RESPECT DUE: R.I.P. Dr. Maya Angelou

Word are my tools, my instruments, my friends, even.

I find comfort and joy, wonder even in the God-given ability to employ them to express my feelings, thoughts and desires, sometimes with clarion clarity and others to work my way through whatever is happening or going on in my life and the world we live in that I sometimes can’t quite decipher.

But sometimes, nothing I say, nothing that could or can be said will ever quite capture the ephemeral essence of the moment, the event.

This is one of those times.

So, instead of reaching, trying, grasping and wrestling in an attempt to convey our collective loss, I’m going to put them away now.

Instead, I will let the words of others and most importantly, more significantly the words of Dr. Maya Angelou herself speak in this time of great and immeasurable loss.

R.I.P. Dr. Maya Angelou.

For the example and the gifts that will keep on giving, living maybe, perhaps even when this world is windswept cosmic dust and displaced energy seeking some new place, planet or plane to be, I humbly Thank You.

Love.

Eternally.

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Master Class – Gil Scott-Heron “Pieces of A Man”

Gil-Scott-Heron-Pieces-of-a-ManThis song was another one that haunted me when I was a kid.

I knew it meant something.

Something deep, something real and resounding.

I knew it was powerful. I just didn’t know why.

The melody is beautiful. Musically it’s just a simple series of piano chords but when coupled with the lyrics it becomes an amazing piece of work.

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You can’t simply call Gil Scott-Heron a poet, or a singer or even the forefather of Rap: he’s all those things but his ability to capture and reflect the pain, the plight and inner turmoil of a people, of a time and to present it in a voice plainfully and not maliciously is the kind of artistic gift that still amazes more than 40 years after first emerging.

The anger and contempt are there but it doesn’t drip, it doesn’t burn; it doesn’t even singe. It pricks, it prods … it begs introspection and reflection

When I was a kid I knew I was listening to something heavy, but I didn’t know why.

But even then I saw the men in my life in the song, felt their struggles were being depicted in the words and played out before me … but I just didn’t know why.

I couldn’t put it into words because I didn’t have them yet. I hadn’t experienced “it” yet.

Life was young and so was I.

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Now that I’m grown and have children of my own, have experienced and continue to experience the rising and falling of life and what it means to be a man, a Black man in this world I more than understand.

Though inevitable, this living, this seeing, this understanding, it still saddens me.

The third verse, “I saw the thunder and heard the lightning!/And felt the burden of his shame/And for some unknown reason/He never turned my way”, so powerfully conveys the powerless feeling of letting your Loved ones, your family, your children down it makes me tear up.

I know that feeling.

I didn’t when I was a child, but as a man, knowing how hard you’re trying and how you can’t seem to get a good grip on life, that the things you want, that your family need are just beyond your grasp … that they seem to slip through your fingers like sand or water, leaving granules in their wake or wetness, their residue confirming that you actually held them – had them! – for a moment however long, however fleeting, is the kind of pain that confirms that you are alive.

I hate that feeling.

Not a lot has changed since Gil Scott made this song.

It makes me sad. But at least I understand the men that were and are in my world, now that I am one.

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I met him once – twice, really. The first time in the living room of one of the men of my life, chilling, smoking, talking with Kwame Toure’. After saying hello and nonchalantly walking through the living room I came back in – awestruck – to greet two men who weren’t yet really my heroes, but magnificent, majestic monoliths all the same.

He was as cool as the shade on a hot southern summer day. With an easy smile, easygoing manner and his gravelly voice he made me feel more at home in the place that I was staying – just passing through, really – than I had my entire freshman year, there in a place I felt anything but at home.

Years later I’d see him in passing, but I don’t really think he remembered me or the time we’d met and he gave an young aspiring artist some encouraging words.

It didn’t matter.

I remembered him. His words. His smile. His warmth.

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I’ve been listening to GIl Scott, to this album and this song in particular a lot lately. I guess I’m just trying to put the pieces (back?) together again.

“I saw him go to pieces …
He was always such a good man
… always such a strong man
Yeah, I saw him go to pieces
I saw him go to pieces

Thanks, Gil.

“Pieces Of A Man”

“Pieces Of A Man”

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Jagged jigsaw pieces
Tossed about the room
I saw my grandma sweeping
With her old straw broom
She didn’t know what she was doing
She could hardly understand
That she was really sweeping up..
Pieces of a man

I saw my daddy greet the mailman
And I heard the mailman say
“Now don’t you take this letter to heart now Jimmy
Cause they’ve laid off nine others today”
He didn’t know what he was saying
He could hardly understand
That he was only talking to
Pieces of a man

I saw the thunder and heard the lightning!
And felt the burden of his shame
And for some unknown reason
He never turned my way

Pieces of that letter
Were tossed about that room
And now I hear the sound of sirens
Come knifing through the gloom
They don’t know what they are doing
They could hardly understand
That they’re only arresting
Pieces of a man

I saw him go to pieces
I saw him go to pieces
He was always such a good man
He was always such a strong man
Yeah, I saw him go to pieces
I saw him go to pieces

RESPECT DUE – Xander Hollander, author of The Sports Yearbooks. “For Sports Fans, Before the Internet, There Were the Complete Handbooks”

For those of us who were on this planet before the Internet made instantaneous searching and the finding of all things important, trivial and everything in between a function of your fingertips, this NY Times article is a sweet, sentimental read.

Photo credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times

It’s about Xander Hollander, 90, who compiled the sports yearbooks, The Complete Handbooks for 26 years, from 1971-97. Hollander preceded stats outfits like the Elias Sports Bureau, pretty much birthing numerous sports writers and stat geeks that currently populate what’s left of traditional sports publishing, the Net and cable, not to mention the fantasy industry and stats data companies.

His DNA is all up in the  Godzilla of All Things Sports.

“As the president and founder of Associated Features, Hollander operated like a Hollywood producer: curating writers and photographers, coming up with an idea and selling it to a publisher or a corporate client. All told, he edited or wrote some 300 books over 45 years.

The Complete Handbooks were not the only influential title Hollander, whom Sports Illustrated once called “the unofficial king of sports paperbacks,” had a hand in. Mark Simon, who helps oversee ESPN’s Stats & Info blog, gravitated toward Hollander’s The Book of Sports Lists and The Home Run Book.”

Jeff Pearham

Jeff Pearham

 

As a kid I remember these books, vividly. Though I wasn’t a big fan or collector that a lot of kids and eventual sports writers and execs were – there’s a litany of them in this piece – I do remember seeing them, even picking a few of them up. I was a Street & Smith’s fan (I spent many afternoons poring over the NBA & NCAA pages of the annual editions at newsstands  – “Pop, what’s a ‘newsstand?’ – in NYC, Cambridge & DC), the very kind of magazine that encroached on Hollander’s book publishing business model before giving way to the new tech pitiful publishing platform we are currently suffering through.

Photo credit: Jeff Pearham

Photo credit: Jeff Pearham

Hollander’s 90, suffering from the after effects of a stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. But he did the brick & mortar, typewriter thing (he never used a computer. Ever.) before tech reconstructed the world and made any ninny with a computer, a modem and an opinion a a writer.

Supposedly.  

The writers quoted in in this piece, a lot of them Hollander’s disciples, all revere him, and rightfully so: if a guy came along and gave you the ability to see the game you loved as a child from behind the scenes, pulled the curtain and revealed the sports world from an insider’s perspective and eventually you make a living at it, why wouldn’t you love him?

I can’t think of a reason not to.

Written by Pete Croatto (link)

RESPECT DUE – GEORGE DUKE, dead at 67.

George Duke, musician, keyboardist, composer, mentor, innovator, professor and trailblazer has passed away. He was 67.

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Besides being a collaborator with some of the biggest and most important names in the history of music he also released more than 30 solo albums.

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He was well known as a Jazz & fusion musician and R&B artist when he recorded his biggest hits “Reach For It” & “Dukey Stick” in 1977.

“Dukey Stick” – George Duke

“Reach For It” – George Duke

He also scored a hit collaborating with Stanley Clarke.

“Sweet Baby” – The Clarke/Duke Project

I didn’t know George Duke but I have a gang of friends and associates who did. I never heard a single person say a negative word about him. I met him a few times during my BET tenure and every single time I saw him I swear he was smiling.

A big Teddy Bear of a man, he was a mentor to a few generations of musicians and played just about anything he wanted from Jazz to Funk to R&B to Fusion.

He collaborated with too many artists to list but here’s a smattering: Frank Zappa, Jean-Luc Ponty, Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke, Michael Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Al Jarreau, Deniece Williams, Sheila E, Patrice Rushen, Billy Cobham, Edwin Hawkins, Regina Belle, Angela Bofil, Anita Baker, Joe Sample, Phil Collins, George Clinton, Cannonball Adderley, Mike Mainieri, Flora Purim, Milton Nascimento, Rachelle Ferrell, Marcus Miller, Teena Marie, Ndugu Chancler, Jill Scott and his cousin Dianne Reeves.

He was also liberally sampled by producers and rappers such as Kanye West, Daft Punk, A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, MF Doom, Mylo, Ice Cube and many, many others.

George and Billy Cobham “Live At Montreux” – Full concert                       

He had recently released his last project, Dreamweaver, dedicated to his wife Carine who passed away last year after a battle with cancer.

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Here’s a short on the process behind the recording of the project.

George Duke – Dreamweaver                      

I remember a time in my life that 67 seemed old, now it seems that your 60’s might be when things become clearer and easier, if you’re lucky to have lived that long and have the good health to enjoy that period of calm & clarity

He passed from heart complications as a result from being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

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RIP, George Duke. You will be missed.

RESPECT DUE – Dennis Farina, dead at 69.

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Wow.

Just asked how old he was a day or two ago, saying, “He’s had a great run. Not a good run; A. Great. Run.”

My favorites?

Ray Barboni in Get Shorty and Jimmy Serrano in Midnight Run, one of the best buddy flicks of all time.

Dennis Farina – “I’m Ray Barboni from Miami”, Get Shorty

Dennis farina – The Best of Jimmy Serrano, Midnight Run

Funny: former Chicago cop brought the realness to the gangster roles he played.

I’m gonna miss this guy.

R.I.P.

New York Times obit:http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2013/07/22/arts/ap-us-obit-dennis-farina.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1374520573-s7emaEUjsudVaecuGMkfng