11 September 2020 … Memories

With the exception of 2018, I have published this post each year since 2015 on September 11th, sharing memories of that day in 2001 when life changed, my thoughts and reflections.  I planned to write a new one this year, but as I read over it, I realized that I cannot say it any better today than I said it five years ago, and frankly, amidst the rubble of chaos, turmoil and divisiveness in our nation today, inspiration simply did not come to me.   I’ve come to realize that not only did we not learn the lessons of that day, but that in every way imaginable, the United States has become a much crueler, harsher, less respected and less respectable nation today than it was in 2001.  I skipped my 9/11 post in 2018, for I felt that amidst the chaos and divisiveness of this nation, it had lost its relevance.  I was wrong … we need to remember … we must not forget, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we have learned anything in the 19 years since our world turned upside down in a matter of 102 minutes.


Humanity

911-cover-4Nineteen years ago.  It seems so much longer … another lifetime.  And yet … and yet, it seems like such a short time ago. I remember the morning well.  A key staff member was on vacation and I had to cover, so I arrived at work well before dawn, but I stepped outside sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 for a smoke break.  The sky was the bluest I could recall ever seeing it and I thought it must be the most perfect day ever.  Within a half-hour, I would be left in tears, cursing the day, hoping to awaken from this nightmare.

911-cover-9I went back inside from my smoke-break, and an employee, Susie, came up to me and asked if I had heard about the plane that crashed into the World Trade Center.  If the building I worked in then had not since been demolished, I could show you the exact tile I was standing on at that moment, just as I could tell you that when we received news of the assassination of JFK, I was at home plate with bat in hand, waiting for the pitch that would never come.  Just as my grandfather often told exactly where he was and what he was doing when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbour came over ‘the wireless’. You think it is a literary trick when an author says “time stood still”?  Well, I can tell you … for me, time did stand still, as I must have also.  I seemed to have lost all feeling, all senses shut down … I could not hear nor see.  After that, it all blurs into a series of news updates … a 2nd plane, then the Pentagon, then a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the name Usama bin Laden.  A gathering in the cafeteria, a television rolled into another room where we all gathered.  Financial statements, payroll, printing presses and the like forgotten for the moment.  Tearful phone calls home to the girls.  Then day after day, glued to the television every waking moment.  In my household, we had a then-6-year-old and finally had to turn to Nickelodeon, but the images remained in our eyelids, in our hearts, in our souls. And the tears never stopped.

911-cover-2Today we mark the 19th memorial of that awful day.  We do so in many ways, but the saddest thing for me is that we did not learn the lessons we needed to learn from that tragedy.  Today, our nation is more divided than ever.  In the days and weeks that followed what would become known simply as 9/11, it seemed we were on the right path.  People from all over the nation and Canada traveled to Ground Zero to help with search and rescue, and eventually cleanup operations.  Shopkeepers gave out free food and water.  People helped neighbors, friends and strangers.  We all empathized with each other, treated each other a little kinder, gave a bit more freely of our hugs and kind words.

Compare and contrast to today, when we are a nation divided by hatred, divided by a lack of understanding for those who do not look, act or think like us.  And there are many who blame today’s vitriolic environment on 9/11, those who decided to hate all who share a religion with the plotters and perpetrators of the horrific acts of 9/11.  But it doesn’t stop there … our nation has renewed its call for racial discrimination, religious intolerance, and hatred of those who are perceived as ‘different’ in one way or another.  We have lost our way.


Commercialism

That which “we will never forget” has already been forgotten by some, it would seem.  A mattress company releases the following ad:

“Right now, you can get any sized mattress for a twin price!” says a grinning woman flanked by two employees in the 20-second spot. She flings her arms out and the men tumble backwards, knocking over two tall piles of mattresses. The woman screams “Oh my God!” in mock panic, then immediately recovers her composure and adds, with a half-smile: “We’ll never forget.”  It quickly attracted local, then national outrage. The ad was taken down, and Mike Bonanno, the owner of Miracle Mattress, issued the following statement:  “I say this unequivocally, with sincere regret: the video is tasteless and an affront to the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11.” 

How did he not realize how “tasteless” it was before it aired?

9-11One Wal-Mart, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, erected a display to “commemorate” the 9/11 anniversary.  It was taken down after much criticism.  And other companies have also tried to use 9/11 for sales and profit.  It is not a commercial holiday. We do not celebrate with hot dogs and beer. It is a day of national mourning.  It is a day of solemnity.  Commercialism has no place on this day, no right to use it as a gimmick.  Can you imagine Pearl Harbor, or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy being commercialized?  There was one commercial ad that truly was a tribute to the day.  It aired only once, in 2002.  I still find it to be a beautiful tribute and it still brings tears.  Please take just one minute to watch it.

Before airing the commercial, Anheuser-Busch sought and received approval from Congress, as well as then-mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani. There is no company logo until the end, and since it aired only once, given the cost of producing the ad, the company made no profit from it, nor did they intend to. It truly feels like a tribute rather than a cheap shot. It was tasteful … respectful.


Positive, Encouraging, Hopeful Messages

In 2016, in a rare display of partisanship, 200 members of Congress stood on the steps beneath the recently restored Capitol dome and prayed, observed a moment’s silence and, accompanied by a marine band, sang God Bless America to mark the imminent anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The remembrance ceremony, with Democrats and Republicans standing side by side, was heartening, though it would have been much more so had all 535 members of Congress participated.  Will we see that repeated this year?  I doubt it.

I understand that Donald Trump and Joe Biden both plan to attend a 9/11 memorial held at the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania today.  In my opinion, politics has no place in this ceremony or others, and Trump only desecrates the day with falsehoods, as I can never forget that after the towers fell, he bragged that now his was the tallest building in the city.


I end where I began, by saying that we have lost our way, we have failed to learn from this, and to some extent we have failed to keep our promise to “never forget”.  The nation is more bitterly divided, more everything-phobic today than it was prior to 11 September 2001.  Rather than embracing our differences, we are using them as an excuse for hatred.  Rather than loving our fellow man, we are killing him.  Unless we learn to unite and work together for the sake of not only our nation, but of humanity, we are doomed to repeat the past. I would ask the readers of this blog to do this one thing:  be kind today, do not put anyone down, offer a smile to any you see, and hug your family just a little tighter today … just for today. Below are just a few pictures I would like to share, to remind us all of that day.

911-1

911-4

911-dust-lady

Marcy Borders, the ‘dust lady’, sadly died 25 August 2015 of cancer related to 9/11

ground zero

twin-towers

John Lewis: The Last Of The True Heroes

Last night, right around midnight, as I had just finished writing and scheduling my Saturday Surprise post and was in the process of responding to comments, a breaking news flash crossed my screen that took my breath, caused me to utter aloud, “NO!”, and broke my heart.  Congressman John Lewis had died.

John-Lewis-quoteThere are few people alive today who deserve the title ‘hero’ in every sense of the word.  John Lewis was one such person.

When President Obama awarded John Lewis the Medal of Freedom in 2011, he said …

“Generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind — an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”

obama-lewis John Robert Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama, on Feb. 21, 1940, one of 10 children of Eddie and Willie Mae Lewis. According to “March,” his three-part autobiography in graphic novel form, he dreamed from a young age of being a preacher. He was in charge of taking care of his family’s chickens and would practice sermons on them: “I preached to my chickens just about every night.”  But life had other plans for young John Lewis.

John Lewis was the last of the most relevant civil rights leaders from the 1950s and 1960s.  In 1955, Lewis first heard Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio, and, when the Montgomery Bus Boycott (led by King) began later that year, Lewis closely followed the news about it. Lewis would later meet Rosa Parks when he was 17 and met King for the first time when he was 18.  By the time he came of age, his path was chosen.

I could not possibly list all of Mr. Lewis’ accomplishments in this single post, but I would like to highlight a few.

As a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, Lewis first became a part of the Civil Rights Movement, organizing sit-ins at segregated lunch counters that eventually led to the desegregation of Nashville’s lunch counters.

John-Lewis-lunch-counter-sit-in

Lewis was arrested and jailed many times in the nonviolent movement to desegregate the downtown area of the city. He was also instrumental in organizing bus boycotts and other nonviolent protests in the fight for voter and racial equality.

John-Lewis-early-arrest

In 1961, Lewis became one of the 13 original Freedom Riders. There were seven whites and six blacks who were determined to ride from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans in an integrated fashion. At that time, several states of the old Confederacy still enforced laws prohibiting black and white riders from sitting next to each other on public transportation.  The Freedom Ride was initiated to pressure the federal government to enforce the Supreme Court decision in Boynton v Virginia (1960) that declared segregated interstate bus travel to be unconstitutional.

In the South, Lewis and other nonviolent Freedom Riders were beaten by angry mobs, arrested at times and taken to jail. At 21 years old, Lewis was the first of the Freedom Riders to be assaulted while in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He tried to enter a whites-only waiting room and two white men attacked him, injuring his face and kicking him in the ribs. Nevertheless, only two weeks later Lewis joined a Freedom Ride that was bound for Jackson.

“We were determined not to let any act of violence keep us from our goal. We knew our lives could be threatened, but we had made up our minds not to turn back.”

Lewis was also imprisoned for forty days in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Sunflower County, Mississippi, after participating in a Freedom Riders activity in that state.  But John Lewis was not a quitter.

In Birmingham, the Riders were mercilessly beaten, and in Montgomery, an angry mob met the bus, and Lewis was hit in the head with a wooden crate.

“It was very violent. I thought I was going to die. I was left lying at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery unconscious.”

In February 2009, forty-eight years after he had been bloodied in a Greyhound station during a Freedom Ride, Lewis received an apology on national television from a white southerner, former Klansman Elwin Wilson.

In 1963, Lewis was named one of the “Big Six” leaders who were organizing the March on Washington, the occasion of Dr. King’s celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis also spoke at the March. Discussing the occasion, historian Howard Zinn wrote:

“At the great Washington March of 1963, the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), John Lewis, speaking to the same enormous crowd that heard Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, was prepared to ask the right question: ‘Which side is the federal government on?’ That sentence was eliminated from his speech by organizers of the March to avoid offending the Kennedy Administration. But Lewis and his fellow SNCC workers had experienced, again and again, the strange passivity of the national government in the face of Southern violence.”

John-Lewis-Edmund-Pettus-Bridge

John-Lewis-Edmund-Pettis-BridgeIn 1965, at age 25, Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery, and was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, where he was beaten by police and knocked unconscious.  When the marchers stopped to pray, the police discharged tear gas and mounted troopers charged the demonstrators, beating them with night sticks. Lewis’s skull was fractured, but he escaped across the bridge to Brown Chapel, the movement’s headquarter church in Selma. Before Lewis could be taken to the hospital, he appeared before the television cameras calling on President Johnson to intervene in Alabama.  Lewis still bore the scars on his head from the incident.

John-Lewis-CongressIn 1986, John Lewis was elected to the House of Representatives from Georgia’s fifth district, a seat he would win and hold until his death last night.  He was reelected 16 times, dropping below 70 percent of the vote in the general election only once. In 1994, he defeated Republican Dale Dixon by a 38-point margin, 69%–31%. He ran unopposed in 1996, from 2004 to 2008, in 2014, and again in 2018.

Throughout his 34 years in Congress he fought for human rights, for civil rights … for your rights and mine … for our children’s and grandchildren’s.  He spoke out loud and clear in favour of LGBT rights, national health insurance, gun regulation, and has often been called “the conscience of Congress.”

“My overarching duty as I declared during that 1986 campaign and during every campaign since then, has been to uphold and apply to our entire society the principles which formed the foundation of the movement to which I have devoted my entire life.”

Coming from another, that might be considered just political rhetoric, but from John Lewis, truer words were never spoken.  He not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk for his entire life.  The world is a little darker place today without John Lewis in it.  RIP John Lewis … you are missed already.

 

♫ The Devil Went Down To Georgia ♫

As I’ve said on more than one occasion, I am not a fan of country music.  However, when a legend dies, no matter his field, he deserves to be honoured.  Charlie Daniels was a country music legend best known for his award-winning country hit The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

Daniels was active as a singer and musician since the 1950s. He was inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame in 2002, the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

Daniels won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1979 for The Devil Went Down to Georgia, which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1979. The following year, “Devil” became a major crossover success on rock radio stations after its inclusion on the soundtrack for the hit movie Urban Cowboy, in which he made an onscreen appearance. The song still receives regular airplay on U.S. classic rock and country stations.

Although Daniels had a number of hits subsequent to The Devil Went Down to Georgia, this is the only one of his songs that I am familiar with, not being a country music aficionado.  And even though I am not a fan of the genre, I am in awe of the fiddle-playing in this song!

Daniels said that the idea for this song came from a poem he read in high school called “The Mountain Whippoorwill” by Stephen Vincent Benet. Said Daniels:

“We had gone in and rehearsed, written, and recorded the music for our Million Mile Reflections album, and all of a sudden we said, ‘We don’t have a fiddle song.’ I don’t know why we didn’t discover that, but we went out and we took a couple of days’ break from the recording studio, went into a rehearsal studio and I just had this idea: ‘The Devil went down to Georgia.’ The idea may have come from an old poem that Stephen Vincent Benet wrote many, many years ago. He didn’t use that line, but I just started, and the band started playing, and first thing you know we had it down.”

In this song, Satan himself pays a visit to Georgia and challenges a boy named Johnny to a fiddle duel: If Johnny can play the fiddle better than the devil, he gets a golden fiddle, but if he loses, the devil gets his soul.  It was Daniels who played the fiddle for both the Devil and Johnny, and it was also Daniels who dreamed up what they both would sound like.

I actually do like this song … as I said, the fiddle playing is amazing, and it’s got a catchy, toe-tapping tune.  Politically, Charlie and I were miles apart, but that doesn’t keep me from admiring what he did, his talent, his music.  Charlie Daniels died yesterday at the age of 83.  His music will live on …

The Devil Went Down to Georgia
Charlie Daniels Band

The devil went down to Georgia
He was lookin’ for a soul to steal
He was in a bind
‘Cause he was way behind
And he was willin’ to make a deal

When he came upon this young man
Sawin’ on a fiddle and playin’ it hot
And the devil jumped
Up on a hickory stump
And said, “boy, let me tell you what

I guess you didn’t know it
But I’m a fiddle player too
And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you

Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy
But give the devil his due
I’ll bet a fiddle of gold
Against your soul
‘Cause I think I’m better than you”

The boy said, “my name’s Johnny
And it might be a sin
But I’ll take your bet
And you’re gonna regret
‘Cause I’m the best there’s ever been”

Johnny, rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard
‘Cause hell’s broke loose in Georgia, and the devil deals the cards
And if you win, you get this shiny fiddle made of gold
But if you lose, the devil gets your soul

The devil opened up his case
And he said, “I’ll start this show”
And fire flew from his fingertips
As he rosined up his bow

Then he pulled the bow across the strings
And it made an evil hiss
And a band of demons joined in
And it sounded something like this

When the devil finished
Johnny said, “well, you’re pretty good, old son
But sit down in that chair right there
And let me show you how it’s done”

He played Fire on the Mountain run boys, run
The devil’s in the House of the Rising Sun
Chicken in a bread pan pickin’ out dough
Granny, does your dog bite? No child, no

The devil bowed his head
Because he knew that he’d been beat
And he laid that golden fiddle
On the ground at Johnny’s feet

Johnny said, “Devil, just come on back
If you ever want to try again
I done told you once you son of a bitch
I’m the best that’s ever been”

He played Fire on the Mountain run boys, run
The devil’s in the House of the Rising Sun
Chicken in a bread pan pickin’ out dough
Granny, does your dog bite? No child, no

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Charles Fred Hayward / Charlie Daniels / Fred Edwards / James W. Marshall / John Crain / William J. Digregorio
The Devil Went Down to Georgia lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

♫ R.I.P. Little Richard ♫

Yesterday, the world lost another music pioneer, Richard Wayne Penniman, better known as Little Richard.

Born in Macon, Georgia on December 5th, 1932, he was one of twelve children.  His family listened to singers like Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald. Richard couldn’t find any music he liked, so he created it.  He was an influential figure in popular music and culture for seven decades, and among his nicknames were “The Innovator”, “The Originator”, and “The Architect of Rock and Roll”.  His music, dating back to the 1950s is characterized by frenetic piano playing, pounding back beat and raspy shouted vocals, laying the foundation for rock and roll. Little-RichardLittle Richard is cited as one of the first crossover black artists, reaching audiences of all races. His music and concerts broke the color line, drawing blacks and whites together despite attempts to sustain segregation. His contemporaries, including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, all recorded covers of his works. Taken by his music and style, and personally covering four of Little Richard’s songs on his own two breakthrough albums in 1956, Presley told him in 1969 that his music was an inspiration to him and that he was “the greatest”.

Of Little Richard, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said …

“He claims to be ‘the architect of rock and roll,’ and history would seem to bear out Little Richard’s boast. More than any other performer – save, perhaps, Elvis Presley, Little Richard blew the lid off the Fifties, laying the foundation for rock and roll with his explosive music and charismatic persona. On record, he made spine-tingling rock and roll. His frantically charged piano playing and raspy, shouted vocals on such classics as ‘Tutti Frutti,’ ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ defined the dynamic sound of rock and roll.”

President Bill Clinton was always a Little Richard fan, and in 1993, Little Richard played at Clinton’s inauguration.  The same year, he was awarded a lifetime achievement Grammy Award.

Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones famously said about Little Richard …

“I had heard so much about the audience reaction that I thought there must be some exaggeration. But it was all true. He drove the whole house into a complete frenzy. There’s no single phrase to describe his hold on the audience. I couldn’t believe the power of Little Richard on stage. He was amazing. Chuck Berry is my favorite, along with Bo (Diddley), but nobody could beat Little Richard’s stage act. Little Richard is the originator and my first idol.”

Little Richard grew up in a time and place – the American South – that could be very difficult for a black man. He never sang about racism, however, and downplayed his numerous encounters with racism, preferring to focus on the positive things that bring us together. Richard said on the subject: “We are all God’s bouquet, we all need each other the same as the birds need air.” He’s also maintained that homosexuals are equal in the eyes of God, stating: “God don’t just have Heaven for the straight man. Heaven is for all of us if we do his will.”

I have chosen just a couple of songs that I remember best from my youth as a way of paying tribute to Little Richard.

♫ OHIO ♫

Had I remembered the all-important date of May 4th, this is the song I would have played yesterday, on the 50th anniversary of the brutal slaying of four students by National Guardsmen on the campus of Kent State University on 04 May 1970.  I did not remember until Jeff reminded me with his post yesterday afternoon, so I am one day late with this song.

Neil Young wrote Ohio shortly after seeing a news report on the tragedy, and it was released by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young just 10 days after the shootings.

The Kent State shootings had a profound effect on some of the students who later became prominent musicians. Chrissie Hynde was a student at the time, and eventually formed The Pretenders. Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale were also on campus, and after the shootings, they developed the band Devo based on the concept of “De-Evolution,” meaning the human race was regressing. Said Casale …

“It refocused me entirely. I don’t think I would have done Devo without it. It was the deciding factor that made me live and breathe this idea and make it happen. In Chrissie Hynde’s case, I’m sure it was a very powerful single event that was traumatic enough to form her sensibility and account for a lot of her anger.”

Mothersbaugh added, “It was the first time I’d heard a song about something I’d been a participant in. It effected us. It was part of our life.”

This song became a protest anthem as Americans became fed up with the war in Vietnam. Providing a firsthand account of the shootings and the effect of this song, Alan Canfora relates:

“On May 4, 1970, I was waving a black protest flag as a symbol of my anger and despair 10 days after I attended the funeral of my 19-year-old friend killed in Vietnam. I was about 250 feet away from the kneeling, aiming guardsmen from Troop G – the death squad – minutes before they marched away up a hillside. They fired 67 shots from the hilltop during 13 seconds of deadly gunfire, mostly from powerful M1 rifles. I was shot through my right wrist. I survived because I jumped behind the only tree in the direct line of gunfire. About a week later, I was riding in the Ohio countryside with other Kent State massacre survivors when WMMS radio played the song ‘Ohio’ for the first time. We were deeply moved and inspired by that great anti-war anthem.”

Ohio
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin’
Four dead in Ohio

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?

Na na-na-na, na-na na-na
Na na-na-na, na-na na
Na na-na-na, na-na na-na
Na na-na-na, na-na na

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin’
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio (Four dead)
Four dead in Ohio (Four)
Four dead in Ohio (How many?)
Four dead in Ohio (How many more?)
Four dead in Ohio (Why?)
Four dead in Ohio (Oh!)
Four dead in Ohio (Four)
Four dead in Ohio (Why?)
Four dead in Ohio (Why?)

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Neil Young
Ohio lyrics © Universal Music – Z Tunes Llc, Almo Music Corp., Sony/atv Tunes Llc, Drop Your Pants Publishing, Zomba Enterprises Inc., Silly Fish Music, Zac Maloy Music, Broken Arrow Music, Almo Music Corporation, Universal Music-z Tunes, Broken Arrow Music Corp., Rondor Music Corp, Sony/atv Tunes Llc Obo Zac Maloy Music, Universal Music-z Tunes Obo Drop Your Pants Publishing, Almo Music Obo Silly Fish Music

♫ Bill Withers — A Tribute ♫

Yesterday was yet another sad day in the music world, with the announcement that soul singer Bill Withers had died at age 81.

Withers’ songs are some of the most beloved in the American songbook. Ain’t No Sunshine is regarded as one of the all-time great breakup tracks, while Lean on Me, an ode to the supportive power of friendship, was performed at the inaugurations of presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Born William Harrison Withers Jr in 1938, he faced a difficult childhood in Slab Fork, West Virginia. A stutter held him back from making friends, and, after his father died when Bill was 13, his grandmother helped to raise him. Withers would write a tribute to her with the song Grandma’s Hands from his 1971 debut album Just As I Am: “Grandma’s hands / Used to issue out a warning / She’d say, ‘Billy don’t you run so fast / Might fall on a piece of glass / Might be snakes there in that grass.’”

Withers spent nine years in the US Navy before pursuing a career in music. After moving to Los Angeles in 1967, he found a job making toilet seats and recorded demos through the night. Possessed of a smooth and soulful baritone, he signed to Sussex Records and enlisted Booker T Jones to produce Just As I Am. That album spawned the hit Ain’t No Sunshine, which won Withers his first Grammy for best R&B song.

The 2009 documentary, Still Bill, explored his reasons for quitting the music industry and painted the picture of a fulfilled musician and human being. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, film critic Roger Ebert said: “Withers still lives and survives as a happy man. Still Bill is about a man who topped the charts, walked away from it all in 1985 and is pleased that he did.”

I debated about what song to play in honour of Mr. Withers tonight.  I have already played my three favourites, and since I couldn’t decide, I offer all three here, with links to the original posts for trivia and lyrics if you’re interested.

 

Links to original posts:

Ain’t No Sunshine

Just the Two of Us

Lean On Me

♫ Kenny Rogers — Final Tribute ♫

Well, folks, it’s been a week of memories, hasn’t it?  I’m sad to see it end, and I realize I didn’t get to all the requests from everybody, but I have made note of them and … Kenny’s legacy, his music, remains with us to be played over and over, whenever we want.  I debated what to do for this final post.  Lady was requested by a couple of people, but since I had already played it twice, last May and in October 2018, I held off on that one.  For tonight’s grand finale, if you will, I selected a few songs and tributes from other artists.  Rather than take up space with trivia & lyrics, I shall let the videos speak for themselves.  First, of course, it had to be Dolly’s own tribute …

What would any tribute to Kenny be without his iconic The Gambler

Even morning talk/news show Good Morning America had to say ‘goodbye’ to Kenny in style …

And, as our friend Ellen suggested, there might be no better tribute than this song by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, You Can’t Make Old Friends …

I finish with a recording that Kenny, along with so many other wonderful artists, such as Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Michael Jackson, James Ingram, and too many to even name, participated in to raise money for humanitarian aid.  The first recording session on January 21st, 1985 brought together some of the most well-known artists in the music industry at the time.

This one never fails to bring a lump to my throat and a tear to my eyes.  What a perfect way, I think, to close this tribute to a great artist …

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this week-long tribute to the late Kenny Rogers … I have certainly enjoyed doing it!  R.I,P. Kenny,  and thank you for all you have given us.

♫ Just The Way You Are ♫

Last night I was tired, and forgot to include any Kenny Rogers’ trivia in my post.  As we’re nearing the end of this tribute week, there are a few more things I wanted to include.  Kenny did duets with a number of other artists, but the ones he is most remembered for are the ones he did with Dolly Parton.  So, how did the two meet and connect?kenny-dolly-2The two first crossed paths in Nashville in the early days of their careers, and he helped her when she headlined a syndicated TV show in the 1970s.

“Kenny was a big star, and I couldn’t get any people on my show. Kenny said ‘I’ll do it,’ and I’ll never forget it. He’s always been there for me as a friend.”

Nearly a decade later, Rogers was in the recording studio with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, who had just co-written Islands in the Stream and decided to give it to Rogers. After a few days trying to record, Rogers didn’t like how it sounded and was ready to give up. According to Rogers, Gibb said, “You know what we need? We need Dolly Parton.”  By coincidence, Parton happened to be the same studio that day. Rogers’ manager went to go find her.  Recalls Kenny …

“She came marching into the room, and once she came in and started singing, the song was never the same. It took on a personality of its own.” 

Of all their duets, Islands in the Stream is my very favourite, but I find that I have already played it three times here, so … I’ll wait a while before playing it again.


Last night I played We’ve Got Tonight that Kenny sang with Sheena Easton, and I mentioned that while I loved Kenny Rogers, I preferred the Bob Seger version of that particular song.  Well, guess what?  Tonight’s song … same thing!  While I love Kenny Rogers in all things, for this particular one, I prefer Billy Joel’s version.  But, as I said last night, this is a week-long tribute to the late, great Kenny Rogers, not the alive-and-whole Billy Joel.

I actually just discovered that I played the Billy Joel and Barry White versions of this, as well as one where Joel visits Sesame Street with Marlee Matlin back in January, but as I had a special request for the version by Kenny Rogers and Dottie West, that is tonight’s fare!

Just The Way You Are
Kenny Rogers/Dottie West

Don’t go changing to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore

I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times; I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are

Don’t go trying some new fashion
Don’t change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care

I don’t want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take till you believe in me
The way that I believe in you?

I said I love you and that’s forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are

Songwriters: Billy Joel
Just The Way You Are lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., BMG Rights Management

♫ What About Me? ♫

I was still debating, not quite sure if I was ready to do another week-long tribute or not.  It had been suggested by a couple of people, requests had rolled in, and before I fully finished pondering, our friend Ellen commented last night that she was looking forward to the week-long tribute.  So, I guess I have decided to do it!  I was all for it anyway, but I think I have a couple of readers who are not Kenny Rogers’ fans, but … you’ll just have to live with it, guys!  It’s only a week, eh?

This song was written by KennyRogers, noted producer David Foster, and singer-songwriter Richard Marx, who would later achieve superstar status as a musician with Right Here Waiting, and Now and Forever. It was the lead single from Rogers’s Platinum-plus 1984 album of the same name.

Rogers has described What About Me? as “like a three-way love song…Everybody involved said ‘Hey, what about me?’ I think it’s a beautiful record.” Originally the male and female parts not sung by Rogers were to be performed by Lionel Richie and Barbra Streisand, but after Richie backed out of the project, Streisand did as well. The second proposed trio of singers was Rogers, Olivia Newton-John, and Jeffrey Osborne, but Newton-John began working on a duet with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees and decided not to do both projects simultaneously. Osborne had a conflicting schedule as well, so the line-up of Rogers, Kim Carnes, and James Ingram was ultimately the one that recorded the song.

What About Me?
Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes, James Ingram

I see you here with me
I’ve waited all my life
For someone like you
Someone to give my heart and soul to

I look into your eyes
Your love for me
Was such a welcome surprise
I think at last I’ve found forever

Oh, what about me?
(I’ll always love you)
Oh, what about me?
(I’ll always need you)
You were my love before
But I need so much more of you

Time after time, I feel I’m losing my mind
Or maybe this is what lovers must go through
It never entered my mind, we could be wasting our time
What am I gonna do?
What about me? Oh, what about me?

No reason to pretend, true love affairs
Don’t have to come to an end
The moment we don’t
Have all the answers

I nearly go insane
(Oh, I go insane)
Each and every time
I hear you whisper my name
(I feel the same)
When I’m around you

But what about me?
(I’ll always love you)
Oh, what about me?
(I’ll always need you)
This is so hard for me
I wanted so much to be with you

Time after time, I feel I’m losing my mind
Or maybe this is what lovers must go through
It never entered my mind, we could be wasting our time
What am I gonna do?

Time after time, I’m losing my mind
It never entered my mind
We could be wasting our time
But what abut me

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: David Foster / Kenny Rogers / Richard Marks
What About Me lyrics © Chrysalis Music, Peermusic Iii Ltd, Chrysalis Music (digital Only), Peermusic Iii Ltd (df Account), Lionsmate Music, Co.