This blog normally leans toward the humorous. Unfortunately, there’s not much humorous going on right now. For example, the great American songwriter and folk singer John Prine was taken by this horrid virus last night, and while his death is not more important or sad or tragic than others, it does make it personal to those of us fortunate enough not to have lost someone in this scary pandemic or had to watch a loved one suffer with the symptoms.
(sidenote: I’m writing this week because The Agent says if I just do VLOGs people will forget that this is about my writing. So, there you go.)
Here’s this guy (Prine) who was a kind of underdog story his whole life, an unexpected music industry success, who overcomes a serious cancer and disfiguring surgery but still continues to perform. Dude had a whole bunch of dates set up for this summer! All those people who may have been wanting to finally see him perform. Damn.
I got to see John in the late 70s in Central Park at the Dr. Pepper Concert Series, for godsakes. I remembered he was opening for Bonnie Raitt, but research doesn’t turn up that concert, so it’s possible she came out and sang with him. Or it was a different year. Likely went at the behest of a friend (not sure who) who was a fan, because I only knew one or two of John’s songs, but his set was eye- and ear-opening. Here’s one I knew:
I don’t remember which songs he played. I did some research but the usually reliable setlist.fm didn’t have any information from any of the shows at Wollman Skating Rink (later the “Trump Skating Rink” SMH), probably because it was a long time ago and anyone who was there can’t remember. Anything.
But I did find this poster of shows for the Dr. Pepper Festival, which I think is the year I saw him. Which either means I saw Jesse Winchester and don’t remember it, or I saw Prine a different year. Either way it’s mind boggling. The quality of the artists, week after week. Great bands, artists, and even comedians (Robert Klein!).
Another year, they had Elton Freakin’ John! 1970’s Elton John! Aerosmith! BB King! Outside! In a relatively intimate (compared to The Garden) venue, maybe 5000 seats. Here for your viewing, and for some of you, memory-jogging, is the schedule for 1977. Please note the ticket prices. Aztec Two-Step anyone?
Which of course brings us back to the present, and no concerts. Sure, it’s fun to watch some great artists, local and otherwise, perform from their homes, but being in a theater, a concert hall, an arena, an outdoor bowl with hundreds or thousands of other fans enjoying the experience, well, that’s not happening right now.
Kiki and I love going to music performances, in local clubs and concert venues. We’ve already had 4 shows rescheduled or cancelled. Sad. We were fortunate to have seen a couple of the last shows to happen in LA, first a great performance by the David Bromberg Band and Hot Tuna, and then an amazing show by Patti Smith and her band at the beautiful Disney Concert Hall. We all yearn for things to go back at least close to normal so we can enjoy these experiences together once again.
Meanwhile, we can just sit tight and watch concerts on youtube (highly recommend). I’ve watched the entire Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series on Netflix (did you know that John Cleese was not on the show in season 4?), which I also recommend. It’s all out there. Archive.org has like 1000 Grateful Dead concerts you can listen to, just for starters. We may be stuck inside, but we can listen or watch almost anything we want.
Right now, I’m listening to the great Wings guitarist, considered one of the finest acoustic guitar players in the world, Laurence Juber, live from his living room, playing Hoagy Charmichael’s Georgia on My Mind. He does this every day on Facebook live. It’s incredible. Hard to fathom that you can do this, actually, listen to one of the best players in the world live while sitting at your desk. Not sure if it can replay, but here you go: Laurence Juber Acoustic
Meanwhile, being one of those people who thinks about things too much, I’m worrying about what we’re going to do with all those disposable facemasks after they’re all used up. We already have too much garbage. Can they be sterilized and turned into, I don’t know, clothing for the homeless? Toilet paper? I hear “1.5 Million N95’s,” and wonder.
On the other hand, today I figured that since Tom Brady left New England for Tampa and gave his first interview exclusive to Howard Stern, I can stop hating him. For now anyway. That frees up a lot of energy for more positive things, like writing this dumb blog.
In “Dear Abby,” one of the two John Prine songs I knew before seeing him for the first time, John parodies the formidable Dear Abby, but respectfully, and makes fun of us for feeling so bad all the time instead of looking at the good things and people we have and leaving our happiness to fate. I leave you with the refrain from “Dear Abby,” an important message then, and perhaps even more important today.
You have no complaint
You are what your are and you ain’t what you ain’t
So listen up buster, and listen up good
Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood
Thanks for reading, stay safe, and maybe I’ll see you on video next week. Love is the answer.