Saturday, January 16, 2016

Saying Goodbye

This week we've said goodbye to two icons.

David Bowie and Alan Rickman

Did I know them?

Why, no.  Of course not.

But did they manage to touch me in some way?

They did.

Music has always been a very big part of my life.

This started back when I was just a kid growing up in the amazingly quirky Arcade Apartments in Cambridge, MD.

My parents were both lovers of music.

And dancing.

Oh, how they loved to dance.

There weren't many Saturday nights that they weren't out dancing, often bringing the band home with them where they would end up spending the night.  Jamming, singing, laughing.  The band members and their wives or girlfriends were part of a very large extended family that I remember having around the breakfast table with us for a lot of years.

I remember sitting and listening to a lot of jam sessions.  And singing along.

When the bands weren't there, the radio was on.

And I can still hear my dad's voice saying, "C'mon, Hazel, let's dance," as he turned up the radio and swept my mom into a jitterbug in our kitchen.  It was a huge kitchen and was the perfect place for them to spin, spin, spin.  

One of the favorite family vacations would include music on The Steel Pier in Atlantic City, NJ.

There I remember seeing Fabian, Paul Anka, Conway Twitty (when he was doing pop, not country, music), Dion and Frankie Avalon.  And, my favorite, Louie Armstrong.

And because our apartment was directly over the only movie theater in town, I saw a lot of movies.  Formed a lot of crushes on those guys I watched on the big screen.

Things, it seems, change but stay the same.

All night jam sessions seem to have become, somehow, a part of my life even as I grew up and moved away from home.

I remember many of them in various different apartments in Atlanta.

And concerts became a part of my life.

This was when my friend Becky and I were in Underground Atlanta one night, walked into a bar and with serendipity walking along with us happened onto Percy Sledge on a small stage singing "When a Man Loves a Woman."  Pure magic.

Live music.  wow.  There is nothing like it.

I've been lucky enough to see a lot of the great bands and artists I love.  

Beginning, I guess with a Motown concert I sneaked into Baltimore to see.  Telling my parents I was going to a dance in the next small town on Salisbury.  Baltimore was easily on the top of the "You will not do this" list for me when I was in high school.  So driving into Baltimore with friends to see a concert just felt deliciously dangerous to this small town 15 year old girl.

It was worth knowingly breaking that rule to see Otis Redding, Martha & the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and Mary Wells.

Was I hooked?


What do you think?

Hell, yes, I was hooked!

Getting to see The Temptations and The Four Tops at The University of Delaware when I was at Brandywine College just capped the love this gal now had for live music.

To sit in audience able to watch a favorite artist perform his music moves me in a way I can't express.  So usually, I just cry.  Cry buckets.  And yes, it's embarrassing.  But I can't help it.  Beauty moves me to tears.  Being able to watch someone make music they love, sing the words to a song they wrote - a song that came from their heart.  Man.  Yes.  I'm gonna cry.  I cried so hard at an Eric Clapton concert, poor Donald was afraid the people sitting around us were going to think he had done something awful to me.  Which, of course, he did not.  He just sat there and held my hand.  and he understood.

By the time it happened again at the Don Williams concert in Asheville, NC he saw it coming and quietly handed me tissues he had thought to bring.

So yes, David Bowie's death affected me.

And then Alan Rickman.

Who didn't love Alan Rickman?

Wasn't he everyone's secret crush?

Who else could have been Professor Snape?

To those of us already captured by the magic of Harry Potter, watching the actors chosen to bring the characters to life through the movies were captivated and enchanted once again.  And felt as though we knew these people.  They became more than fictional characters to us - and none more so than Alan Rickman's Professor Snape.

No, I didn't know him.  Not really.  But don't we all feel like we kinda do?  Don't we feel like we'd enjoy having dinner with a particular celebrity and hear him tell stories that we can just sit back and relish?  Watch his face become animated and hear him laugh?  Alan Rickman seemed to possess a wicked and sly and intelligent sense of humor.  I am always a sucker for a man with a wry and dry sense of humor.  

Last night I watched the Willie Nelson tribute concert for being awarded The Gershwin Prize.

And I cried.

The artists performing Willie's music did a fantastic job.

And then Willlie performed.

And he looked every one of his 82 years.  and I cried.

Watched him make music with his two sons.

and I cried.

I've seen Willie Nelson in concert maybe 15 or more times over the years.

If there's a celebrity icon out there that has touched me more than anyone else, it's Willie.

I have no explanation.

Why should I?

I've read some snide comments on Facebook this week ridiculing people who have expressed sadness at the deaths of celebrities.

These people, I believe, must be hard, unfeeling people.

So, I stopped reading those comments, instead focusing on the words of people who reacted with honest sadness.

One of those was Samantha Bennett who writes poetry that resonates with me.

Here's what she wrote this week - - - 

For the Shape Shifters 

You knew that life was a limited-time offer.
Luckily, you could see through walls 
and veils 
and minds. 
Silly you thought that everybody had x-ray vision 
But we don't. 
So we were always so surprised by what you perceived. 
Perception. Perspective. Perspicacious. 
Purr Purr Purr 
You could talk to the animals and they talked right back. 
In your silence we saw stars. 
You were not here for our entertainment. 
You were here for our illumination. 
Thank you for the light. 

And now, for your final trick 
You have disappeared. 
And we're still here believing that

time is real and 
money matters 
and that you were ever really here to begin with

or that you have truly gone. 

©2016 Samantha Bennett 

Created with love for:
1/7: Richard Libertini, 82, actor
1/8: Brian Bedford, 80, actor
1/10: David Bowie, 69, force of nature
1/12: C.D. Wright, 67, poet
1/13: Lois Weisberg, 90, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for Chicago, IL.
1/14: Alan Rickman, 69, actor 

Share your work, people. We're not here forever.


And, here's an excellent article which talks about "Why We Grieve The Loss of Cultural Icons."  It makes perfect sense to me.  You may enjoy it.

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