JANUARY 30, 2019
On January 26, 2019, the world lost a gifted composer, musician, arranger, and conductor: Michel Legrand. I offered my thoughts in a tribute to the maestro on that day. I was asked by several people if I would not mind providing an index to the various Legrand compositions that I've highlighted over the years. There are scores of songs in "My Favorite Songs" that provide us with Legrand renditions of non-Legrand compositions (most from the Great American Songbook). This list is limited just to Legrand compositions performed by Legrand, other instrumentalists, or singers with whom Legrand collaborated.
These are Notablog entries, wherein you should find a link to the full song or an excerpt (since in the old days, you couldn't get anything but an excerpt off the Internet):
Brian's Song [13 September 2007]
Cinq Jours en Juin [24 February 2017]
Dingo (Paris Walking II) [24 February 2018]
How Do You Keep the Music Playing? [18 March 2005]
Images [16 January 2005] (but go here as well)
I Will Say Goodbye [16 July 2014]
Monsanto Legrand Jazz Interlude [19 September 2013] (This particular tune was recorded by me when I was 12 years old on an audio cassette recorder placed close to the TV speaker; it features such musicians as Stan Getz, J. J. Johnson, and Dave Grusin, and was recorded off of a 1972 Monsanto-sponsored special on Michel Legrand, which is not available anywhere except the Library of Congress and on my site. My version includes my brother's dog Shannon, who barks in the middle of the bass solo.)
Never Say Never Again ("Main Title") [24 February 2014]
Once Upon a Summertime [22 June 2006]
Once You've Been in Love [13
Paris Was Made for Lovers [15 November 2015]
The Summer Knows [20 September 2004]
Summer Me, Winter Me [21 June 2007]
The Thomas Crown Affair ("Chess Scene") [14 February 2018]
What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? [1 September 2004] This was the very first song on the list that became "My Favorite Songs."
You Must Believe In Spring [20 March 2005]
This is just a small sample of Legrand's magic; I will be featuring his work for many years to come. Watch this space. For now, just enjoy the music!
Postscript: Check out this wonderful essay by Howard Reich on The Sublime Poetry of Michel Legrand's Film Music" and this Guardian interview.
JANUARY 29, 2019
Song of the Day: Baby,
Come to Me, composed by Rod
Temperton, and produced by Quincy
of them at the top of their craft, made its debut on "Every
Home Should Have One," a 1981 Patti
Austin album, in which Patti duets
Ingram, who died
today at the age of 66. Ironically, there is a connection between Ingram and Michel
Legrand, who I honored
in a tribute on January 26, 2019, when
he passed away. Ingram
sang with Austin on the first recorded rendition of the
Legrand-Bergmans' Oscar-nominated song, "How
Do You Keep the Music Playing?" [YouTube link], from the 1982 film, "Best
Friends." Today's "Song of the Day" duet, which predates the film
duet, only reached #72 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1982. But it was
regularly heard by fans of the ABC soap opera hit, "General
Hospital," as the love theme for the character Luke Spencer, and in October 1982, it was re-released, reaching #1 by February 1983 on the Hot 100 chart. Check out the lovely single [YouTube link]. RIP, James. Your velvety voice will be missed.
I just listened to a nearly two-hour podcast interview with William Gillis and my dear friend Ryan Neugebauer on the subject of anarchism, a broadcast of "Who Shaves the Barber?" [YouTube link to interview], hosted by William Nava.
I really enjoyed it; it raises lots of questions that, in my view, continue to point to a much more nuanced, dialectical understanding of the nature of social change. I've written in the past about how libertarians of whatever variety, be they "minarchists" or "anarchists", need to avoid the pitfalls of what I have denigrated as utopian thinking: the belief that all we need to do is get rid of the state (or "minimize" it) and life will be Heaven. These gents are clearly aware of the wider issues of social oppression that make a strictly 'political' stance little more than a 'one-dimensional' view of human freedom.
This topic, in particular, is going to be thrashed about quite a bit among several contributors to the forthcoming volume that I am co-editing with Roger E. Bissell and Edward W. Younkins, The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom.
I keep encountering folks who ask me: When am I going to spill the beans on who is among our contributors? Soon. Very soon. All I can say is that this book has evolved into one of the most stunningly provocative anthologies I've ever had the honor of being associated with. And we're getting mighty close to submitting the final version to Lexington Books, our publisher. Can't wait to share the contents of what is yet to come...
Anyway, as I said, check out the YouTube podcast. Whether you agree or disagree with the anarchist solution makes no difference. It's worth a good listen and raises many important questions about the wider context necessary to the sustenance of human freedom.
JANUARY 26, 2019
Ordinarily, to mark the death of somebody, especially somebody from the enchanting world of music, I'd put up a "Song of the Day." As it happens, I am days away from beginning my fifteenth annual Film Music February, which will culminate on February 24, 2019, the date of the 91st Academy Awards. And it was on that date in 1932 that one of the greatest composers of our time was born: Michel Legrand. So, appropriately, I have planned and will post one of his many wonderful compositions to conclude my film music tribute next month. Today, he died at the age of 86.
In truth, however, I have featured scores of his compositions throughout these last fifteen years. In fact, on September 1, 2004, my very first Song of the Day was "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" [YouTube link to Michel's arrangement caressed by the Divine One, Sarah Vaughan]. It began a "Song of the Day" practice that has continued to this day (now well into the 1600s!]. With the romantic lyrics of his frequent collaborators, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and the melodic loveliness of Legrand's music, that song has remained one of my all-time favorites. That Oscar-nominated masterpiece from the 1969 film, "The Happy Ending," lost out to "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head." But Legrand would earn three Oscars, including one from "The Thomas Crown Affair" (for which he won for Best Original Song, "The Windmills of Your Mind") and one each for the lush orchestrations of "Summer of '42" and "Yentl" [YouTube links].
I had the honor of seeing Legrand perform live at Hunter College in April 1996; I went backstage to shake his hands, ever-so-gently, after he had played a grand piano in a remarkably energetic two-hour performance of so many of his greatest compositions. I told him that the year before, in April 1995, my mother had passed away, after a five-year bout with lung cancer, and that one of the joys of her life was his music, which she listened to almost to the very day she died. He was so genuinely moved, and I was deeply touched by the endearing and comforting expression on his face. He could not thank me enough for what I had said to him.
I felt as if I were in the presence not merely of genius and boundless talent, but of a man of genuine human grace.
Let me remind those who may think of Legrand as a "film score composer" that he was also one of the greatest jazz musicians, arrangers, and conductors of his generation---indeed, of all time. His "Legrand Jazz" is a milestone recording of its genre, featuring such jazz greats as Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and John Coltrane (check out Side One and Side Two on YouTube). And if you have not heard Legrand's Grammy-winning three-movement suite, "Images," with alto saxophone soloist Phil Woods, you're in for a treat. The album itself won the 1976 Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and the suite won a Grammy for "Best Instrumental Composition." Turn up the volume, and get ready to blow a hole through your ceiling [YouTube link].
Today, sadly, I feel as if the news of Legrand's passing has blown a hole through my heart. But the legacy of his music will swiftly turn the heartache back into joy. RIP, Michel, with love.
JANUARY 22, 2019
Three cheers to Mariano Rivera who becomes the first person to be unanimously elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I was among those who were fortunate enough to attend several games at Yankee Stadium to see this consummate relief pitcher save just a few of his all-time record 652 career saves. Mo would come in from the bullpen, day-in and day-out, to the sounds of "Enter Sandman" by Metallica and was perhaps the Most Valuable member of the New York Yankees' "Core Four", indispensable to the five World Series Championships won by that team from 1996 through 2009. This thirteen-time All-Star was pure class, poised in his ability to shut down the opposition with a killer cutter (or "cut fastball").
It is amazing that of all the greats who have entered Cooperstown, Rivera is the only baseball player to have been elected to the Hall of Fame unanimously. An honor so well deserved. Bravo to the last man to wear the 42 jersey (now forever retired in honor of the great Jackie Robinson).
JANUARY 21, 2019
On January 17, 1961, fifty-eight years ago, almost to the day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his farewell speech [YouTube link] to the nation, warning, famously, of the rising influence of a "military-industrial complex":
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea. Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence---economic, political, even spiritual---is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government. Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system---ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
Today, I share with my readers a provocative article from The American Conservative, written by Franklin C. "Chuck" Spinney (hat tip to my dear friend and colleague Walter E. Grinder), "Eisenhower's Nightmare: Space Wars Edition."
For those who doubt the staying power of the National Security State and the "military-industrial complex," President Trump's proposed missile defense plan "will be a bonanza for political patronage in Washington, and a huge fail for peace." I recently wrote of the need for "A National Dialogue on U.S. Foreign Policy," which spoke not only to what now appears to be a waning resolve to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and other global hotspots, but also to the omnipresence of so-called "Deep State" forces that no President will be able to dismantle. While Trump's expressed desires to cutback on U.S. overseas commitments seem to have emboldened both "hawkish Democrats and anti-war Republicans," as Jack Hunter puts it, Spinney's article casts greater doubt than ever that Trump will do anything to alter the "Deep State" forces that sustain that military-industrial complex so responsible for global and domestic instability.
JANUARY 14, 2019
Yesterday, one of the all-time great Yankees, Mel Stottlemyre passed away at the age of 77, after a long battle with cancer. He pitched for eleven seasons with the New York Yankees, before going on to a distinguished career as a pitching coach, a key component to World Series championships for two New York baseball teams: the 1986 World Champion New York Mets and the World Series Champion New York Yankee dynasty that won four World Series championships in the five-year period between 1996 and 2000. The Yankees honored him with a plaque in their famed Monument Park at The Stadium.
He was a gentle man who was deeply passionate for America's favorite sports pastime and leaves us with a wonderful legacy of great baseball memories. RIP, Mel.
JANUARY 01, 2019
Song of the Day: Ringing in a Brand New Year, words and music by Billy Ward, was recorded by Billy Ward and His Dominoes in 1953 [YouTube link]. The song was later recorded as "Bringing in a Brand New Year" by both Charles Brown and B. B. King [YouTube links]. Whether you're bringing it or ringing it, a Happy New Year to One and All!