Don Wilson of The Ventures (1933-2022)

The co-founder and rhythm guitarist of the highly influential instrumental surf-rock guitar group known as The Ventures has just died. According to NPR, to this day, The Ventures are the best-selling instrumental group of all time, known for their up-tempo, driving, pulsating beats. Bass player Nokie Edwards died in 2018.

Here are three examples of their music.

Here is their version of the theme from the popular TV show Hawaii Five-O.

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Do they plan for things like this?

What happens if you are playing a violin solo during a major recital and a string breaks on your violin?

This happened to Ray Chen when he was playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. While the orchestra played on, he exchanged his violin with that of the concertmaster and continued olaying, while the concertmaster exchanged it with another violinist and the damaged instrument kept getting shuffled around in the background.

He and the entire orchestra handled the situation with such aplomb that I wondered whether they anticipate such a possibility and plan for it. Chen was the person who posted this clip and he he says that it has happened to him before.

I recall once attending a string quartet recital and the last piece they played was a fairly long, very modern piece that involved quite vigorous use of the violin including tapping and plucking. It was not quite to my taste. Towards the very end, a string broke and since this was just a quartet, there was no sliding past it. They stopped and after a brief discussion amongst themselves said that in order to be true to the piece, they would start again from the top after replacing the string. My heart sank but I appreciated their commitment.

Miss Marple and the theme music from Murder She Said

Back in 1961, the film Murder She Said was released with Margaret Rutherford playing the role of Miss Marple, the amateur detective featured in many Agatha Christie mystery novels. In the books, Miss Marple is an elderly, small-built, demure, soft-spoken character who solves mysteries largely by engaging in conversation and gossip with everyone. Rutherford’s portrayal was as different as you can imagine, except for age. Rutherford’s Marple was a fearless, feisty, tough woman with bulldog determination who spoke her mind and brooked no nonsense even from the exasperated police inspector who tries to stop her from interfering in his investigations. She was heavy-set, very active, a vigorous, bustling, busybody, an expert horse rider and fencer who was more than willing to go undercover to solve mysteries.
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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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