Delilah and Dalila

One of Jon Vickers’s greatest roles was in Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saens.  So of course his death brought to mind Florence + The Machine’s song Delilah from their excellent new album “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”:

If that’s not to your taste, here is Vickers again:


Jon Vickers

The great Canadian tenor Jon Vickers died today.  My most memorable evening in the theater was seeing him, Renata Scotto, and Cornell MacNeil at the Met in the Zeffirelli production of Otello.  (Seems to me that Otello is that rarest of creatures that is actually better than its Shakespearean source.)

Here is Vickers in the final scene of Verdi’s opera.  Art just doesn’t get any better than this.

Two minutes and forty seconds of immortality

Once upon a time I had a tape of “The Best of Louie, Louie” from the inimitable Rhino Records. (My favorite track was the version by the Rice University Marching Owls Band.  What a great song for a marching band!  I was less impressed by the versions where you could actually make out the lyrics.  Who cares what the song is really about?

Amazon tells me I can also purchase “Love that Louie: The Louie Files” , “The Best of Louie Louie Vol 02“, and other compilations.  I guess this tells you the song is a classic.

Jack Ely, the Kingsmen’s lead singer, died yesterday, so let’s take this outa here — let’s go!

Percy Sledge may be dead, but his song will never die

Here is “When a Man Loves a Woman” sung (pretty well) by someone in the Chinese version of “The Voice”:

OK, fine, but there will never be anything like the original:

Hearkening back to our discussions of first person vs. third person: notice how the song starts out in the third person, and then abruptly changes into the first person, and suddenly becomes infinitely more powerful.  Percy isn’t talking in generalities now; he is talking about himself.  And therefore he’s talking about each of us.


“I Feel Fine” is 50!

Yesterday we pondered the genius of John Donne.  Today we honor another British genius, John Lennon.  Fifty years ago this week “I Feel Fine” was the number one song in the US.  Seems like only yesterday.

Donne was a great poet, but it clearly never occurred to him to add guitar feedback to a rock-and-roll song.  It fell to Lennon to come up with this idea three centuries later.

Use your talent before life decides to take it away

The other day I heard a story about a brilliant young novelist who had a brain aneurysm that left her unable to write.  The next morning I listened to a podcast about Jacqueline Du Pre, the brilliant British cellist who came down with multiple sclerosis at the age of 27, subsequently had to give up performing, and died from the disease at the age of 42.

It’s good to be reminded every once in a while that life sucks; so create beauty while you can.  Here is Du Pre playing the first movement of the Elgar Cello Concerto; you could just watch her emote for eight minutes without bothering to listen to the music.  The orchestra is conducted by her husband, Daniel Barenboim.  She was 22 at the time; he was 25.  They were on top of the world then; she’s been dead for 30 years now, and he is still going strong.  (The movie Hillary and Jackie recounts the story of Du Pre, her sister, and their husbands.  It’s a harrowing story, although apparently its accuracy is in dispute.)