David Bowie, Starman. Glenn Frey, Eagle. Alan Rickman, Slytherin. Remembering Three Icons.
On Sunday, January 10, 2015 David Bowie died of liver cancer. He was but 69 years old. Over the past 50 years he was been a writer, an artist, an actor, a fashion plate, a gender bender, a social force. He was continually reinventing his persona, far more often than not to a point so far in advance of ours that we were left breathless, struggling to keep up.
The notice that he had died hit me hard. For a moment, I wasn't sure why it had hit me so hard as I have never, ever owned a single 45, LP, 8 track, cassette or CD of his; not one. It wasn't because I wasn't a fan; far from it. It was just one of those strange facts of life that we all have, facts that make no sense whatsoever. I do own and love a DVD of Labyrinth, in which he plays Jared the Goblin King to Jennifer Connelly's Sarah. In this wonderful film Sarah wishes away her half brother Toby, saying she wished the Goblins would come and take him away. They do, and she then instantly regrets her wish. She sets out on a journey to save him as Jared attempts to discourage her at every turn. My family has loved this film for years and each time we see it we love it a bit more.
I suppose one reason Bowie's demise hit me so hard is that several years ago, our middle son won a part in a school musical. He had never before gone out for anything like this and when we saw him in the lead role we were beyond surprised. The musical is Disco Inferno and is a retelling of a deal with the devil in which the person gives up their soul in order to get ahead in the music business. At one point in the musical our son strode on stage in a skin tight off one shoulder unitard with his face painted, looking much like Ziggy Stardust. Our mouths hung open at the transformation while the audience erupted in applause as he sang his heart out. From that moment on, Bowie was a part of our family through our son.
He was an actor, a musician, an artist, a leader. He sang with Bing Crosby and married a super model. He had a charisma that reached across the generations and pulled you in, daring you to think for yourselves. Among my favorite songs of his are Let's Dance (Red Shoes), Young Americans, Fame, Golden Years, Modern Love, and China Girl. His collaboration with Queen and Freddy Mercury on Under Pressure is simply outstanding. As I watched some of his videos recently I read a comment that spoke to me. A person said that he imagined David walking up to the Pearly Gates, Freddy on the other side as that bass line plays away. I like that.
Bowie's song Heroes is perhaps my favorite song of all that he performed. The line we can be heroes speaks to us all, challenging us to be more than we are, more than we thought we could be. We can all be heroes. David, I know you were a hero to many of us here on earth and I know I speak for all of those as I say you will be missed. Thank you for your time and for what you gave to us.
Labyrinth to get a reboot?
- 'Labyrinth' to Get Reboot With 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Co-Writer (
The 1986 movie starred David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, and was the last movie directed by Jim Henson.
A short four days later on Thursday, January 14, 2016 the world lost actor Alan Rickman at age 69. For years I have enjoyed his acting, back to the original Die Hard film in 1988. Though he played a villain more often than not, he could be a wonderful, gentle person as well, as evidenced in the comments made by those who knew him best after his passing.
As I stated, I first came to know him as Hans Gruber in Die Hard. He could go from hard, pitiless and menacing to sniveling in an instant as he showed in one scene with Bruce Willis. I do not know of another actor who had a better sneer than Rickman.
I next saw him in Quigley Down Under, a vastly under-appreciated film to me. Quigley, played by Tom Selleck, is hired to kill dingoes in Australia in the late 1800's. Once he arrives and meets his employer, he understands that he is not to kill dingoes, but to kill the aboriginal peoples inhabiting the land Rickman's character Elliot Marston owns. Marston imagines himself to be a wild west hero in the mold of Wyatt Earp, sneering and snidely as he speaks to his hired help and Quigley alike. Rickman plays the part perfectly and we love to hate him as the bad guy.
But perhaps the character we will remember him most for came at the late stages of his all too short career. Sevarus Snape, the potions teacher at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter novels was for six and three quarters of the novels, and seven and a half of the films the very best bad guy you could hope for. Yet he redeems himself through the love that comes to light as he dies at Voldemort's hands. It is touching, it is moving, and as we realize he will meet his end (evil always turns upon itself) we come to know that Rickman as Snape is perhaps one of the bravest and strongest characters ever to be brought to life in print and film. His inside information from Voldemort's camp to Dumbledore is on par with the very best spy efforts in cinema history. We all know he is really an evil person, we know it. Then, at the 11th hour, we see a side of him hinted at by Dumbledore yet never once revealed. He is not the evil person we believe him to be; he is brave, trustworthy, and has a heart larger than we believed possible. He loved Harry's mother beginning as a child, and through her, loves Harry.
He could also play a Shakespearian part, a comedic part, and just about anything he put his mind to. His death of Pancreatic Cancer has left a hole in the Hollywood scene and he will be missed most desperately by those (myself included) who appreciated his ability to mold his persona into whatever part needed to be played.
And just yesterday, Monday January 18, 2016 we lost Glenn Frey, he of The Eagles. Frey was the founding member of The Eagles, a band that played a large part in my youth and continued to my adulthood. Beginning in the early 1970's, I absolutely loved their sound, their songs. From Desperado to Lying Eyes to Tequila Sunrise and beyond, theirs was a sound that was unmatched in music. From country to rock, this group was perfect. Perhaps the song that best reflects their influence and Frey's is Desperado, written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey. This song has been covered by countless artists over the past 40 years, from Linda Ronstadt's soulful version to Johnny Cash to The Carpenters to Celtic Thunder to Chris LeDoux to Andy Williams to Miranda Lambert. Soulful, poignant, and sad it is considered to be one of the best western songs of all time, landing on the Western Writers of America Top 100 Western Songs of All Time. And even though it was never released as a single by The Eagles, it somehow ranks among the Top 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time as listed by Rolling Stone Magazine.
Factoid: did you know that their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 is the second best selling album of all time? It was number one until Michael Jackson's Thriller came along.
Frey could also act as he did in that hit series Miami Vice. He wrote two songs which were featured in the show, Smuggler's Blues and You Belong To The City, which is one of my favorites of his. He also wrote The Heat Is On which was featured in Eddie Murphy's breakout film Beverly Hills Cop. But is was another song of his that would hit me hard and stay with me for the past forty years.
In 1977, I had just graduated from high school and our family moved to a tiny town in Arkansas named Flippin. I knew nobody and was forced by my parents to chauffer my sister to a school party in October of '77 so she could attend. There I met a young cheerleader (the only one I would ever date). We began to go out and at Christmas she presented me with the 8 track of Hotel California which contained the Frey song, New Kid In Town. At that time I was the new kid in town so I liked the song. Then came the day she broke up with me and the rest of the song came to have a new meaning to me. Now I was no longer the new kid in town, and as such became the forgotten person. Ah well, such is life.
Over the years Frey had great success both in music and as an actor. I own the CD of Hell Freezes Over, the tour in which The Eagles got back together. The title is in reference to when the group would reunite and some said "when Hell freezes over". Well evidently it did and the group played to sold out venues, fans paying for the privilege to be in the audience seeing them play once more. I also own the DVD of their Farewell I Tour which was filmed in Melbourne, Australia. As I viewed it last night, I was struck once more at the age diversity shown in their audience. From children 6 and 8 years old all the way to grandparents in their 70's; the music of The Eagles is almost universal in its ability to reach you. Age, sex, race: it doesn't matter. The Eagles, and specifically the works of Glenn Frey can be accessible to all.
Frey died of a combination of maladies at the tender age of 67 years. That is far, far too young to die and while his contributions to the world of music will live on I know, but without him to sing, write, play they will not have the meaning they did. I suppose that now Glenn is the new kid in town, joining recent additions David and Alan in Heaven alongside those who have gone before. What a band they must have there now!