, I am there in spirit, and express my sympathies to all of those who grieve the passing of this path-breaking father of the self-esteem movement in psychology, and who celebrate his many accomplishments. Among these accomplishments, he was the first person to systematize Ayn Rand's philosophy, and to point toward those benefits and hazards of orthodoxy, to which he himself had contributed in the early days of the Objectivist movement. In my view, his post-Randian years include writings that are an astonishing monument to the theoretical and practical tasks required to honor the self and to live the good life.

More than this, and quite apart from the forthcoming JARS symposium, I just wish to say that Nathaniel was a loyal and dear friend to the end, and I remain deeply saddened by his passing. Fortunately, we have a solid body of scholarship left behind with which to grapple. I look forward to the work that emerges from this scholarly adventure.

Postscript (5 March 2015): The video of the Memorial Service for Nathaniel Branden can now be viewed in its entirety at this link. Thank you to Leigh Branden for providing me with this link.

December 25, 2014

Song of the Day #1209

Song of the Day: Wonderful Christmastime features the lyrics and music of the best recorded version of this song by Paul McCartney in 1979 [YouTube link]. Members of McCartney's band, Wings, participated in the promotional video [YouTube link], but it is the Great Sir Paul that carries the sole credit. There have been covers of this song, but why try the rest when you've got The Best? It has become a seasonal staple. A Wonderful Christmastime to one and all! Now go and track Santa's progress on NORAD!

December 03, 2014

Nathaniel Branden, Love and Friendship Eternal

Perhaps it is a sign of the fact that I am, like everyone else, getting older, and with age, comes the realization of one's own mortality and the mortality of those one has loved, respected and admired. Today, I learned that Nathaniel Branden passed away at the age of 84; I have been utterly devastated by the news. Too many bright lights of liberty have dimmed in the past few months.

Nathaniel Branden was one of those individuals who provided the kind of light that could illuminate the path to self-discovery and self-esteem. He was the father of the self-esteem movement, in every positive sense it has embodied.

But before eulogizing the man and his work, let's get a few items out of the way immediately: I am aware that he, like every other human being on earth had his faults, and that among these faults was that he conducted a relationship with a woman (Ayn Rand) 25 years his senior, and lied to Rand as that relationship collapsed. My take on "The Affair" has been beaten to death. I am sure that those who hated him in life are gathering for parties tonight to dance and piss on this man's grave.

They should hang their heads in utter shame, for without Nathaniel Branden, nothing like a structured Objectivist philosophy would have emerged or influenced thousands of people across the globe.

I could not care less about all the naysayers; they owe Nathaniel Branden more than anybody, save Ayn Rand, for the formal development of the philosophy of Objectivism. It was Branden who created the Nathaniel Branden Institute, which brought Rand out of her post-Atlas Shrugged depression, and catapulted her into the role of public philosopher. It was Branden who presented the first systematization of the philosophy with his "Basic Principles of Objectivism" course (later published as The Vision of Ayn Rand: The Basic Principles of Objectivism, 2009), a course that was given live, and heard by thousands of others on audio recordings, both on vinyl records and tapes. It was Branden who explored the psychological implications of Rand's exalted conception of self-esteem, and whose work was fully and unequivocally endorsed by Rand during her lifetime (indeed, his book, The Psychology of Self-Esteem is largely a collection of all the work he did while under Rand's tutelage, and it is, in many ways, the popular launch of the self-esteem movement in modern psychology). He also conducted, with the late Barbara Branden (who passed away a year ago, this December), a series of interviews that have formed the basis of nearly every biographical work that has been published (though none of us Rand scholars non-affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute have had the privilege of listening to them, much less entering the premises to examine unpublished materials to compare them to their published versions---except for one, Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right and her assessment of the state of affairs is worth reading).

But it was in his post-Randian years that Branden made his biggest impact. He owned up to the damage he did to so many people when he used psychology as a sledgehammer in the Randian Inner Circle to the detriment of many talented and tender human beings. But he also traced the rationalism that was poisoning the philosophy; instead of being a path to uplift, it often became a path to self-repression, self-flagellation, pain, fear, and guilt. It was the height of horrific irony that a movement based on individualism would give birth to "The Collective," where group-think discouraged independent thought. But Branden wrote Breaking Free and The Disowned Self, both of which began the very process of breaking free from the worst aspects of that legacy, to which he himself had contributed; Leonard Peikoff did a similarly exemplary job in his series of lectures, "Understanding Objectivism," by far, his best post-Randian work.

Except it was Nathaniel Branden who led the way long before Peikoff took the necessary steps to shed the oppressive characteristics that were haunting the early Objectivist movement. Unfortunately, however, Peikoff, as heir to Rand's Estate, merely established another oppressive movement, and I suspect it will take a generation for this internecine warfare and insane back-stabbing to end. It is the kind of thing that undermines the integrity of Rand's philosophy, making it a laughing stock for writers who would rather focus on the salacious details of sex scandals and personal foibles than on the serious theoretical and philosophical implications of Rand's work.

To the critics of Rand, who would dismiss her philosophy by focusing on scandal and to the critics of Branden, who would seek to erase the contributions he made to Objectivism, I could only say: To hell with every last one of you.

Both groups ignore the works of Nathaniel Branden at their own peril. He was a man who eventually learned to "Honor the Self" in a way that he could not have accomplished fully under the spell of the "Collective."

Nathaniel Branden was a friend to me; he was a counselor and mentor. He helped me through some of the worst days of my life with his psychological acumen; he helped me materially and spiritually when my congenital health problems nearly destroyed my life and my family's finances. He was a consummate gentleman, a kind, loving, humane, and brilliant man.

I first met Nathaniel, the same way I first met Barbara; I sent him a draft of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and he returned it with so many remarkable edits, questions, and challenges, that if it were not for his input, the book would have suffered immensely. One of the problems we had in our early discussions, however, was that I was referring to Objectivism as a totality, from a historical perspective, a cultural-historio-philosophical movement. Toward that end, my book sought to look at the whole of Objectivism. I could not do so without a requisite encounter with Branden's work. My Russian Radical was the first book to reintegrate the contributions of Nathaniel Branden into the formal philosophical edifice of Rand's radical understanding of the world. Sometimes I'd find in the marginalia of his comments: "But Rand didn't say this, Branden did..." and I'd interrupt him and tell him, "But you don't understand: whether you like it or not, in a hundred years, people won't give a shit about who stabbed whom or who slept with whom, and simply look at all you folks as part and parcel of the same philosophical movement, one that aimed to change the world." He relented.

Before I had the privilege of taking him and his (then, wife) Devers Branden, for my celebrated tour of Brooklyn, I met him in Manhattan to discuss my book; we later joined up with David Kelley for dinner.

While we sat in his bright hotel room, Branden asked me: "So what does Chris Sciabarra do when he's not reconstructing Objectivism, when he's not helping us to understand the amazing historical context within which the philosophy developed? Are you married? Do you have a girlfriend?"

To which I answered: "Well, Nathaniel, you know I have health problems, so I don't get out as much as I'd like; but rest assured, if I were to ever get married, it would not be to a girl."

Without missing a beat, he looked me directly into my eyes and said: "I did a lot of damage in the early years of Objectivism, especially in my flippant treatment of homosexuality. I would like to think I've come a long way and that I have made amends to those who were unduly hurt by the insensitive ways in which I characterized sexual orientation. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with heterosexuality or homosexuality, as long as you are happy and seek the kinds of relationships that will appeal to the best within you."

It was almost an apology to me personally, though I never felt wronged; I had read his evolving views on the subject, which gave me the balls to say what I said in his hotel room.

We spoke often through the years; he shared with me books that he wrote, which have still not been published. Some of these works were works of personal catharsis, something that all of us could use a dose of. He leaves a legacy that is so immense, I would not know where to start in characterizing its importance and its impact.

All I can say, for now, is this: I express my deepest appreciation to him, and my heart goes out to his current wife Leigh, who has weathered the storms of the last few years in ways that have proven remarkable. And to all those who mourn him and who will miss him, I extend my deepest sympathies.

I will forever honor Nathaniel Branden's work, his person, his generosity, his kindness, his sensitivity, and his gifts. I will miss him until my dying day.

Love and friendship, eternal,
Chris Matthew Sciabarra

November 16, 2014

Song of the Day #1208

Song of the Day: Rapper's Delight is credited to Sylvia Robinson, Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike, Master Gee, Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers, Grandmaster Caz, and Alan Hawkshaw. Big Bank Hank, aka Henry Jackson, who passed away on November 11, 2014 after a long battle with cancer, was a member of the Sugarhill Gang, which recorded this utter classic of American popular hip hop music, riffing on the infectious bass line of Chic's "Good Times" composed by Edwards and Rodgers. It also sampled from the disco hit "Here Comes that Sound Again" by Love De-luxe. In 1979, perhaps my favorite year of Disco Music [YouTube WKTU medley, though it ends prematurely], at 19 years old, there wasn't a dance club I went to that didn't feature the great 14-plus minute 12" recording of this track [YouTube link], which, in 2011, was made part of the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, among those culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant recordings of the twentieth century. We (my friends and I) could practically rap along with every word of the hilarious lyrics. "Ho-tel Mo-tel, Holiday Innnnn..."Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" gave us an equally hilarious take on this rap hit: a superb editing and splicing of footage from newsman Brian Williams (with a little help from Lester Holt and Kathy Lee Gifford). Check that out on YouTube (and check out Fallon's comedic interview with Brian Williams, Part One and Part Two and Brian doing "Baby Got Back" [YouTube links]).

October 20, 2014

Leonard P. Liggio, RIP

I have belatedly learned of the passing of a great classical liberal scholar, Leonard P. Liggio. I first met Leonard at an Institute for Humane Studies conference when I was an undergraduate at New York University. He was a remarkable and remarkably patient and gentle teacher. I was in awe of his utterly encyclopedic knowledge across disciplinary boundaries. I especially valued his work on Left and Right and The Literature of Liberty. He became a colleague and friend over the years, and was supportive of my research, especially as I worked toward the completion of my doctoral studies.

Historian Ralph Raico has written a fine obituary of this gentle man. He will be missed by all of those who value liberty.

September 11, 2014

WTC Remembrance: A Museum for the Ages - A Pictorial

My annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center," turns this year to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the latter of which had not yet opened when I visited the site in 2012. It is an extraordinary experience in contrasts: ranging from sensitivity to loved ones to the barbaric savagery that snuffed out the lives of nearly 3000 people.

I invite readers to take a look at that pictorial; it can be found here.

Here is an index for those who would like easy access to the previous entries in this annual series:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial.

September 04, 2014

Song of the Day #1206

Song of the Day: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work ("Opening Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Paul Brill with Amber Rubarth, opens the 2010 documentary about the life and career of a great comedian,author, and Red Carpet fashion critic. Over the last several weeks, I feel as if celebrities have been dropping like flies: Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, Don Pardo, Richard Attenborough, and now, fellow Brooklynite, Joan Rivers, who died today at the age of 81. The music is spacey and haunting with snippets of the star's comic lines. Those lines were sometimes so over the top that only a big band could match the volume of the laughter she created. I last saw her critiquing the fashions at the VMAs and the Emmys, just last week. And ultimately, it was the melody of that laughter that endures; check out some of her greatest TV moments and an E! celebration of her work. Cultural icon, outrageous, and irreverent, she was the consummate entertainer. Few people have made me laugh harder; I will miss her. Oh, grow up!

August 30, 2014

Song of the Day #1205

Song of the Day: Jurassic Park ("T-Rex Rescue and Finale";), composed by John Williams, is one great way to celebrate Richard Attenborough, who played the film's visionary John Hammond in this classic Spielberg dinosaur flick, "unintended consequences" gone wild. Attenborough passed away at the age of 90 on August 24th; he was a fine actor who graced such films as "The Great Escape", and who showed his Oscar-winning directorial chops on the sprawling epic that was "Gandhi". Check out this tense moment in music that brought us to the film's finale [YouTube link].

August 29, 2014

Song of the Day #1204

Song of the Day: Loving You, music and lyrics by Michael Jackson, begins with the line: "Hello, August moon, where are the stars of the night?" This August, if MJ had been here, he would have seen a glorious moon at its closest approach to the earth in 2014. Now, like the cicadas who issue their lyrical calls every August in Brooklyn, New York, we are still "loving you" for the lyrical and melodic music you've left behind, MJ. In celebration of the day of his birth, here's a YouTube moment to cherish (and the demo too!), one of my favorite songs from his most recent posthumous album.

August 28, 2014

Song of the Day #1203

Song of the Day: Chicago words and music by Cory Rooney, is a sweet track on Michael Jackson's posthumously released album, "Xscape." It's a terrific feeling to hear fresh music that is so alive from an artist gone too soon. Listen to the track on YouTube, and the original demo MJ recorded as well.

August 27, 2014

Song of the Day #1202

Song of the Day: A Place with No Name features the music and lyrics of Dewey Bunnell, Dr. Freeze, and Michael Jackson. Today begins a mini-tribute to the late King of Pop, who was born on the 29th of August 1958. This song was posthumously released as part of the recent MJ album, "Xscape". The song is, in many respects, derived from "A Horse with No Name," but has an integrity of its own, making it one of the melodic highlights of the new collection. Upon hearing a snippet of the track back in 2009, Bunnell and Gerry Beckley of America expressed their gratitude to MJ: "We're honored that Michael Jackson chose to record it and we're impressed with the quality of the track. We're also hoping it will be released soon so that music listeners around the world can hear the whole song and once again experience the incomparable brilliance of Michael Jackson. . . . Michael Jackson did [the song] justice and we truly hope his fans -- and our fans -- get to hear it in its entirety." It's really poignant." And now the world can hear it, and it is both poignant and truly wonderful. With a rhythmic pulse similar to "Leave Me Alone," the song pops; check it out on YouTube. And check out the recording MJ did prior to this album's post-production.

August 19, 2014

Song of the Day #1194

Song of the Day: Saturday Night Live ("Theme") [YouTube link], composed by the legendary Howard Shore and performed by the SNL Band, opens one of the longest running comedy shows on American television. And tonight, the voice of its 96-year old announcer, TV Hall of Famer Don Pardo, who has held the job for 38 seasons, has been silenced. His sad passing doesn't take away any of the joy that he brought to one of the funniest gigs on TV. In tribute to Pardo, and kicking off my annual tribute to TV themes in anticipation of the Emmy Awards (to be broadcast on August 25th), enjoy the music!! [YouTube link].

August 13, 2014

Song of the Day #1193

Song of the Day: To Have and Have Not ("How Little We Know") features the words and music of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael, who is the pianist accompanying Lauren Bacall in her smoldering 1944 screen debut in this film, loosely based on Ernest Hemingway's famous work. (It is "Lauren" who is mentioned among the smoldering celebrities rapped about by Madonna in her terrific dance single, "Vogue" [YouTube link].) Check out Lauren's performance of this song on YouTube. Still, Bacall's most famous words in the film had little to do with music, even if it was lyrically melodic to the ears of her co-star, and future husband, Humphrey Bogart. She tells him: "You know how to whistle, don't you Steve? You just put your lips together and blow" [YouTube link]. It left him whistling, indeed. Sadly, the accompished actress passed away yesterday at the age of 89.

August 12, 2014

Song of the Day #1192

Song of the Day: We Are Family, music and lyrics by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers, was a Number One 1979 R&B Hit for the group Sister Sledge. But it is eternally wedded to the hilarious 1996 comedy, "The Birdcage," which starred Nathan Lane and Robin Williams, who died yesterday from an apparent suicide. The Oscar-winning Williams was one of the most manic comedic geniuses I've ever seen in stand-up or on screen, and the grace with which he shared his talent with this world will be deeply missed. I loved him in this film, one of my favorite comedies. A remake of the 1978 film, "La Cage aux Folles," it also features great comedic turns by Gene Hackman and Hank Azaria. RIP, Robin Williams. Check out the Sister Sledge single, the 1979 Extended Dance Remix, and the scene in which it is used in the 1996 film.

July 23, 2014

Song of the Day #1191

Song of the Day: The Great Escape ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Elmer Bernstein, is one of my all-time favorite themes from one of my all-time favorite POW adventures. And this 1963 film is full of adventure and suspense, with an all-star cast that included Steve McQueen in a sizzling iconic cinematic moment on a motorcycle trying to escape the Nazis. The film also featured the always affable, down-to-earth gentlemanly actor, James Garner, who passed away on 19 July 2014.

July 16, 2014

Song of the Day #1190

Song of the Day: I Will Say Goodbye, music by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, is a gloriously melodic, if sad, song from the Legrand-Bergman songbook. My favorite instrumental version of the song is by jazz pianist Bill Evans [YouTube link], with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund (and it actually won a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo in 1981). Among the fine vocal interpretations are renditions by Sarah Vaughan, Jack Jones, Lena Horne (from that classic Monsanto-sponsored Legrand special), and Carmen McRae with the Shirley Horn Trio. Last night was about "Goodbye" in many ways; Derek Jeter, baseball icon, played in his final All-Star Game, and went 2 for 2, shining just as brightly on the field. He is pure class, and this Jeter fan has had teary eyes ever since he announced that this will be his last year as a professional baseball player. It's going to be tough saying goodbye at the end of the season. Check out this sweet Jordan commercial tribute [YouTube link].

July 04, 2014

Song of the Day #1189

Song of the Day: Always, words and music by Irving Berlin, is a 1925 gem that Berlin wrote as a wedding gift for his wife. The song has been recorded so many times by artists from Frank Sinatra to Patsy Cline and Billie Holiday, who gives it a swing feel [YouTube links]. But its most memorable spin, for me, can be heard in the greatest sports film of all time, in my view, the 1942 Lou Gehrig biopic, "The Pride of the Yankees." Check out one scene from the film [YouTube link], featuring singer Bettye Avery, with Gary Cooper playing the immortal Gehrig and Teresa Wright, his wife Eleanor (Cooper and Wright received Best Actor and Actress nominations, respectively; only Wright walked away with the gold statuette, but for her Best Supporting Actress role in the Best Picture of that year, "Mrs. Miniver"). Seventy-five years ago today, Gehrig gave one of the most remarkable speeches in all of Americana, saying goodbye to 60,000+ Yankee faithful in attendance at a 1939 Indepedence Day ceremony at Yankee Stadium. Check out the speech as given by Gehrig, as emulated by Major League Baseball, and also as immortalized in celluloid history by the wonderful Cooper [YouTube links] (and that's the real Babe Ruth appearing in the film). Gehrig later passed away from ALS, a disease known to many as "Lou Gehrig's Disease." Gehrig was one of the Yankees' most memorable team captains; today's Yankee captain, Derek Jeter, in his final career season, recently tied Gehrig's franchise record for lifetime doubles. For Yankees fans, for fans of America's game, Gehrig will always be the Iron Horse; on this Independence Day, we say Happy Birthday, America, and we celebrate Gehrig and the national passtime with a song written by one of America's most celebrated songwriters.

June 29, 2014

Song of the Day #1188

Song of the Day: I Know A Place, words and music by Tony Hatch, was one of those perennial favorites requested by the regular clientele of the Stonewall Inn. On the weekend of 28-29 June 1969, the site became Ground Zero for a drag queen-led riot against police harassment of gay and lesbian establishments. It is among the events that gave birth to the modern American movement to protect the individual rights of gays and lesbians, and it is in honor of that event that I post this song on this date. The song was recorded most famously by Petula Clark, but has also been recorded by Sammy Davis, Jr., with the Buddy Rich Band [YouTube links], and Vi Velasco, whose rendition features jazz guitarist Carl Barry, my Bro.

June 16, 2014

Song of the Day #1186

Song of the Day: The Love You Save, music and lyrics by The Corporation, Motown's Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell, and Deke Richards, went to Number One, the third of four straight number one singles released by the Jackson 5, which held that position on the Billboard chart for two weeks, 27 June through 4 July 1970. But Casey Kasem, who passed away yesterday, was always one week ahead of the curve, giving us a weekend countdown that reflected the chart of the following week's Tuesday release of Billboard. So the song had actually dropped to the number two position on the 4th of July debut show of Kasem's classic, "American Top 40 (AT40)." I can't help but credit Kasem with stoking my love of pop music as I grew up listening to his show on the radio, whether it was in the dead of winter or on the hot sands of Manhattan Beach through Brooklyn's steamiest summers. This song was one of my favorite early Jackson 5 songs, made all the more poignant because its lead singer is no longer with us either. Check out the original single here, and while you're listening, save a little love too for screen and stage actress Ruby Dee, who passed away on June 11th, the great and endearing Don Zimmer, who passed away on June 4th, and the ultimate gentle man of baseball, Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres Hall of Famer, who sadly passed away today, at the young age of 54. All of them gone too soon.

June 12, 2014

Song of the Day #1184

Song of the Day: Love Never Felt So Good features the music and lyrics of Paul Anka and the late great King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Is there any doubt that this lifelong fan of MJ would not have fallen in love with this new release from a posthumous collection of previously unreleased MJ tracks ("Xscape," an album critic Jim Farber gave Four Stars)? It's even better because the single features a duet with the very much alive Justin Timberlake, who has long credited MJ as being one of his greatest influences. JT gave an utterly amazing concert at the mint-condition Barclays Center in my home town of Brooklyn last year that I had the privilege of seeing; he is a remarkable, multi-talented (okay, and adorable) performer, and MJ would have been proud of the ways in which JT integrated MJ influences, including a cover of "Human Nature" in a medley with his own "What Goes Around" [YouTube clip here]. Check out the official video of this song, which is a true paean to MJ in and of itself. There's also an extended dance mix. And check out the original cover of this tune by Johnny Mathis, who released it in 1984. I'm moved to tears for all that was lost with MJ's passing, but in the sadness there are tears of joy for all that he's left behind.

May 06, 2014

Song of the Day #1182

Song of the Day: That's Jazz [YouTube link], an impromptu tune put together by Mel Torme and Ella Fitzgerald at the Grammy Awards, broadcast in February 1976. Sadly, Mel and Ella are no longer with us; but we are living in an era where jazz is almost never mentioned (or featured) as a category during the Grammy broadcast, so seeing something like this is like the discovery of a rare gem from some sort of paleolithic era in television history. Enjoy!

April 17, 2014

L. Jay Oliva, RIP

It is with great sadness that I report the passing today of L. Jay Oliva, who served as the 14th President of New York University, from 1991 through 2002, and whose tenure overlapped my years as a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Politics. But I knew Oliva for many years as author and editor of numerous works on Russian and European History. I had received my B.A. in economics, politics, and history with honors, and had many occasions to interact with him as I completed my undergraduate honors thesis in the Department of History. As a perennial student of the University, a recipient of an NYU BA (in the triple major), MA (in politics) and Ph.D. in political theory, philosophy, and methodology, I like Oliva simply bled violet, and he knew this. He was especially enthusiastic about the work I had planned and commenced in my post-doctoral years on Ayn Rand's early education during one of the most tumultuous times in Russian history, and expressed serious interest in the book that eventually became Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, whose first edition I inscribed to him as a gift. He had already given me gifts of support and encouragement that were incalculable. I knew him as a man with a remarkable sense of humor and a humane, hugely benvolent sense of life. I deeply mourn his passing.

Here's more on Oliva from Martin Lipton, Chair of the NYU Board of Trustees and John Sexton, current President of the University, in a memorandum sent to the friends and fellow members of the NYU community this evening:

We share with you this evening the sad news that L. Jay Oliva -- who served NYU for 42 years as faculty member, dean, vice president, chancellor, and president -- has died.
The NYU we know today -- the NYU that attracts the finest students from all over the world, that can go head-to-head to recruit scholars at the top of their fields, that sends more students to study abroad than any other, that is a member of the University Athletic Association -- would not have been possible without Jay Oliva. He was a key engineer of the transformation of NYU.
Jay sometimes referred to himself as the person who lowered the NYU flag for the last time at the University Heights campus in the Bronx. But where others would have seen only reason for discouragement, he saw opportunity. From that difficult and humbling moment, he emerged as one of the leaders of the generation of faculty, trustees, and administrators who charted a steady upward trajectory for NYU.
He knew our future lay in joining the top ranks of national research universities. Under his leadership, NYU began recruiting top scholars and building areas of academic strength. He oversaw the expansion of student housing that allowed us to welcome students from across the country and throughout the world. He parlayed the seemingly unlikely gift of an estate in Florence into the foundation of a new approach to global learning. He knew that NYU’s vision must be matched by resources, and during his presidency, NYU completed the first $1 billion fundraising campaign in higher education. He believed that athletics had an important role in a university setting, but that the ideal of the true student-athlete was too often not embraced; so he, along with a group of like-minded presidents intent on keeping academic life front and center, formed the University Athletic Association conference.
In short, he sensed when NYU's moment had arrived, and did everything possible to achieve and sustain that success. All the while, he made everyone -- students, faculty members, administrators, and staff -- feel a part of it.
With the reflexes and instincts of the long-time classroom teacher he was, he had a strong focus on students: he believed in high academic standards, and emphasized adhering to those standards in the students we admitted and graduated. Recognizing the diversity of ways in which NYU students succeed, he also cheered on our athletes -- he was a frequent presence at sporting events -- our performing artists -- in whose company he was an occasional presence on stage -- and our student community service volunteers -- with whom he worked on service projects.
Since retiring from the presidency, he has helped keep downtown a vibrant hub for culture through his leadership of the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, which has hosted not only NYU productions but performing artists from throughout the world.
He was a wise man, a good friend to both of us, a wonderful colleague, and, in many ways, our community’s first citizen. He spent his entire professional life at NYU, part of a generation that saw the University through some of its most profound challenges and went on to take it to unprecedented heights. NYU owes Jay Oliva a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid.
His death came too soon and too suddenly. We grieve with his family today, and on behalf of the NYU community, offer them our deepest sympathies. He helped build a great institution, and he did so with love, devotion, and energy. It is hard to think of a way a life could be better spent. The greatest way to honor him is to carry on his work -- to strive each and every day to sustain the academic momentum he did so much to help initiate.

Amen.

February 27, 2014

Song of the Day #1178

Song of the Day: BUtterfield 8 ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Bronislau Kaper, has that lush quality that Kaper brings to anything he touches with his musical sensibility and jazz inflections (take a listen to Bill Evans and Eddie Gomez on "Invitation" or
Kaper himself [YouTube link]). This theme opens the 1960 film that brought Elizabeth Taylor her first Oscar for Best Actress. On this date, in 1932, Taylor was born.

February 19, 2014

Song of the Day #1171

Song of the Day: Valley of the Dolls ("Theme") was composed by Andre Previn and Dory Previn for the 1967 film version of the Jacqueline Susann novel (Mr. Spock in "Star Trek: The Voyage Home" clearly understood "The Greats" of the twentieth century). The original recording of the song was to be sung by Judy Garland, who had been fired from the film. It was sung by Dionne Warwick. There is a John Williams arrangement of the song in the film; his arrangements were noted by the Academy, and became the first of his 49-to-date Oscar nominations, this one for "Best Score Adaptation." And then there is the single version from Warwick's album [YouTube link]). Listen to the Dory Previn version as well [YouTube link]. For all its kitsch and camp, the film depicts tragedy, and there are so many tragedies that go beyond the film; one need only remember that Sharon Tate was one of its stars.

February 12, 2014

Song of the Day #1164

Song of the Day: The Little Colonel ("Stair Dance") [YouTube link] created a magical moment in cinematic history, pairing the great tap dancer, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and the late great Shirley Temple. In later years, she became a diplomat, and added the surname of her husband, becoming "Shirley Temple Black." But it was not the added surname "Black" that broke the color barrier; it was Shirley's joyous appearances in films like this 1935 gem that did more to mow down racial stereotypes by showcasing great and precious talent. Shirley Temple will always be remembered as that endearing little girl in so many wonderful movies from the 1930s; but it was roles like these that truly showed what a trailblazer she was (check out "The Littlest Rebel" as well). She passed away 10 February 2014 at the age of 85 ... RIP Shirley.

February 04, 2014

Song of the Day #1156

Song of the Day: Suspicion ("Main Title") [Amazon.com excerpt], music by Franz Waxman, is the first collaboration between the absolutely debonair Cary Grant and the master director, Alfred Hitchcock. This 1941 film also starred Joan Fontaine, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress. The estranged sister of Olivia de Havilland, the two of them are the only siblings to have won lead Oscar awards. Amazingly, she is also the only actor to win an Oscar under Hitchcock's direction. Sadly, she passed away at the age of 96 on 15 December 2013. She is survived by sister Olivia. The Waxman score is not the only one that the famed composer did with Hitchcock; he also composed the soundtracks to the 1940 film, "Rebecca," and the 1954 film "Rear Window."

February 03, 2014

Song of the Day #1155

Song of the Day: Capote ("Out There") [YouTube link], composed by Mychael Danna, is a simple theme that holds within it the complexity of the person at the center of the 2005 film, Truman Capote, and the complexity of the performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won a Best Actor Oscar for the role. Sadly, this 46-year old actor passed away yesterday; death need not be tragic, since it is an organic part of life, but when it comes so young to an actor with so much talent and promise, I can find few other words to describe it. RIP PSH.

February 02, 2014

Song of the Day #1154

Song of the Day: Judgment at Nuremberg ("Overture") [YouTube link], composed by Ernest Gold, offers a kaleidoscope of themes from the magnificent film starring among others the great Spencer Tracy (who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar), Burt Lancaster, and Oscar-winner Maximilian Schell, who passed away yesterday at the age of 83. The film is a morality tale about those who executed the orders of the Third Reich in perpetuating one of the greatest mass murders in human history.  Playing the attorney Hans Rolfe, Schell had the difficult task of representing the reprehensible defendants, and he does so with dignity and integrity, and won a well-deserved Academy Award. (Other shattering performances are offered by Judy Garland and Montgomery Cliff, each of whom was nominated in their supporting categories). Directed by Stanley Kramer, it is one of my all-time favorite films. RIP Maximilian Schell.

December 21, 2013

Song of the Day #1147

Song of the Day: The Lion in Winter (Main Title) [YouTube link], composed by John Barry, is from the Oscar-winning soundtrack to the brilliantly acted 1968 film featuring tour de force performances by Oscar-winner Katharine Hepburn (who tied with Barbra Streisand in "Funny Girl" for the Best Actress award, a first in Oscar history) and Best Actor Oscar-nominated Peter O'Toole. O'Toole, one of my all-time favorite actors, passed away at the age of 81 on 14 December 2013. He was nominated a total of eight times without an Oscar win, a record (though he did receive a lifetime achievement award in 2002). In this film, O'Toole revisits a role that had previously earned him another Best Oscar nomination, King Henry II of England, in the 1964 film "Becket" where he played opposite the equally brilliant and (almost) equally winless Richard Burton (seven lifetime Oscar nominations without a win). In that earlier film, O'Toole's Henry II is a heartbreaking shattered man, destroyed over his obsessiveness for Thomas Becket, his friend, played by Burton, whom he names Archbishop of Canterbury in the hope of having an ally to control an increasingly unruly church. But Becket finds his integrity to the dismay of his King and the "unnatural" love they share is doomed. Both actors earned Oscar nominations and lost. Doom underscores the plot for "Lion in Winter," but in ways that display the corrupting machinations of power. The role earned O'Toole another Oscar nod, and another Oscar loss. Today marks winter's arrival in the northern hemisphere. It is all the more appropriate to tribute this great actor on this day as we march toward the light; he was truly a lion on stage who brought a great light to the art of cinema.

December 16, 2013

Barbara Branden, Love and Friendship Eternal

How does one begin to communicate the pain of loss, especially when that loss is so deep, so personal. On 11 December 2013, I learned of the death of Barbara Branden. I've been stunted for a few days wondering what on earth I could possibly say on Notablog that would do justice to the Barbara I came to know and love, a Barbara who was generous in sharing her own scholarship and time, and who was among the most encouraging and supportive human beings I've ever had the privilege of knowing.

Barbara Branden was Ayn Rand's first biographer, in fact, the only biographer to have ever been authorized by Rand herself during Rand's lifetime to pen the essay that eventually became the title piece of the 1962 book by Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Branden: "Who is Ayn Rand?" Of course, later, Barbara authored the sprawling, controversial 1986 biography, The Passion of Ayn Rand, which until recently remained the only extant book-length biography of one of the twentieth-century's most provocative thinkers.

When the Nathaniel Branden Institute dissolved in 1968, I was 8 years old and consequently was much too young to have ever attended the many lectures produced and disseminated by NBI during its heyday. But I slowly collected and listened to many of those NBI courses, including Barbara's wonderful "Principles of Efficient Thinking." All of this was in preparation for my own book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, which contained an important biographical component, fueled by Barbara's discussion of Rand having attended a course on ancient philosophy at Petrograd University taught by the great Russian philosopher, N. O. Lossky. This fact was reported not only in Barbara's 1986 biography, but in the 1962 Rand-authorized title essay for "Who is Ayn Rand?" So much of the biographical information in that essay, and in Passion, was derived from countless hours of interviews with Rand that Barbara and Nathaniel conducted in the early 1960s. (Rand never repudiated any of the Branden works prior to their 1968 disassociation; she considered their work with her, including the biographical essay, "Who is Ayn Rand?", to be part of the Randian canon and emphasized this in the June 1968 issue of The Objectivist.)

Few non-Ayn Rand Institute-affiliated scholars have ever had access to these interviews. Given the restrictive policies of the Ayn Rand Archives, I suspect I will be long dead before those archives are truly thrown open to non-affiliated scholars (Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, provides an interesting insight into the inner workings of the archives; see a PDF of her essay here.) Whatever inaccuracies that may have crept into Barbara's biographical work, we remain immensely fortunate that she was able to use so much of that interview material for her 1986 biography due to an agreement with the Rand estate.

Given one of the theses I was developing for Russian Radical, the fairly innocuous claim that Rand was most likely influenced by her teachers, especially their penchant for developing and applying "the art of context-keeping" (aka "dialectics") in combating false alternatives, I was especially captivated by the passages about Rand's Petrograd University years discussed in Barbara's original 1962 "Who is Ayn Rand?" essay, and largely reproduced in her 1986 biography. I wrote to both Leonard Peikoff, heir to the Rand estate, and to Barbara Branden, in search of further insight into the Rand-Lossky relationship, given that Lossky was among the most dialectical philosophers of his generation.

Peikoff (correspondence dated 27 May 1992) assured me that the estate was compiling information on Rand’s life and that if anything relevant to the Lossky-Rand connection became apparent, he would so advise me. I remained skeptical, however, that anything would come of Peikoff's promise, given the fact that his Ayn Rand Institute had a penchant for noncooperation with those outside their insulated universe. Years later, after Russian Radical was published, and panned viciously by one the ARIan brotherhood (see John Ridpath's "review" here), ARI reported that it had discovered a transcript of Rand's college education. I contacted the Ayn Rand Archives and offered to analyze it with the assistance of a group of scholars who were extremely knowledgeable of the historical period in question. The Ayn Rand Archives refused to share the transcript with me, unless I signed a letter promising that I'd never write on the subject. In essence, I told them with their siege mentality to shove it (see the story here).

By contrast, Barbara was immediately generous in her desire to aid my book research. Our give and take by phone, letter, and email became ever more friendly. By the time I had sent her the first draft of my book, we had become friends. But this didn't stop her from marking up my manuscript from beginning to end, and sending an accompanying five-page letter with constructive criticism, making important suggestions about this or that point and taking me to task on this or that interpretation. As she wrote in that letter (dated 28 June 1993):

Your book is a wonderful achievement, and I hope you are very proud of it. Congratulations! As you know, I could not put the manuscript down. I lost a week of evenings into the mornings --- and I lost Sixty Minutes, David Brinkley, 20-20, Prime Time Live and Bernard Shaw, as well as a couple of friends whom I barked at when they phoned. (But lo and behold! - the world muddled through without me.)

Her letter ended with this statement:

I am delighted that you consider me a friend. I feel the same way. It's a pleasure to know you. I should be in New York sometime in the next millennium, so wear a rose in your teeth so I'll recognize you.

When we finally got together some time later, I met her at the airport ... with a rose in my teeth, as promised.

We laughed, and enjoyed ourselves immensely, taking in some of New York's treasures, and, especially, the delightful beauty of my borough of birth: Brooklyn, New York.

It would not be the last time that she'd visit me; when my life-long health problems had seemingly brought me to death's door, she flew out again just to come to my home and sit with me and my sister and my little dog Blondie, who, despite a reputation for barking up a storm against invaders (i.e., visitors), took to her like glue.

Barbara and I had our disagreements (e.g., over the Iraq war) and we certainly both enjoyed a plethora of personal flaws, but we remained dear friends to the end. [And I take special pride in being a co-editor with Mimi Reisel Gladstein, on the project that became Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, the first book in which both Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Branden appeared together... since their 1962 book Who is Ayn Rand?. -- ed.]

So it angered me to no end when I saw her being routinely pissed on while she was alive.

Being a film fan, I recall a scene from the 2012 Best Picture Oscar winner, "Argo." Lester Siegel, played hilariously by Alan Arkin, has some choice words for a critic [YouTube link]. It's the only appropriate response one can give to those who, now that Barbara is dead, would delight in pissing on her grave.

I choose to celebrate her life, and I will value her generosity, friendship, support, loyalty, and comfort until the day I die. Bless you, dear Barbara. Love and friendship eternal.

December 11, 2013

Song of the Day #1146

Song of the Day: The Answer is Yes [YouTube link] is a lovely composition by Jane Hall, wife of the legendary jazz guitarist, Jim Hall, who passed away Tuesday, 10 December 2013, having just turned 83 on 4 December. There are few musicians who have touched me as deeply as this stupendous guitarist. He had a deeply melodic sense; his understated solos were matched only by his brilliant capacity at interplay with the many legends with whom he performed and recorded. I feel as if I've lost a friend, one that I never met, but whose music touched my heart and soul in ways that only a truly personal relationship could. Just a cursory look at "My Favorite Songs" reveals the extent of the impact his musical legacy has made on my life. For example (and this is just a sampling of Hall recordings mentioned therein): the Jim Hall-penned "All Across the City" [YouTube link at 27:41], (from the enchanting "Intermodulation"): a duet album featuring the mesmerizing interplay of two of the greatest practitioners of the art form: Hall and the legendary pianist Bill Evans [see my entry on 4 December 2007]; "Concierto de Aranjuez" (YouTube link) is the title track from the 1975 album "Concierto," an inspired jazz interpretation of the second movement of the great Rodrigo composition with an all-star line-up, arranged by Don Sebesky. Also from that album is my absolutely all-time favorite jazz instrumental rendition of the Cole Porter gem, "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" [YouTube link], which features a seamless series of solos and utterly breathtaking interplay by Hall (on guitar), Paul Desmond (on alto saxophone), Chet Baker (on trumpet), Roland Hanna (on piano), Ron Carter (on bass) and Steve Gadd (on drums) [featured on 22 January 2005]. Back in 1997, in his liner notes to the CD re-release of "Concierto," Steve Futterman articulates what I've always felt: the improvisation on this album feels as if it is flowing from a single mind-set, expressed in different instruments. When Hall, Desmond, and Baker intertwine in contrapuntal conversation on the Porter song, for instance, "they sound like the same soloist playing three separate instruments"; "Down the Line" [YouTube link; from Hall's album "Commitment"] is a paean of sorts to Bill Evans's classic "Conversations with Myself"; on this composition, Hall overdubs his electric guitar with the acoustic guitar sounds of the handmade instrument designed by Jimmy D'Aquisto, who carried on the craft of his great teacher: John D'Angelico [see my entry of 30 January 2006]; and finally, "Scrapple from the Apple" [YouTube link] from one of the greatest live recordings ever put to vinyl: the 1975 album, "Jim Hall Live," with a trio featuring Don Thompson on bass and Terry Clarke on drums. The last time I saw Hall perform live was at a loving concert in which he participated in tribute to another legendary guitarist: Chuck Wayne. Alas, if there is a band in Heaven, I know not. But if we are to question whether that band just added one class act to its divine personnel, clearly "The Answer is Yes."

November 22, 2013

Song of the Day #1145

Song of the Day: I'm Leaving It Up To You, music and lyrics by Don "Sugarcane" Harris and Dewey Terry, was first recorded by them, as the Doo Wop duo Don and Dewey [YouTube link]. Their R&B-inflected version spent 2 weeks at #1 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart in 1957. Recorded also by Dale and Grace [YouTube link], it was also a selection on Linda Ronstadt's 1970 album "Silk Purse" [YouTube link here], with a lovely country lilt and a fiddle solo (most likely by Gil Guilbeau, as a nod to Don Harris who was himself a violinist). Even Donny Osmond and Marie Osmond brought the song to the top of the Adult Contemporary chart in the summer of 1974 [YouTube link here]. Technically speaking, the number one pop hit on this day in 1963 was "Deep Purple," but the Dale and Grace version of this song topped the chart on 23 November 1963, the day after one of the most infamous events in American history: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Whatever one thinks of JFK and his political legacy, the shooting in Dealey Plaza in Dallas on this day, fifty years ago, was a watershed event, a symbolic turning point, a signal of all the violence and brutality that consumed the decade to come: the Vietnam war, the urban riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Robert F. Kennedy, and the growing discontent and distrust in government, that ultimately brought down another president in the Watergate scandal: Richard Nixon, who lost to JFK in the 1960 election and resigned the office in 1974. Check out CBS's streaming video, beginning at 1:38 p.m. today, when Walter Cronkite interrupted the soap opera "As the World Turns" with a special bulletin. I was only 3 years old that day; we were at my grandmother's house because she had fallen and was badly injured. I remember a weekend of non-stop television coverage. I remember seeing Jack Ruby shooting and killing the alleged Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald [check out the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination, television coverage of the Oswald shooting, and various breaking reports from the major networks on November 22nd]. These events, for a 3 year old, seemed totally incomprehensible, but judging from the reaction of all my elders, they were truly horrific. Now, at age 53, I still look at that day and the days that followed with a degree of incomprehensibility.

November 13, 2013

Song of the Day #1144

Song of the Day: Minor Swing, music composed by Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, was performed memorably by the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, featuring Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli [YouTube link]. But there are also wonderful versions by David Grisman and Stephane Grappelli (also featuring monster bassist Eddie Gomez) [MySpace link] and the version adapted by Rachel Portman [YouTube link] as one of the standout themes from the Oscar-nominated score for the wonderful 2000 cinema morality tale, "Chocolat," which starred Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. Today is a standout day for chocolate, or, at the very least, one of the classic chocolate-coated cookies: Mallomars are officially 100 years old today! Happy birthday to one of my favorite seasonal cookies.

October 12, 2013

Happy Birthday to Walter Grinder!

I want to take this opportunity to wish my friend and colleague, Walter Grinder, all of the health and happiness he deserves on the occasion of his 75th birthday! One fine resource for understanding Walter's gifts is a birthday link at the Free Banking site.

Walter was an important mentor to me especially during my formative years, while he was associated with the Institute for Humane Studies. His personal advice and guidance, his compassion and his wisdom, were indispensable to me. From a theoretical perspective, his work with John Hagel III on libertarianism and class analysis especially had a huge impact on the formation of my own "dialectical libertarian" perspective. I will forever be indebted to him for key observations on the nature of the state and for his encyclopedic knowledge of sources guiding me in crucially important intellectual directions.

More importantly, through the years, Walter has shown huge personal compassion toward me, in my own life-long health battles, perhaps because he, himself, has had his own share of health issues. I cannot begin to express in words just how deeply I appreciate his gifts.

A long and healthy life to a wonderful human being, colleague, and friend.

September 22, 2013

Song of the Day #1141

Song of the Day: All in the Family ("Those Were The Days") [YouTube link], music and lyrics by Charles Strouse, is recognized as one of the Top Fifty Television Themes of All Time. Its iconic status in the history of TV themes is only eclipsed by the iconic status of this remarkably daring show, which simultaneously made us collapse with laughter and confront the social prejudices that are as relevant today as they were when Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin introduced this show on the CBS Television Network. Part of what made the show work was the real chemistry between its two prime players; no less than Lucy and Ricky, Alice and Ralph, Edith and Archie have become part of the culture of television excellence. And this year, it is especially poignant to end our mini-tribute to TV themes with the song that introduced the world to Lear's comedy, and to the brilliance of Emmy-winning actress, Jean Stapleton, who passed away on 31 May 2013. Tonight, when they do that Emmy Awards "In Memoriam" tribute section to people who have passed away, expect an ovation for this wonderful actress. And take a listen to that opening theme once more. So comes the end of our mini-tribute to television music.

September 17, 2013

Song of the Day #1136

Song of the Day: The Fugitive ("A New Love"),composed by Peter Rugolo, captures the alienation of the central character, Dr. Richard Kimble, played with subtle brilliance by the great David Janssen, as he searches, week after week, for the One-Armed Man who killed his wife. Dr. Kimble would have been executed had he not been "reprieved by fate" in a train wreck that freed him en route to "the death house" (as told to us with characteristic authority by the narrator William Conrad). Each week viewers saw a man torn between his struggle to survive in pursuit of the justice he deserves, while encountering characters who either need him (and the strength of character he provides) or who test his integrity. Through it all, he proves as unshakeable as Lieutenant Philip Gerard (played with relentless obsessiveness by Barry Morse), whose concern is not the justice of the verdict, but in apprehending the convicted killer and carrying out the sentence the law requires. There are so many magnificent episodes in the four-year series (which I watched over the past year on DVD), including such gems as "The Girl from Little Egypt" (season 1), "Angels Travel on Lonely Roads" (a two-parter from season 1) and "The Breaking of the Habit" (season 4) (all three episodes of which provide us with a terrific star turn by the great Oscar-winning actress Eileen Heckart), and, of course, the final two-parter episodes of the series, "The Judgment," Parts 1 and 2, in which both Kimble---and Gerard---finally confront the One-Armed Man. Those episodes remain among the most-watched finales in the history of television (a 50.7 rating and a 73.2 audience share). This show was a morality tale for sure, with an obvious debt to Hugo's "Les Miserables." Its cast and guest stars were consistently splendid and its first three seasons were as close to classic film noir for television as has ever been seen (it went "in color" in the final fourth season). Fifty years ago today, the show debuted on the ABC television network. I can agree with Stephen King who understood how the series turned everything on its head, questioning the justice of 'the system'. As he put it in the Introduction to The Fugitive Recaptured by Ed Robertson, it was "absolutely the best series done on American television." After seeing the show for the umpteenth time, I confess to "A New Love" for it and its wonderful soundtrack by the great Peter Rugolo. Happy Fiftieth!!!

September 11, 2013

WTC Remembrance: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

My annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center," has taken many turns through the years, covering everything from painful personal testimonies to memorial pictorials. This year, I've decided to provide a brief sketch of one of the most important people in my life: My Friend Matthew. Matt was born on September 11, 1967, thereby laying claim to that date long before some nutjobs decided to slam planes into the Twin Towers. It's a personal portrait, and it happens to be his birthday today: so happy birthday, dear friend.

For those who have not read the various entries to the series over the years, I provide this index:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

Never forget.

August 11, 2013

Song of the Day #1131

Song of the Day: Blame it on the Bossa Nova, music by Barry Mann, lyrics by Cynthia Weil, was a huge Top Ten 1963 hit for the great Eydie Gorme, who passed away yesterday at the age of 84. Her discography was truly varied and wonderful and her many playful and swinging duets with husband Steve Lawrence were legendary. She will be truly missed. Listen to this song on YouTube, so reflective of a great era for pop music.

May 07, 2013

Song of the Day #1127

Song of the Day: Jason and the Argonauts ("Skeletons"), composed by Bernard Herrmann, provides the atmospheric musical motif for one of the greatest special effects achievements in the storied history of legend Ray Harryhausen, who passed away today at age 92. Check out this iconic scene from the fun 1963 fantasy film on YouTube.

April 04, 2013

Song of the Day #1124

Song of the Day: Return of the Jedi ("Return of the Jedi") [YouTube link], composed by John Williams, is from the third entry in the "Star Wars" film franchise (officially "Episode VI" of the series). Roger Ebert, who passed away today, famously defended the series on "Nightline" (clip at that link) back in 1983; he and the late Gene Siskel brought us years of entertaining film critique in their "At the Movies."

December 05, 2012

Song of the Day #1083

Song of the Day: Bossa Nova U.S.A., composed by Dave Brubeck, is the sweet lyrical title track from the composer's 1963 album featuring the great jazzman's classic quartet, with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Brubeck, who passed away today, was one of the greatest innovators in modern jazz. Listen to this song on YouTube.

November 22, 2012

Song of the Day #1081

Song of the Day: Spice of Life features the words and music of Derek Bremble and Rod Temperton, who has had many hits with Michael Jackson. Recorded by The Manhattan Transfer, this song was a Top 40 hit on both the pop and R&B charts, from the group's 1983 album "Bodies and Souls." It features a sweet harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder. Check out the track on YouTube. Today is a day of many spices giving life to so many wonderful foods on the plates of so many family members and friends who survived Hurricane Sandy in the tri-state area. We embrace our countless blessings on this robust Thanksgiving especially, a celebration of the spice of life.

September 26, 2012

Song of the Day #1075

Song of the Day: Bad, words and music by Michael Jackson, is the title track to MJ's "Bad" album, which, on this date twenty-five years ago, debuted atop the Billboard 200 album chart. The video, directed by Martin Scorsese, features choreography that is a paean to the great musical, "West Side Story." The 25th aniversary of the album's release (officially, on 31 August 1987) is being commemorated this year by "Bad 25", a special remix 3-CD re-release package, and a Spike Lee-directed documentary, which premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. The original music video was filmed at the Brooklyn subway station at Hoyt-Schermerhorn. And the track includes a hot solo by one of my all-time favorite jazz organ players, Jimmy Smith. Check out the full music video version, the short-form music video, the Kids version, the 12" remix, the David Guetta remix, the Electro Mix by Ballistic, the new Afrojack remix, featuring Pitbull and DJ Buddha, and cover versions by country artist Ray Stevens, "Weird Al" Yankovic (a "Fat" parody), the Chipmunks, Sammy Davis, Jr., and the cast from "Glee".

September 11, 2012

WTC Remembrance: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

This year, as part of my annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center," I created a pictorial of my visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. That pictorial can be found here.

And here is an index of all of the pieces I've written for this series:

2001: As It Happened . . .
2002: New York, New York
2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute
2004: My Friend Ray
2005: Patrick Burke, Educator
2006: Cousin Scott
2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild
2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter
2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves
2010: Tim Drinan, Student
2011: Ten Years Later
2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

Never Forget.

July 10, 2012

Song of the Day #1067

Song of the Day: McHale's Navy ("Main Theme"), composed by Axel Stordhal, is featured in the opening credits to the popular television series that ran from 1962 through 1966. The series was actually a spin-off from a one-hour episode of "ALCOA Premiere," entitled "Seven Against the Sea." I watched the hilarious series regularly in my youth. It served as my first exposure to Ernest Borgnine, who passed away at the age of 95 on 8 July 2012, a few days after the passing of another TV icon, Andy Griffith. Borgnine was one of the greatest character actors of his generation, an Oscar-winner for his role in "Marty, and a recognizable presence in such films as "From Here to Eternity," "Demetrius and the Gladiators," "Willard," "The Poseidon Adventure," and 11'09"1 September 11. Check out the opening credits to the series and tip your hat to one of the greats.

July 04, 2012

Song of the Day #1066

Song of the Day: The Andy Griffith Show ("The Fishin' Hole") features the music of Earle Hagen (who whistled the theme in the opening credits) and Herbert W. Spencer and the lyrics of Everett Sloane. Just as "The Andy Griffith Show" was a spin-off of an episode of "The Danny Thomas Show," so too did it give birth to spin-offs, including "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," "Mayberry, R.F.D.," and the TV-reunion movie, "Return to Mayberry." Andy Griffith exuded an effortless warmth in his TV performances, from his self-titled show to "Matlock." And he had terrific acting chops (check out his remarkably jarring performance in "A Face in the Crowd"). He passed away yesterday at the age of 86. This theme and the famous TV show for which it was written have become part of Americana, something all the more noteworthy on this Day of Independence. Check out the main theme on YouTube and Andy himself singing it.

June 30, 2012

Song of the Day #1065

Song of the Day: New York City Blues, words and music by Quincy Jones and Peggy Lee, first appeared on Lee's album, "Blues Cross Country." The song, with Jones' swinging arrangement, can also be found on the TV soundtrack to the short-lived series, "Pan Am." Today, one of the great NYC landmarks is celebrating its 85th birthday with 25-cent rides (though it actually opened on June 26, 1927): the rickety wooden Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island that I will never set foot on. Definitely not on my bucket list. Check out Peggy Lee's fabulous track on YouTube. Happy birthday to this Grand Roller Coaster!

June 25, 2012

Song of the Day #1064

Song of the Day: Workin' Day and Night, words and music by Michael Jackson, is a popular track from the artist's breakthrough 1979 solo album, "Off the Wall." On this date in 2009, MJ passed away. For millions of fans,the music lives on. Check out the album cut and an energetic 1992 live concert performance from Bucharest. RIP, MJ. We're still dancin' day and night to your music.

June 18, 2012

Song of the Day #1062

Song of the Day: I Saw Her Standing There features the words and music of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who celebrates his 70th birthday today. The song was the opening track on "Please Please Me," the debut UK album by The Beatles. One of my all-time favorite early Beatles tunes, this one has been covered by other artists as well. Check out the grand original, and versions by The Supremes, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and Tiffany. Happy Birthday, Sir Paul!

May 27, 2012

Song of the Day #1057

Song of the Day: California Dreamin', words and music by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips, was a huge 1965-66 pop hit for The Mamas and the Papas, sporting a wonderful alto flute solo by one of my all-time favorite jazz musicians: Bud Shank, who was born on this day in 1926, and became one of the finest musicians in the West Coast jazz scene. It's not a "winter's day" in Brooklyn; we've had summer-like weather for awhile. But I'm dreamin' of a particular California attraction that celebrates its 75th anniversary today: Happy Birthday to the Golden Gate Bridge! Check out the original Mamas and Papas track, and instrumental versions by Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and, yes, Bud Shank too!

May 26, 2012

Song of the Day #1056

Song of the Day: Pieces of Dreams, words by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, music by Michel Legrand, is from the 1970 film, in which the title track is sung by Peggy Lee, who was born on this date in 1920. Check out versions by Jack Jones, Shirley Bassey, Johnny Mathis (on "The Tonight Show"), Barbra Streisand, and an excerpt from Peggy Lee.

May 25, 2012

Song of the Day #1055

Song of the Day: No More Tears (Enough is Enough), words and music by Paul Jabara and Bruce Roberts, went to #1 in 1979 on the vocal strength of Two Divas kickin' butt (and a lousy man "out that door"): Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer. How appropriate that this duet, which ends our Donna Summer Tribute, contains the longest sustained note by a female artist (Streisand, 14 seconds) of any #1 hit on the Hot 100, when the song that started the tribute ("Dim All the Lights") contains the longest sustained note by a female artist (Summer, 16 seconds) of any Top 40 hit. It's hard to measure the influence of an artist on those who have followed. To be dubbed the "Queen" (not that one, great though he was) of a genre that some have viewed with disdain is a limitation, of course, because the work of Donna Summer transcended that era. Or maybe Disco itself has lived on. People stopped using the Dreaded D-Word to describe any popular dance recordings, but the genre's influence can still be heard (in house, techno. electronica and more). And Donna was The Queen; it's clear to this fan that later dance hit-makers, from Madonna to Beyonce to Lady Gaga, owe much to Her Reign. Today, after more than a week of looking back, we have "No More Tears" moving forward. And lots of dancing left to do; check out the single version, the extended version (from Streisand's "Wet" album), and the 12" extended mix (from Summer's album, "On the Radio: Greatest Hits, Volumes I & II").

May 24, 2012

Song of the Day #1054

Song of the Day: MacArthur Park, composed by Jimmy Webb, has been performed by many artists through the years, including one by an actor who first took it, in 1968, to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart: Richard Harris (whose endearing performance as Albus Dumbledore in the first two "Harry Potter" films is captured in that tribute clip). Check out these other renditions: Waylon Jennings; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Stan Kenton; Woody Herman; Maynard Ferguson (my favorite jazz instrumental version); "Weird Al" Yankovic (spoofed as "Jurassic Park"); and Carrie Underwood on "American Idol" in 2005 (see 4:03-4:36), who famously quipped that she hadn't the faintest idea what the lyrics were all about! [YouTube links]. And then there's the seminal dance version by Donna Summer, recorded initially as part of a nearly 18-minute disco epic: "MacArthur Park Suite" [YouTube link] and released in 1978 as a stand-alone #1 Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Dance Club Play single [YouTube link]. I used to chuckle when she let out that Snoopy-like cry, which kicked off the thumping disco beat (at 01:49 here), but her version will always rock my dance floor.

May 23, 2012

Song of the Day #1053

Song of the Day: On the Radio, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Donna Summer, was recorded in 1979 by the singer for the soundtrack to the film, "Foxes." It is also featured in two versions on the singer's third consecutive #1 double-album, "On the Radio: Greatest Hits, Volumes I & II" (1979). Check out the single version, the longer "Greatest Hits" version, the extended 12" version, and a really nice compilation of the theme as it is heard throughout the 1980 film.

May 22, 2012

Song of the Day #1052

Song of the Day: Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger) features the words and music of Rod Temperton, Merria Ross, and Quincy Jones, who produced the 1982 album "Donna Summer," on which this song appears. This enjoyable funky track went Top Ten on the Pop, R&B, and Dance charts. Check out the album version, the extended 12" mix, the Discotech remix, and a nice remixed cover version by Sheena Easton [YouTube links].

May 21, 2012

Song of the Day #1051

Song of the Day: She Works Hard for the Money, words and music by Donna Summer and Michael Omartian, is the title track to Summer's eleventh studio album and her biggest hit in the 1980s. It was also a #1 R&B hit, a huge pop hit in heavy rotation at the birth of New York FM Top 40 station, WHTZ (Z-100), and in heavy music video rotation on the relatively young MTV network. Check out the famed video, the album version, and an Eddie Baez remix [YouTube links].

May 20, 2012

Song of the Day #1050

Song of the Day: Bad Girls, words and music by the Brooklyn Dreams and Donna Summer, is the title track to Summer's 1979 album, which became a #1 pop, dance, and R&B smash. Check out the single version, the extended version, the famous medley with "Hot Stuff" and a nice live cover version by Jamiroquai [YouTube links].

May 19, 2012

Song of the Day #1049

Song of the Day: Hot Stuff, words and music by Pete Bellotte, Harold Faltermeyer, and Keith Forsey, is one of the "essential" Donna Summer dance hits, a rock-disco hybrid, electrified by the guitar work of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Summer got a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for this #1 hit from her 1979 album, "Bad Girls." Check out the single version, an extended version, and the Funky House Remix [YouTube links]. (And an honorable mention must go to the great Steve Allen, who did a hilarious reading of the lyrics to this song on a television special.)

May 18, 2012

Song of the Day #1048

Song of the Day: I Feel Love was written by Giorgio Moroder, Peter Bellotte, and Donna Summer, who propelled this driving synthesized track (from her 1977 album, "I Remember Yesterday") to its exalted status in dance music history, influencing later dance styles, such as house and techno. Check out the original album version, the 12" extended mix, the famous Patrick Cowley underground 15+ minute megamix, and covers by Bronski Beat, Blondie, Madonna, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

May 17, 2012

Song of the Day #1047

Song of the Day: Dim All the Lights was written and recorded by the "Queen of Disco," Donna Summer, the five-time Grammy Award winner who died today at the age of 63. Featured on her hugely successful "Bad Girls" album, this song, produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, was a massive hit in 1979. Its classic balladic intro shifts into the disco beat for which Summer was so famous. And the gal had amazing pipes; she was raised on gospel and electrified fans with her remarkably powerful vocal gifts. This particular song, for example, contains the longest sustained note in an American Top 40 hit ever sung by a female artist. Tonight, however, we "Dim All the Lights," as they do on Broadway in mournful tribute when a star dies; it is posted in genuine sorrow over the passing of a legend, whose music I've always danced to and loved. For the next few days, I will be offering a tribute in song that celebrates the continuing influence of Donna Summer on so many of the kaleidoscopic sounds of pop music to this day. Check out this selection on YouTube: the single and the classic 12" extended mix.

May 04, 2012

Song of the Day #1046

Song of the Day: Cute, composed by Neil Hefti, is one of those familiar tracks that has been heard everywhere, thanks to the famous chart Hefti wrote for the Count Basie Orchestra, featuring the fabulous fills of drummer Sonny Payne, who was born on this date in 1926. The most memorable cinematic treatment of this tune, where one can see Music as Comedy and Comedy as Music, can be found in "Cinderfella"; watch how Jerry Lewis Does the Dishes.

April 29, 2012

Song of the Day #1045

Song of the Day: Keep On features the words and music of Hubert Eves III and James Williams of D-Train. The group scored a huge R&B and Hot Dance Club hit with this track. I highlight it today because it was the kind of groove in heavy rotation on one of my favorite urban contemporary FM stations of all-time: WRKS-FM (98.7 FM). Today is the last day that this FM station will broadcast; it merges with that other great urban contemporary FM outlet, WBLS-FM (107.5), making way for an ESPN sports station that has been broadcasting on 1050 AM (it will, for now. simulcast). KISS-FM was well known for its unforgettable Mastermixes (one of which I've already featured: "Must Be the Music"). So today, in tribute to KISS-FM, check out the classic Shep Pettibone Mastermix [YouTube link] heard on a station that I will truly miss. Keep keepin' on.

April 24, 2012

Song of the Day #1044

Song of the Day: Free Again (Non C'est Rien), music by Armand Canfora and Joss Baselli, French lyrics by Michel Jourdan, English lyrics by Robert Colby, is featured on "Je m'appelle Barbra" (1966), the eighth studio album of Barbra Streisand, who, today, turns 70. The album was arranged and conducted by the great Michel Legrand, who, on February 24th, turned 80 (a belated Happy Birthday to Le Grand Michel!). Listen to the English-language version of the song from the album, and the French-language version of the song [YouTube links], which was introduced on Streisand's third TV special, "Color Me Barbra" (which first aired on CBS on 30 March 1966). This is vintage Barbra; she remains one of my all-time favorite artists and one of the most accomplished artists of her generation. Happy Birthday, Funny Girl! Forgive me, I'm getting a little Verklempt!

April 18, 2012

Song of the Day #1043

Song of the Day: Forget Me Nots, words and music by Terri McFaddin, bassist Freddy Washington, and singer and pianist Patrice Rushen, received a Grammy nomination for "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance." This pop, R&B and dance hit from Rushen's album, "Straight from the Heart," includes a nice sax solo by Gerald Albright. The song has been covered and sampled by several artists (most famously, Will Smith for "Men in Black" [YouTube link]), but Patrice's version is tops for pure finger-poppin' pleasure. Check out her music video, the album version, the 12" dance mix, and a really jazzy live 2009 performance with guitarist Lee Ritenour at North Sea Jazz [YouTube links]. On a day when we lost "America's oldest teenager," at 82 years of age, we pause to celebrate the life of the irreplaceable Dick Clark, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who helped us embrace the promise of every new year with his New Year's Rockin' Eve specials, and who gave us countless productions and television shows, including the trailblazing "American Bandstand," on which Patrice Rushen performed this song (Season 25, Episode 29, airdate: 29 May 1982). We forget you not ... ever!

April 15, 2012

Song of the Day #1040

Song of the Day: Raise the Titanic ("Suite") [YouTube clip at that link; Nic Raine, conductor], composed by the great John Barry for the 1980 film, "Raise the Titanic," gives us a kaleidoscope of the majestic, the poignant, and the reverent. On this date, at 2:20 a.m. UTC-3 ship's time, the Titanic sunk, having struck an iceberg, en route to New York harbor. Its survivors, aboard the Carpathia, would arrive at that harbor by 18 April 1912, greeted by tens of thousands of New Yorkers (check out an interesting 1929 flick: Titanic, Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube). They may never "Raise the Titanic," but this act of "raising," of "resurrecting," is appropriately noted on a day that Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter with the phrase "Christos Anesti" ("Christ is Risen"). We raise the spirit by keeping the memory of Titanic, resurrecting its history and meaning, even in song. And so ends our 6-day tribute on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its sinking.

April 14, 2012

Song of the Day #1039

Song of the Day: Titanic: A New Musical ("In Every Age"), words and music by Maury Yeston, opened on Broadway in 1997 and went on to receive five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Check out the Broadway cast album version [YouTube link]. My favorite version of this song, however, is a jazz interpretation by guitarist Frank DiBussolo. It can be found on his really nice 1998 album, "Titanic: A New Musical" [the amazon.com link provides a small sample of the piece]. So many other Titanic music projects are available and worthy of attention: "Disasters! The Disaster Movie Music Album" and "Titanic: The Ultimate Collection," both of which offer selections from several Titanic-inspired films; the lovely Alberto Iglesias soundtrack to "La Camarera del Titanic"; and a stupendous 4-disc set, "Titanic: Collector's Anniversary Edition," featuring James Horner's magnificent Oscar-winning score to the Cameron-directed film, which includes remastered versions of the two previous "Titanic" soundtrack albums, and 2 extra discs of music from the period (not to mention great liner notes and Titanic-White Star replica luggage tickets). Tonight, ABC presents the first part of a new miniseries, "Titanic," written by Julian Fellowes, co-creator of "Downton Abbey." Another 12-part BBC miniseries is forthcoming: "Titanic: Blood and Steel." It was on this date, at 11:40 pm, UTC-3 ship's time, that Titanic struck an iceberg. In a little more than 2 hours, it would sink.

April 13, 2012

Song of the Day #1038

Song of the Day: The Unsinkable Molly Brown ("I Ain't Down Yet"), words and music by Meredith Wilson, is featured in the 1960 Broadway musical, in which the lead character was played by Tammy Grimes, who won the 1961 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress. The 1964 cinematic adaptation garnered six Oscar nominations, including a Best Actress nomination for Debbie Reynolds who became the feisty Molly Brown on screen. Born Margaret, though her friends called her Maggie, she is known to history as Molly. A traveler on the Titanic, she was the quintessential strong woman and suffragist who, in Lifeboat No. 6, exhorted the crew to return to the waters of death, in search of survivors. On screen, so many have portrayed her, including: the independent, playful, and feisty Kathy Bates in the 1997 Cameron blockbuster; the ever-effervescent Thelma Ritter, who is named "Maude Young" but is clearly Molly, in the 1953 film, "Titanic"; and Cloris Leachman played her twice: as Maggie Brown in a 1950s dramatization for "Television Time" [YouTube link to that episode], and in the television movie, "S.O.S. Titanic". Molly Brown survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic. No wonder the character sings this song as a celebration of The Unsinkable. No better day to note it than on Friday the 13th, which happens to be both Good Friday for the Eastern Orthodox and Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Check out Tammy Grimes in the Broadway cast version [amazon.com sample] and, my favorite, Debbie Reynolds from the film version and (watch her inspire Titanic lifeboat survivors) [YouTube links]. You'll be singing: "Told Ya So! Told Ya So! Told Ya, Told Ya, Told Ya So!"

April 12, 2012

Song of the Day #1087

Song of the Day: Titanic ("Main Title") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Lennie Niehaus, opens the 1996 4-hour CBS miniseries, starring Peter Gallagher, George C. Scott, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Eva Marie Saint. The theme manages to capture the grandiosity of the ship, while allowing us to reflect upon the ominous events yet to come.

April 11, 2012

Song of the Day #1086

Song of the Day: Titanic ("Main Title") [YouTube link to the film trailer], composed by Sol Kaplan (under the musical direction of Lionel Newman), is from the 1953 American film drama starring Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck. The film won a single Oscar, for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. On April 11, 1912, one hundred years ago today, Titanic stopped in Queenstown, Ireland before embarking on its fateful voyage to America. This fine movie begins on YouTube here, and the "Main Title" is contained therein.

April 10, 2012

Song of the Day #1085

Song of the Day: A Night to Remember ("Main Title") [not that one], composed by William Alwyn, opens the very fine 1958 British film adaptation of Walter Lord's famous book of the same name (some of the film is available on YouTube). This particular cinematic take on one of the most definitive 20th century catastrophes stars Kenneth More, who, for me, is best remembered for his role as Young Jolyon in the great BBC series, "The Forsyte Saga" (1967). One hundred years ago on this date, Titanic began its journey, leaving Southampton in England and stopping in Cherbourg Harbor, France. Today begins our own six-day tribute to the fateful maiden voyage of Titanic. Among the multitude of provocative books on the subject is one written by my colleague and very dear friend, Stephen Cox, entitled The Titanic Story: Hard Choices, Dangerous Decisions (1999). So much music and so many films have also been inspired by this tragic event, starting with a 1912 newsreel [YouTube link], featuring its own poignant piano accompaniment. Cinematic presentations by filmmakers the world over have been presented throughout this past century: even the Nazis produced a movie, portraying the disaster as the inexorable result of sinister British capitalist greed (that 1943 German "Titanic" is actually pretty good as a film; some of its frames may have been used, without credit, in the 1958 British film highlighted here). As film scores go, I will never forget the great James Horner score to my favorite "Titanic" film of all time, directed by James Cameron. The 11-Oscar Award-winning "Best Picture" has now been re-released to theaters in 3D to mark the centennial occasion. Today, however, we turn to the majestic opening of "A Night to Remember" on YouTube, as we begin our own voyage into history, film, and music.

April 01, 2012

Song of the Day #1076

Song of the Day: What a Fool Believes, words and music by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, won a 1979 Grammy Award for "Record of the Year" for The Doobie Brothers. The song was featured on their album "Minute By Minute" (their original drummer, Michael Hossack, passed away last month). Michael McDonald sings lead on that recording and one of the backup singers may have been Michael Jackson [YouTube link]. One of the few #1 non-disco hits of that year, it was remixed at the time by Jim Burgess for the dance floor [YouTube link] and has been remixed several times since [YouTube links]. But check out YouTube for the Grammy-winning original, a Kenny Loggins version (released on "Nightwatch," five months prior to the Doobie Brothers' rendition), a nice 1993 live duet by its songwriters featured on "Outside: From the Redwoods" and, finally, a rendition by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin [YouTube links]. Only a fool would believe that I would only post this particular song on this particular day. But it really is one of my favorites!

March 16, 2012

Song of the Day #1060

Song of the Day: The Typewriter, composed by Leroy Anderson, is one of those twentieth-century orchestral pieces that brings a smile to one's face. Today, it's posted in honor of the birthday of a comedic genius, Jerry Lewis, who was born on this date in 1926. If part of comedy is timing, then here is Exhibit A on the wonder of exquisite timing: Jerry Lewis performing this piece, from the 1963 film "Who's Minding the Store?" and also on the Colgate Comedy Hour. Happy Birthday to one of the greats!

March 13, 2012

Song of the Day #1057

Song of the Day: Stay with Me Tonight, words and music by recently deceased Brooklyn Technical High School graduate Raymond E. Jones, was a huge R&B hit for the talented musician Jeffrey Osborne, the title track of his terrific 1983 solo album. Check out this smooth and funky track on YouTube and the extended remix as well.

March 11, 2012

Song of the Day #1055

Song of the Day: Runaway Baby, words and music by Bruno Mars and Brody Brown, is featured on "Doo-Wops and Hooligans," the debut album of the talented Bruno Mars, who has dashes of Little Richard, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson in him. This song [YouTube link] harks back to old time rock 'n roll. His performance of the song on "The X Factor" [YouTube link] and on the 2012 Grammy Awards [YouTube link] show off his James Brown moves, his infectious energy, and his indisputable charm. At the Grammy's, he also gave a shout-out tribute to Whitney Houston. And he routinely tributes Michael Jackson, another pop legend gone too soon; check out YouTube links to his performances of "I Want You Back," "Billie Jean," "Beat It," "The Way You Make Me Feel," and "Dirty Diana."

March 10, 2012

Song of the Day #1054

Song of the Day: It's Not Right But It's Okay, words and music by LaShawn Daniels, Rodney Jerkins, Fred Jerkins III, Isaac Phillips, and Toni Estes, is featured on the 1998 Whitney Houston album, "My Love Is Your Love." My all-time favorite uptempo Whitney track remains "Love Will Save the Day," especially the original album version (check out, as well, the Disconet remix, which builds on the original). And my all-time favorite Whitney ballad is "Saving All My Love for You," with "I Have Nothing" a close second. But this one is my absolute all-time favorite dance remix of any Whitney Houston song. The original track [YouTube link] is transformed into a scalding #1 Billboard dance chart hit by Thunderpuss [YouTube link], a testament to the raw power of a well-done remix, the sheer talent of a remixer, and a stellar example of the reason for having a non-classical Grammy remix category. As we close out our Whitney Houston dance music tribute, check out these various greatest hits medleys, which include some very popular songs not highlighted here over the past 10 days: the 1988 Whitney Houston Disconet Medley, another 1980s medley, the 2008 lovetoinfinitymegamix, the 2009 Ulti Megamix, the x2party megamix, the 2011 D.G. Megamix Medley, and another Megamix, Part 1 and Part 2. Excuse me now, 'cuz "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." RIP, Whitney.

March 09, 2012

Song of the Day #1053

Song of the Day: Million Dollar Bill, words and music by Alicia Keys, Kasseem "Swizz Beatz" Dean, and Norman Harris, is a song from Whitney Houston's seventh and final studio album, "I Look To You." A sample from "We're Getting Stronger" by Loleatta Holloway [YouTube link] is featured in the original mix; check out a really nice Freemasons Club Mix as well.

March 08, 2012

Song of the Day #1052

Song of the Day: Same Script, Different Cast, words and music by Stacey "Dove" Daniels, Shae Jones, Anthony "Shep" Crawford, and Montell Jordan, is a supreme Diva Duet from "Whitney: The Greatest Hits" (2000), featuring Whitney Houston and Deborah Cox [nice link where Cox reminisces about Houston]. Sporting a Fur Elise sample is the original mix [YouTube link]; also check out the Jonathan Peters Vocal Club Mix, which helped to propel the track to #4 on the Billboard Dance Chart.

March 07, 2012

Song of the Day #1051

Song of the Day: If I Told You That, words and music by LaShawn Daniels, Rodney Jerkins, Fred Jerkins III, and Toni Estes, is a duet by Whitney Houston and George Michael. The original version of this song [YouTube link] appeared on "My Love is Your Love," as a solo Whitney track. But the duet featured on "Whitney: The Greatest Hits" (2000) provided nice interplay between the two artists. This particular track never scored on the Billboard Dance Chart, but its "sleaze-beat" (a slower but still very danceable Beats-Per-Minute tempo) provides a lot of chill spaces for sexy moving. Check out the video, the smooth Johnny Douglas Mix, and Nic Mercy's Bavaro Beat Mix.

March 06, 2012

Song of the Day #1050

Song of the Day: Could I Have This Kiss Forever, words and music by Diane Warren, a duet by Whitney Houston and Enrique Iglesias, is a Latin-tinged dance track from "Whitney: The Greatest Hits" (2000). The original track never hit the Billboard Dance Chart, but it provides the kind of chill rhythmic pulse best for sensual dancing. Check out the original video version, the Tin Tin Out Mix, and the housed-up HQ Video Club Mix.

March 05, 2012

Song of the Day #1049

Song of the Day: It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Never Gonna Be, words and music by Diane Warren and Albert Hammond, is a fun 1989 duet featuring Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin, from the latter's album, "Through the Storm." For the next few days, we turn to a few of my favorite beat-friendly duets in the Whitney canon. Check out the New Jack Swing feel of the original and the remix, and the 1999 Nic Mercy house remix.

March 04, 2012

Song of the Day #1048

Song of the Day: I Learned from the Best, words and music by Diane Warren, appeared as a ballad [YouTube link] on the artist's fourth studio album, "My Love is Your Love." But slammin' remixes by Hex Hector [YouTube link] and Junior Vasquez [YouTube link to the Disco Club Mix] (for which Houston re-recorded her vocals) propelled the track to #1 on the Billboard dance chart.

March 03, 2012

Song of the Day #1047

Song of the Day: I'm Your Baby Tonight, words, music, and production by L. A. Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, is the finger poppin' title track to Whitney Houston's third album and the artist's 8th #1 pop hit. Now, while I'm often a lover of remixes, this track's dance remix [YouTube link] just does not compare to the original album mix [YouTube link], with its slick shuffle beat.

March 02, 2012

Song of the Day #1046

Song of the Day: So Emotional, words and music by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, was a #1 dance hit from Whitney Houston's second album. Check out the official music video, the original 12" extended remix, the David Morales Club Mix, the mammoth 11+ minute David Morales Emotional Club Mix (from "Whitney: The Unreleased Mixes") and a mash-up with "Black or White," by the late Michael Jackson. This was a memorable track that I mixed and remixed at weddings, engagement parties, bar mitzvahs and class reunions, when I was a mobile DJ, or, uh, "Dr. DJ," as they used to call me. "Ain't it shocking what love can do."

March 01, 2012

Song of the Day #1045

Song of the Day: Thinking About You, words and music by Kashif and La La, was a Top Ten R&B radio hit (not released to pop radio), and the first song by Whitney Houston to score on the Billboard dance chart, peaking at #24. It was featured on the artist's self-titled debut album. Houston passed away last month, and many have paid tribute to her in the weeks since. Today begins my own 10-day tribute. These are some of my Whitney favorites, with a twist. The artist was very well known for her power ballads. But we'll be "thinking about you," Whitney (and your cast of producers and remixers), and some of the great dance music moments you gave us. Having done a lot of DJ'ing back in the day, I spun Whitney's tracks on my turntables regularly, packing many a dance floor. This particular track can be heard in its wonderfully rhythmic original album version, a Bruce Forest extended dance mix, Ricky Be's Hard House and Trance remix, and the M-phasis RMX.

February 12, 2012

Song of the Day #1027

Song of the Day: I'm Every Woman, words and music by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, was a huge hit in 1978 for Chaka Khan. A #1 R&B track, the record peaked at #21 on the pop chart. It was reprised by Whitney Houston, who performed it in the 1992 film, "The Bodyguard," in which she co-starred with Kevin Costner. The song went to #4 on the pop chart and was a #1 Dance Club Hit. The soundtrack album won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, sporting Whitney's cover of "I Will Always Love You," which went on to win "Record of the Year," while Whitney herself captured the "Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female." Check out Chaka's original version here, a terrific remix from her 1989 album, "Life is a Dance," and, finally, Whitney Houston's remake, in which she gives a shout-out to Chaka as the song fades out. Tonight, tune in and see who the new winners are at the 54th Grammy Awards. And remember multiple-Grammy Award-winning singer, Whitney Houston, who passed away yesterday at the age of 48.

October 28, 2011

Song of the Day #1008

Song of the Day: The Lady is a Tramp, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart, made its debut in the 1937 Broadway smash, "Babes in Arms," which featured the choreography of George Balanchine. This famous Rodgers and Hart song, performed in the original musical by Mitzi Green, spoofs New York high society. The song can be found in several films as well: as background music in the 1939 film version, performed by Lena Horne in the 1948 film "Words and Music" (YouTube clip) and by Frank Sinatra in the 1957 film, "Pal Joey," singing to Rita Hayworth (YouTube clip). Check out these other clips: Tommy Dorsey (with singer Edythe Wright), Sophie Tucker, Ol' Blue Eyes again, swingin' at Caesar's Palace in 1978 and with Ella Fitzgerald, and, most recently, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, featured on "Duets II," the highest debuting #1 Billboard album by the oldest living artist. Bennett may have turned 85 in August, but on this date, 125 years ago, the Statue of Liberty opened in New York Harbor. "This chick is a champ" with a lamp, which is why she's getting a Fireworks Celebration Tonight! Happy 125th birthday, Lady Liberty!

October 15, 2011

Song of the Day #1005

Song of the Day: I Fall to Pieces, words and music by Garland Perry "Hank" Cochran and Harlan Perry Howard, was the first #1 Country Hit by the immortal Patsy Cline. It was released on 30 January 1961, three days after Dr. Franklin Edward Kameny submitted a petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court to review his case, Kameny v. Brucker, which protested the U.S. Army's unjust dismissal of him in 1957 from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service for being gay. He lost the case, but not the cause. Frank was an indefatigable warrior, a great trailblazer, on behalf of individual rights. I corresponded with him a few times over the years; he may have been known for his thunderous style, but I was always warmed by his gentility. So it's no wonder that many of us fall to pieces over his passing at the age of 86 on 11 October 2011. Check out Patsy Cline on YouTube.

September 11, 2011

WTC Remembrance: Ten Years Later

This year, my annual September 11 remembrance continues: "Ten Years Later."

On the 10th anniversary of that day, I revisit those individuals whom I interviewed over the past decade. As I write:

Ten years ago on this day, the city of my birth, the place that I still call home, was attacked in a way that has left the kinds of emotional scars none of us ever imagined even remotely possible in twenty-first century New York.
There had been Nostradamus-type warnings of disaster at the turn of the century, but when Times Square greeted 1 January 2000 with no Y2K apocalypse apparent, there was a sense that we were on the precipice of something epic. The end of the twentieth century, the bloodiest in human history, brought signs of real change, after all. When my 70s' high school classmates signed my yearbook with comments like "Love you, till the Berlin Wall falls!," there was such a sense of permanency in the inscription that nobody even thought to question its relative transience. The Berlin Wall did fall, the USSR dissolved, the Cold War ended. What could possibly go wrong for those of us who awoke on September 11, 2001 to a beautiful, cloudless, sky-blue, late summer morning?
When human ash rained down on my Brooklyn street, when the acrid smell of death stayed with us for what seemed like months, we knew that something epic had, indeed, happened.
Now, ten years later, a new "permanency" is emergent. A generation of kids has grown up with war as a natural part of their global landscape. It wouldn't surprise me if some of these kids—those who started kindergarten, first or second grade in September 2001—will soon be signing their high school yearbooks with the inscription: "Love you, till the War on Terror ends!"
But if the twentieth century taught us anything, it is that permanency is overrated.
And yet, there is something achingly permanent about these scars. Each individual, or at least each individual who experienced that day, and who has lived in the metaphorical and literal shadow of Ground Zero, bears spiritual (and, for some, physical) scars. Time may be a Mederma of the spirit, but the scars have never truly disappeared. They are now a natural part of each individual's own personal landscape.


The essay continues here.

Though the newest installment includes links to all the previous installments, I provide this index for ease of reference:

2001: As It Happened . . .
2002: New York, New York
2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute
2004: My Friend Ray
2005: Patrick Burke, Educator
2006: Cousin Scott
2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild
2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter
2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves
2010: Tim Drinan, Student
2011: Ten Years Later

Never Forget.

August 29, 2011

Song of the Day #999

Song of the Day: All of Me, words and music by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons, was featured in many renditions on the radio show of Danny Stiles, "The King of Nostalgia," "The Vicar of Vintage Vinyl," who passed away back on March 11, 2011. Today, we remember the stylish Stiles, who gave all of himself to the cause of preserving great American standards. Check out these performances: Ruth Etting, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington live "Jazz on a Summer's Day," Lester Young and Teddy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, the very Sassy Sarah Vaughan, Willie Nelson, John Pizzarelli, Tal Farlow and Red Norvo, Frank Sinatra swingin' at Caesar's Palace, and the one and only Pops with Chops: Louis Armstrong (all YouTube clips).

August 26, 2011

Song of the Day #996

Song of the Day: Found a Cure, a #1 dance track from 1979, was written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. It appears on the Ashford & Simpson album, "Stay Free." Ashford passed away on 22 August 2011. But he left behind a musical legacy that still provides the cure; listen to the energetic, soulful 12" remix on YouTube.

August 22, 2011

Song of the Day #993

Song of the Day: It's a Man's Man's Man's World features the words and music of Betty Jean Newsome and the one and only James Brown, whose recording of the song was a huge hit on both the R&B and pop charts. Listen to two versions by Brown: the original, a jazz-influenced reworking from "Soul on Top" with the swingin' Louis Bellson Orchestra (both YouTube links), and two versions that invert the imagery: one finely orchestrated, grinding rendition by Cher (YouTube link), and a totally deconstructed powerhouse live performance at the 2007 Grammy Awards by Christina Aguilera (YouTube link). Aguilera is a Staten Island native, which is all the more appropriate today, as the NYC borough marks the 350th anniversary of its founding in 1661. Happy Birthday, Staten Island!

August 18, 2011

Song of the Day #991

Song of the Day: There Must Be a Way, music by David Saxon, lyrics by Robert Cook and Sammy Gallop, was a big 1967 hit for Jimmy Roselli, who passed away on June 30, 2011. Check out the original Roselli 45 on YouTube, and also versions by Joni James, Louis Armstrong, and the Great One, Jackie Gleason.

July 06, 2011

Song of the Day #989

Song of the Day: WNEW (Theme Song), composed by Larry Green, is one of the most famous station-identification themes in radio history. I note it today in tribute to the late William B. Williams, on whose show one heard this theme music frequently. In 1958, Williams took over hosting duties for the "Make Believe Ballroom," a radio show created in 1935 by Martin Block for WNEW-AM, 1130 in New York. For his incredible work in radio, Williams was recently inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. He was the man who nicknamed Francis Albert Sinatra, "The Chairman of The Board" (links to a two-part Williams interview of Sinatra). Growing up, I regularly heard Williams' wonderful, soothing voice introducing the Great American songbook to his listeners, day after day. And this theme song, which was even recorded in 1964 by Stan Getz and Bill Evans) was omnipresent. Go to YouTube to listen to the original radio version and its countless variations, including this one and that one, and those inspired by holidays and seasons (Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer), and those done in the styles of Ray Anthony, Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, Les Baxter, Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, Ray Conniff, Martin Denny, Les and Larry Elgart, Erroll Garner, Benny Goodman, Neil Hefti, Al Hirt, Jazz Piano, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Spike Jones, Stan Kenton, Guy Lombardo, Henry Mancini, Billy May, Glenn Miller, Gerry Mulligan, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Nat Pierce, Perez Prado, Andre Previn, Nelson Riddle, Pete Rugolo, Lalo Schifrin, George Shearing, Felix Slatkin, Bob Thompson, and Kai Winding, and then check out our host with Nat King Cole and this specially-worded tribute to William B. Williams.

June 30, 2011

John Hospers, RIP

Philosopher John Hospers passed away on June 12, 2011. John was known for his work on libertarianism, and for being the first Presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party (and the only LP candidate to date, to receive, in 1972, with his running mate Tonie Nathan, an electoral vote from a rogue elector, Roger McBride, who, himself, went on to be an LP Presidential candidate 4 years later).

To me, John was a gentle man, a friend, and a colleague. He gave me much encouragement and support when I was writing my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and he was among the founding Advisory Board members of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

June 29, 2011

Song of the Day #986

Song of the Day: The Day the Earth Stood Still ("Prelude") [YouTube clip of opening credits at that link] was composed by the immortal New York-born Bernard Herrmann, the centenary of whose birth we celebrate today. The score for this classic science fiction film was remarkable for its revolutionary use of the theremin. Viva Herrmann!

June 28, 2011

Song of the Day #985

Song of the Day: I Can't Get Next to You, words and music by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, recorded by The Temptations, was one of the choice #1 Motown hits featured in the 1969 Stonewall Inn jukebox, when it was raided by police on the 28th of June. Now, with gay marriage having been approved in New York State, the events of that night seem as if they happened in an almost alien culture. But I still salute the bravery of those who fought back in that Greenwich Village bar 32 years ago. Listen to this classic song on YouTube.

June 27, 2011

Song of the Day #984

Song of the Day: Perry Mason ("Park Avenue Beat") [YouTube clip at that link] was composed by Fred Steiner, who passed away on 23 June 2011. This was the iconic theme song for the famous television series, featuring Raymond Burr in the title role.

June 26, 2011

Song of the Day #983

Song of the Day: Pocketful of Miracles ("Title Song"), music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, received a "Best Original Song" Academy Award nomination in 1961. The song was featured in the utterly hilarious 1961 film, starring the great Bette Davis, Glenn Ford, and the magnificent Peter Falk (who received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his hyper-comedic turn as Joy Boy). Whatever role he played (including the classic Lieutenant Columbo), Falk entertained as if it were "Christmas Every Day." Sadly, he passed away on 23 June 2011. Take a look at the opening credits choral version of this song (YouTube video at that link) and one by Francis Albert Sinatra (another YouTube link), who, it is said, was originally slated to play Dave the Dude, prior to the casting of Glenn Ford.

June 25, 2011

Song of the Day #982

Song of the Day: Get On the Floor features the words and music of Louis Johnson (of The Brothers Johnson) and Michael Jackson, who passed away two years ago on this date.  A sweet disco track from the trailblazing album, "Off the Wall," it is given a YouTube tribute here.

May 01, 2011

Song of the Day #981

Song of the Day: I'm Glad There Is You, words and music by Jimmy Dorsey and Paul Madeira (aka Paul Mertz). is a perfect song to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the opening of the Empire State Building, my favorite of all NYC skyscrapers. Extraordinary you are, the King Kong of all buildings: I'm Glad There is You, still You, always ... You. Happy Birthday! And listen to Old Blue Eyes on YouTube.

March 25, 2011

Song of the Day #980

Song of the Day: Love Sensation, written by Dan Hartman, was sung by roof-raising Disco Diva Loleatta Holloway, who passed away at the age of 64 on 21 March 2011. This 1980 #1 Billboard Dance Single is one of the most sampled tracks in dance music history. Its trademark sounds can be heard on recordings such as "Ride on Time" by Black Box and "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark (Wahlberg) and the Funky Bunch (YouTube clips at those links). Check out the classic Shep Pettibone Mix on YouTube.

March 23, 2011

Song of the Day #979

Song of the Day: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ("Main Title") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by the great Alex North, opens the 1966 film featuring tour de force performances from each of its actors: Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis (Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner), and Elizabeth Taylor, who won a much-deserved Best Actress Oscar, and who passed away today at the age of 79.

March 02, 2011

Song of the Day #978

Song of the Day: Baker Street features the words, lyrics, and performance of Gerry Rafferty, who passed away on 4 January 2011. Spotlighting the saxophone of Raphael Ravenscroft, it's a late 70s pop gem. Check out the full Rafferty version on YouTube and, among the many covers of this song, one by the Foo Fighters.

February 20, 2011

Song of the Day #976

Song of the Day: Spartacus ("Hopeful Preparations"/"Vesuvius Camp") [audio clip at that link] is featured in the Alex North soundtrack masterpiece from the inspiring and thrilling 1960 film, starring Kirk Douglas in the title role. This particular track is part of a new and absolutely stupendous deluxe CD soundtrack released by Varese Sarabande, in centenary celebration of North (who was born on 4 December 1910). The deluxe set also includes a poignant CD featuring timeless interpretations of the classic love theme, with artists as diverse as Bill Evans and Carlos Santana.

February 18, 2011

Song of the Day #975

Song of the Day: Ride 'Em Cowboy ("I'll Remember April"), music by Gene de Paul, lyrics by Patricia Johnston and Don Raye, was first heard in the hilarious 1942 Abbott and Costello film, "Ride 'Em Cowboy," where it was performed by Dick Foran (YouTube film clip at that link). Other classic renditions have been performed by the very Sassy Swinging Scatting Sarah Vaughan (YouTube link) and the late, great pianist George Shearing (YouTube link), who just passed away on Valentine's Day. (And while I could have posted this in, uh, April, this great song makes my list in Movie Music February, with temperatures reaching the very April-ish 60s in snow-weary New York City!)

February 01, 2011

Song of the Day #965

Song of the Day #965: Thunderball ("Main Title"), words by Don Black, music by five-time Oscar winner John Barry, is the title track to one of the classic James Bond films. In honor of the late, great John Barry, check out YouTube, featuring the powerful vocals of Tom Jones. No better time to kick off our Our Annual Movie Music Tribute Series than to feature this Barry gem.

January 14, 2011

Song of the Day #964

Song of the Day: Square Biz was written by Allen McGrier and R&B singer Teena Marie, the "ivory queen of soul," who passed away on 26 December 2010. Check out this funky gem on YouTube.

January 13, 2011

Song of the Day #963

Song of the Day: That Old Black Magic, music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer has been performed so many times by so many artists, including Glenn Miller (with vocalist Skip Nelson), Frank Sinatra (who swings it too), Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Marilyn Monroe (in the film "Bus Stop"), Louis Prima and Keely Smith, and, in a Delirious Disco Spin, Sammy Davis, Jr. (YouTube moments at each of those links). It was also a 1942 hit for the recently deceased Margaret Whiting and the Freddie Slack Orchestra (YouTube link).

September 11, 2010

WTC Remembrance: Tim Drinan, Student

This year, as we mark the 9th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, I have posted the newest installment of my annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center": "Tim Drinan, Student."

It focuses on Tim Drinan, who, on 9/11/01, was a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School, which was close to the site of the Twin Towers.

For those who would like to read previous installments in the series, here is an index:

2001: As It Happened
2002: New York, New York
2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute
2004: My Friend Ray
2005: Patrick Burke, Educator
2006: Cousin Scott
2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild
2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter
2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

July 18, 2010

Song of the Day #955

Song of the Day: Time Remembered [YouTube clip at that link] is a magnificent composition written and performed by the timeless jazz pianist Bill Evans. It is posted in remembrance, today, of two members of the New York Yankees family who passed away last week: "The Voice of God" Bob Sheppard and the Boss, George Steinbrenner.

June 29, 2010

Song of the Day #954

Song of the Day: Baby It's Cold Outside features the words and music of the great Frank Loesser, who was born 100 years ago today. This Academy Award winner was heard in the film, "Neptune's Daughter," but it always makes me think of the Christmas season. It has been recorded by many artists.  Take a look on YouTube at versions by Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark, Dean Martin, and Natalie Cole and James Taylor.

January 28, 2010

Song of the Day #947

Song of the Day: Improvisation #2 features the immortal gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, the centennial of whose birth (on 23 January 1910) we celebrate. Though well known for his work with the great jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli in the magnificent swing ensemble, Quintette du Hot Club de France, this particular track shows off the master stylist in a solo setting. Check out a YouTube excerpt, even if the video cuts the last part of the original recording. Long live Django! And a belated Happy New Year to All!

December 04, 2009

Song of the Day #945

Song of the Day: Inventions (full version at that link) is a composition by the band Maserati. A stand-out from the band's album, Inventions for the New Season, the track has also been creatively remixed. Take a look at two YouTube moments: this clip of a live version from the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia, and this clip from San Antonio, Texas, recorded on 18 October 2009. The latter clip is all the more poignant to watch because it was recorded by the ensemble just weeks before the tragic untimely passing on 8 November 2009 of Brooklyn-based drummer extraordinaire Jerry Fuchs. Fuchs had worked prolifically with such bands as LCD Soundsystem, !!! (pronounced "chk, chk, chk"), and The Juan Maclean. I never met him, but I had heard wonderful things about him from those who knew him. His passionate devotion to his craft is evident in the remarkable musical legacy he has left behind.

November 18, 2009

Song of the Day #944

Song of the Day: And the Angels Sing features the music of trumpeter Ziggy Elman and the lyrics of Johnny Mercer, who was born 100 years ago today. The most famous version of this song was recorded by the Benny Goodman<