It’s all over the news this week as well it should be: The King is dead. Long live the King! And without further adieu, here he is, Mr. B.B. King, and “Rock Me, Baby.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OK_AwCjK0Ak.
It was a week of losses around here. Not just B.B. King, but also one of the stars of the writing community – William Zinsser without whom no one intent on writing a memoir should even think of beginning. Zinsser taught more than one generation how to put together a life story – “just begin” – and then how to polish it into something the world might want to read.
As if those two weren’t enough for me, there was one of those personal losses that shakes us and throws us into a sea of memory, history, what ifs and why this and what the hell really happened. In other words the other half of a former romance, in this case a husband. We were long since divorced, experienced the usual angst (sorry, I think amicable splits are the figments of somebody’s imaginations) and had little contact the past few years, but he was the father of my beautiful daughters and we were high school sweethearts.
That kind of youthful history has weight. Including musical weight. We both loved jazz and were part of that 50s and 60s scene I’ve written about when so many of the late greats were right there for us.
Here’s one of the tunes I remember well. The title fooled us, but it’s a great tune anyway. From the album “Pres and Teddy,” Lester Young, Teddy Wilson, Gene Ramey and Jo Jones with “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” Not a bad way to fall in love for the first time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWoGC0SFWzo
Another tune from our day was a surprising jazz hit on an album of folk music, but hit it did in 1958. Those three clean-cut young musicians who gave us “Tom Dooley,” among other tunes also gave us one that remains a favorite with me – smoothly sophisticated before I was even old enough to drink. “Scotch and Soda” by The Kingston Trio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5Ms6sM9noY
The next tune is not jazz by any stretch of the imagination, but it was our favorite song and we drove forty miles just to buy the 45. So I’m including it for old time’s sake. If you were around and old enough to listen to music in 1955, you’ll remember. If you were not, well, consider it a precursor to all the Motown tunes and the guy and girl groups who performed them…This one is “Earth Angel” by the Penguins. I still have that 45 record. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJcGi4-n_Yw
Brubeck, Tjader, Troup, Mulligan were among the favorites with our small crowd at college where we segued from rock and roll into the Beat kingdom and all that was hip. We didn’t leave rock and roll behind, but we augmented it with the cool. And one of the coolest was Miss June Christy who made an album to let the world know. Here’s the title song from “Something Cool,” a 1960 hit among the jazz kittens. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn8EtaxGJP0
And finally, one of the favorite groups of the day was The Four Freshmen. There were a lot of vocal quartets covering every folk song written, and a few that were smoother, but the Freshman went with jazz and close, compelling harmonies that I don’t think anybody’s really come close to over the years. They teamed up from time to time with other musicians and this one is from their album, “The Four Freshmen and the Five Trombones.” You’ve got to admit that’s a challenging combination, but they didn’t miss a beat. And this song seems truly appropriate for the occasion, “I Remember You.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1rxfcwSa94&list=PLOoWcYc8ovis7SalAKBA5xtkrUxHPuyjx
And that’s it for this post, JazzBabies. Consider the words of writer Nancy Rawls as you make your way this week: “Eventually we will lose everything and everyone, so love well and pack light.”