I post a weekly diary of historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I often feature in “Cheers & Jeers”. For example …..
OK, you’ve been warned – here is this week’s
tomfoolery material that I posted.
ART NOTES – an exhibition of works by the Wisconsin Regional Artists Association is at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend to June 23rd.
PROGRAMMING NOTE – yours truly has accepted a job offer that – due to commuting, meeting schedules and other logistical issues – has affected my time to compile Odds & Ends. I’ll still be posting this weekend diary (with the poll) but my weekly output will be somewhat less. Remains to be seen for the long-term; things may settle-out over time … we’ll see.
SPORTING NOTES – this coming Saturday (May 25th) will see the championship match of European pro team soccer – when the Champions League final will take place between two German teams (from Munich and Dortmund). This game will be shown in the US live (and on free TV) on the Fox broadcast channel beginning at 2:45 PM Eastern.
It will have significance for another reason: this game will be played in Wembley Stadium in London … and not many years ago, the arrival of just one pro team from Germany (let alone two) would see England’s tabloid headlines shouting “Blitzkrieg”, or a famous headline from the Mirror (at the time now-CNN host Piers Morgan was editor)….. when (even worse) the German national team arrived in England to compete in the 1996 European championships:
But …. the tide may have changed: as Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup with such precision – and downright fun – that many English tabloids seem to have given up their decades-old vendetta. Even Boris Becker has noted this change when he visits the UK, saying “I think the World Cup in 2006 changed a lot of the stigmas and stereotypes” in people. So it will be interesting to see if – in the coming week – this old prejudice has finally vanished.
HAIL and FAREWELL to two names from the music world. Harold Shapero was a classical music composer, pianist and longtime professor of music at Brandeis University – admired by both Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein – who has died at the age of 93.
And Alan O’Day was a songwriter who has died at the age of 72. He wrote (or co-wrote) “Train of Thought” for Cher, the 1974 No. 1 “Angel Baby” by Helen Reddy and one of my favorite songs, Rock and Roll Heaven which the Righteous Brothers made famous. O’Day also had a hit song of his own: Undercover Angel in 1977.
SUNDAY’s CHILD is Stevie the Cat – a blind New Zealand kitteh returned home (due to his microchip) after going missing for five weeks.
YUK for today – despite their dumb lockout this season: the National Hockey League at least seems to have its act-in-gear regarding U.S. television (with the new NBC Sports network and CNBC supplementing broadcast channel NBC). Six years ago – when the NHL relied on the unknown Outdoor Life/Versus network – it also foolishly scheduled its All-Star game on the same night as “American Idol”. This led ESPN host John Saunders – a native Canadian – to lament,
“Just to find the All-Star game on US television: I needed a private eye, two bloodhounds and a psychic”.
BRAIN TEASER – try this Quiz of the Week’s News from the BBC.
SWEDEN’S ANNUAL MUSIC AWARDS which are known as the Polar Music Prizes – given to one classical and one popular artist – will go in 2013 to the Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour and the Finnish classical composer Kaija Saariaho.
…… and finally, for a song of the week …………………………………….. twenty-nine years ago, we lost folksinger Steve Goodman to leukemia – which he had been diagnosed with fifteen years earlier. As a result, he lived those final fifteen years of his life on borrowed time.
As his wife Nancy later wrote, “Steve wanted to lead as normal a life as possible, only he had to live it as fast as he could … he extracted meaning from the mundane“. While he never achieved stardom as a performer beyond Chicagoland, he was a prolific performer on other musicians’ recordings, and his compositions have survived him via their performances by others.
Born in 1948 in Chicago, Goodman began performing solo while attending Lake Forest College – afterwards, he sang advertising jingles by day, in clubs by night. Four years later in 1969, two major events took place: he received the diagnosis of leukemia and also met the woman he would marry the following year. He became friends with a new Chicagoan – named John Prine – and became quite popular in the city’s local clubs. His big break came in 1971 while opening there for Kris Kristofferson – who was impressed enough to introduce him to Paul Anka, who helped him obtain a recording contract with Buddha Records.
Another break came when country singer David Allan Coe in 1974 recorded a tune (co-written by Goodman and John Prine) called You Never Even Called Me by My Name – which was (at heart) a send-up of country lyrics. Goodman eventually made the break singer-songwriter status, signing with David Geffen’s Asylum Records.
Goodman once had an impossible task – opening up on tour for Steve Martin when he was red-hot in the late 1970’s – but came off well. One friend told me the only problem he had at one show was taking an encore when there didn’t seem to be much demand for one …… which got the boo-birds going, alas.
He had success with his own writings, “My Old Man” (a tribute to his father), “Vegematic” (about a guy who dreams of infomercials) and in 1976, “Daley’s Gone” – after the passing of Da Mayor. He had several tunes about his beloved Chicago Cubs, including Go, Cubs, Go and the hilarious A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request – which in light of the disease he kept secret, undoubtedly had special meaning.
But the leukemia flared up in the early 1980’s and Steve Goodman went public with the news (referring to himself as ‘Cool Hand Leuk” when his health went downhill). He died on September 20, 1984 at only age 36. He won his second Grammy (for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1988) posthumously. Sadly, just four days after his death, his beloved Cubs clinched their first post-season appearance since 1945. Jimmy Buffett sang the national anthem at Wrigley Field in Goodman’s place when the baseball playoffs began.
A 2007 biography by Clay Eals helped rekindle interest in Goodman’s career with Illinois’ (then) Lt. Governor Pat Quinn declaring October 5, 2007 as Steve Goodman Day in the state. Just this past December, his mother Minette Goodman – who championed the Chicago music scene for many years – died at the age of 85. And several years after his death, Steve Goodman achieved (well, at least part) of the dying Cub fan’s wishes: his ashes were scattered at Wrigley Field by his wife and three daughters.
Finishing a show in Chicago in the early 70’s, Arlo Guthrie had someone plead to him to listen to his songs. Arlo says he was tired but …. there was something earnest about him and said, ‘Kid, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to buy me a beer. And as long as I’m sitting here drinking that beer, I’ll listen to what you have to play’.
What he heard was Steve Goodman playing The City of New Orleans which Arlo made into a hit in 1972 – and John Denver, Johnny Cash, Judy Collins and Jerry Reed also had success with it. Ask any railroad buff (including myself) about train songs, and chances are they’ll mention this one. Today, it is often associated with Willie Nelson – and at this link you can hear him sing it.
Riding on the City of New Orleans
Illinois Central, Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields
Passing towns that have no names
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles
Nighttime on The City of New Orleans
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee
Half way home – we’ll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea
And all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rails still ain’t heard the news
The conductor sings his song again
‘The passengers will please refrain
This train’s got the disappearing railroad blues
Good night, America, how are you?
Don’t you know me? I’m your native son
I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done