Friday, December 30, 2011
The Music Within Me – By Some Musicians Who Left Us in 2011
In my college dorm in 1962 one of my vinyl records was San Francisco Scene by George Shearing. The album is long gone, but one of my sons-in-law retrieved it from the ether last week. Because the album never made it to cd (except in a huge collection of all of Shearing’s recorded live performances), this electronica even has the pops and hisses of the original record. How odd it is to re-live feelings from 50 years ago. He died this year at 91.
I am amazed at how unsophisticated I was; how much I didn’t know and understand when I was young. I heard the Modern Jazz Quartet in ‘63 and “didn’t get it.” My granddaughter is approaching 4 years old and is absorbing all she can of this world which is still new to her, and yet she will not be able to keep up. I think she is doing better than I did. I lived too much in my head and not enough in the outer world. It’s a way of engaging with the world. I wanted to examine things within and not pursue them by seeking out other people or going other places. Ah, the senior years are time for reflection and a new kind of meaning making.
I researched her family and learned that their father was Raymond LeGrand, who had an orchestra in the ‘30's and ‘40's. I can't seem to embed the video but check out "Raymond Legrand et son Orchestre & Irène de Trébert filmés en 1942" for a film clip of Raymond from war time Paris. I especially like the feathers as snow clogging and then unclogging all the instruments.) What a surprise to learn that Raymond had been a student of Gabriel Faure. (Musical genealogy is tres interesante, such as Dave Brubeck attending Mills College in Oakland after the war, and having as a teacher, Darius Milaud.)
The songs of Lieber and Stoller ("Stand By Me," "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Young Blood," "On Broadway," "Yakety-Yak," etc.) accompanied my youth. Jerry Lieber died this year at 78.
I could write at great length about these folks who left us this year, but I will only name others who meant something special to me:
Phoebe Snow died at 60, her career shortened by her decision to care at home for her severely mentally impaired daughter.
You all know John Barry’s movie themes (77).
And Clarence Clemmons (69) was more familiar to us, especially if we spent any time at the shore in Jersey.
If you ever heard Count Basie, you have heard Frank Foster (lead tenor sax player and a song writer for the band, which he later led, at 82).
Only in recent years have I been learning to appreciate Margaret Whiting's clear voice, who died at 87.
There are many I won’t mention because they weren’t on my playlist, such as Amy Whitehouse. And let’s think about all those artists who struggled and didn’t become famous, or like Tom Garvin, who worked in the background and aren’t well known. He accompanied many great singers like Peggy Lee and Diane Shurr, wrote music for the Doc Severinson’s Tonight Show band, struck out on his own and won aclaim in LA as a jazz pianist. He was 67.
I have noted the age of people when they died. This is because I am 67 and thinking about death more and more. It could happen at any time or not for another 20-30 years. I want to think it through in 2012 so that I can tell my family how not to think of my death. What I have so far isn’t much: We simply live the years of our lives, however long or short. We cannot say what might have been or should have been. An appropriate expression of our times is – “It is what it is.” It’s OK. It’s all tragic. We’re all special, but mostly important only to a few. When they are gone we really will be gone. So live for life - Michel LeGrand wrote that - “Yesterday’s a memory, gone for good, forever, while tomorrow is a guess.” Well, l’existentialisme aside, we should try to learn from the past and try to contribute to tomorrow, while we live for today.