Charlie Watts (1941-2021)

The drummer for the Rolling Stones has died at the age of 80. He had played with them for 60 years. This great rock band has stayed together a phenomenally long time, continuing to perform live, and were planning yet another tour.

Always using a straightforward four-drum setup – positively minimalist compared with the multi-instrument setups favoured by many rock groups – he gave the Rolling Stones propulsive, unfussy backbeats on every one of their studio albums, beginning with their self-titled 1964 debut. “I don’t like drum solos,” he once said. “I admire some people that do them, but generally I prefer drummers playing with the band. The challenge with rock’n’roll is the regularity of it. My thing is to make it a dance sound – it should swing and bounce.”
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The second Everly brother dies

Don Everly, the other half of the duo known as the Everly Brothers, has died at the age of 84. His brother Phil died in 2014 of pulmonary disease at the age of 74. What was surprising was that Phil had been a heavy smoker all his life. You would think that someone whose voice was in the higher registers and was his gift to the world would take better care of it.

The music of the Everly brothers played a huge role in my life and I still listen to them in my car on long drives. The beautiful harmonies and guitar playing resulted in highly memorable songs.

Here are two of my favorites.

The first is Walk Right Back which has a famous sequence of chords that begins the song and is repeated throughout. It was my ambition to master that sequence so that I could play that song. I failed.

And here’s Cathy’s Clown performed live. This song spoke to all the young men of my generation who acted like fools because of the spell the one they loved cast on them.

The making of Sympathy for the Devil

If you are of my generation, you would very likely have heard this song by the Rolling Stones. Apart from simply being a terrific song in its own right, it made a sensation when it was released in 1968 because it featured Mick Jagger singing in the first person as the devil. This was at a time when people were pretty uptight about religious themes being used in pop culture and the band was accused of being satanists. If you have never heard the song, below is a live performance from that year with the master showman Mick Jagger doing his thing. It is amazing that he could keep this up for more than fifty years. As a bonus, you get to see John Lennon and Yoko One among the dancers.


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The madness of US gun policies

We have yet another mass shooting in which a young man killed eight people, six of them young Asian women at three different massage parlors in Georgia. He was apprehended that same day because his parents identified him from surveillance footage after the first shooting and told police that his vehicle had a tracking device and how they could track him down. He seemed to be on his way to Florida to commit more murders.
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Once again I am reminded that I am really old!

I was watching the new series on Netflix titled The Queen’s Gambit that deals with a female chess prodigy entering that world that is even now highly male-dominated but was even more so in the 1960s, the period in which the show is set.

In one episode, we see her walking though a college campus and the soundtrack plays the instrumental Classical Gas by guitarist Mason Williams. It is a great piece that I know well and as soon as I heard it, I said to myself “Ha! The writers made a mistake because that music came long after the time represented in the film.” But later I looked it up and it is from 1968. I had no idea so much time had passed since I first heard it,

Here’s the tune. It is really good.

Opera short takes

I have not recently been providing any opera musings. This is not because I have not been watching them. During this period, I watched Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, Verdi’s Tosca, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, and Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman. But I did not write about them because none of them really enthused me enough to write about them at any length, so here are a few short impressions of them all.
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Verdi’s Aida (2018)

I watched this streaming by the New York Metropolitan Opera company two nights ago and found it to be excellent.

Set in ancient Egypt, the story begins with Aida, an Ethiopian who had been captured in an earlier war between her country and Egypt, who is now a slave in the service of Amneris, the daughter of the pharaoh. She keeps secret from everyone that she is really the daughter of the Ethiopian king Amonasro. She and an Egyptian soldier Radames fall in love but then he is appointed commander of the Egyptian forces to challenge the Ethiopian forces who have regrouped and are invading Egypt. Aida is torn between her love for Radames and her desire to have her own nation not be defeated in war.
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