Category Archives: Treasures

RIP Louie Bellson

One of the great drummers of our time, Louie Bellson, passed away Feb. 14 at 84.

In my dealings with Audio Librarian magazine, I was lucky enough to have had the chance to review a concert DVD in which Bellson and his big band hosted another pretty fair drummer, Billy Cobham. Both men were at the tops of their games, particularly in some explosive back-and-forth one-upsmanship early in the show. Throughout, Bellson more than held his own with the much younger Cobham, both in terms of innovation and imagination and in sheer technical skill.

If you remember Bellson and his band from when they used to turn up on variety shows on TV, you’ll know how great he was. But if you need an introduction, that DVD — “Cobham Meets Bellson” contains some pretty unbelievable stuff.

More later … — MM

Another Day the Music Died

Dec. 8, 1980 is one of those dates that you’ll always remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard. At least I will.

I was at the Kingdome , sitting between Chuck Stark and Roger Underwood , covering a Sonics game (I can’t resist pointing out that the Kingdome and the Sonics both are gone, but Chuck, Roger and I all are still kicking). Before the game started, the Sonics’ media-relations director, Nancy Welts , walked up in front of us and said, quickly, "Did you hear? They got John."

That’s all she said. But somehow, we knew exactly who she was talking about. "John," of course, was John Lennon , who had been assassinated a couple hours earlier outside his New York apartment. "They" as it turned out, was Mark David Chapman , a deranged person who shot Lennon five times in the back.

(I know I’ve told this story before, so if you’ve read it before, stop me …)

The game, of course, was a blur. I don’t remember writing the story, but I do remember being in a hurry, so I could drive home, stopping at the neighborhood 7-Eleven along the way to pick up a copy of a certain men’s magazine, which I remembered included a lengthy interview with Lennon. I recall there were teenaged kids sitting on the floor of the 7-Eleven (the hip place to be in downtown Kent on a chilly 1980 midnight, I guess). I had to step over them to get to the magazine rack.

(Incidentally, I would never purchase such a men’s magazine under normal circumstances. You believe me, don’t you?)

I have no particular memory of where I was or what I was doing years later, when I heard of the passing of George Harrison . In fact, I think I might have been here in the Sungeon, and read a bulletin from The Associated Press.

I think it probably hurt worse to lose George, because he was such a gentle, quiet soul, and because he was taken at such a young age by more-or-less natural causes. It reminded me very much that I myself was no spring chicken any more.

The way Lennon went — gunned down by a crazed "fan" — almost makes sense, when you look back on it 28 years later. Lennon was such a larger-than-life character, he just wasn’t meant to die a quiet, natural death.

Back then, though, it was shocking. This was John, remember — all you had to do was say "John," and everybody knew who it was you were talking about.

So, where were you when you heard?

More later … — MM

So long, Miriam Makeba

Sad to see this item on the wire this morning:

"JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) — She died just how she wanted to — singing on stage for a good cause. And her songs wafted out of taxis and radios, as fellow Africans struggled with their grief at her passing.
"Miriam Makeba , the "Mama Africa" whose sultry voice gave South Africans hope when the country was gripped by apartheid, died early Monday of a heart attack after collapsing on stage in Italy. She was 76."

I was introduced to Makeba by my parents, who were rabid Harry Belafonte fans when I was a preschooler. Belafonte was a champion of what we now call World Music, and made sure he used his concerts to introduce audiences to musical styles and artists from around the globe. On his 1960 "Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall" album (we listened to it in glorious monoral hi-fi, back then), one of his guests was Makeba, who sang "The Click Song."

I didn’t really follow Makeba subsequently — in fact, she wasn’t even my favorite thing on the record (that would’ve been the hilarious duet "There’s A Hole in the Bucket" by Belafonte and the legendary Odetta ).

But hearing of her passing still is like losing just another little chunk of my childhood.

If you ever get a chance to pick up a copy of that album (they have it out on those modern CD thingies now), do — Harry really knew how to put on a concert.

More later … — MM