Those We Have Lost in 2020 – RIP Kenny, Bill, John and Richard

Because this year has been one like no other, my blogging has changed tack and I have not been keeping up with the sad roll call of people we have lost from the world of music. It is almost inevitable that many of them would have been written about here before, as most were elder statesmen of their particular genres, but time to pay special tribute I think.

My very first post of this year led me back to the chart music of 1970, and at the top spot was Mr Kenny Rogers with his excellent story song Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town. I am not however really that familiar with the First Edition era of Kenny’s career. The Kenny I am more familiar with was his late ’70s persona which gave us the hits Lucille, The Gambler and Coward of the County. Like Ruby these were all very much story songs and their lyrics have given us some great lines which are often quoted. After the news of his death on March the 20th, just ahead of all the upheaval and distress caused by the pandemic, there were many who noted that Kenny had followed the advice within his signature song:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em

Ten days after the death of Kenny Rogers, news came through that we had also lost Bill Withers. Last summer, after a particularly lovely day out I shared many pictures in a blog post, so the obvious accompanying song choice was Bill’s 1977 song Lovely Day. To be honest I hadn’t realised until that point just how respected Bill had been in the music world, having won three Grammy Awards and been nominated for six more. His life was even the subject of a 2009 documentary film called Still Bill. Quite something considering he worked as a professional musician for just 15 years, from 1970 to 1985, after which he moved on to other occupations.

bill-withers-2
Bill Withers, 1938-2020

My Bill song choice is going to have to be this one however, Ain’t No Sunshine. They’re not for everyone I know, but I am a bit of a fan of Richard Curtis movies, and the song certainly fitted a particularly poignant scene in the film Notting Hill very well – Poor old lovelorn Hugh Grant straddles all four seasons whilst he walks through the market with Bill’s song playing the background [spoiler alert: all turns out well in the end].

Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers:

A week after the death of Bill, we heard of the sad loss of John Prine. John was someone I only discovered since starting this blog, and when I accidentally came across his song When I Get To Heaven one evening when on my way to visit my mum in hospital, I got a bit emotional, all because of these lines of lyric:

And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts

Yes, there was nothing more I wanted than to go find my dad who had died 15 years earlier, and ask for his advice on decisions that were going to have to be made. Listening to the song, even us non-believers are almost prepared to be converted, as there is a definite party atmosphere going on. John Prine had apparently been treated for cancer twice, and it was after his second bout that he wrote the song about some of the things he had to give up following his illness. Here is a quote: “I wrote that song because I figured there’s no cancer in heaven. So when I get up there, I’m going to have a cocktail and a cigarette that’s 9 miles long. That’s my idea of what heaven is like.

I hope John is up there right now, sitting with Kenny and Bill, enjoying that cocktail and extremely long cigarette!

When I Get To Heaven by John Prine:

Last but most definitely not least, on the 9th May we lost the artist known best to us as Little Richard. I can’t pretend to know that much about Mr Penniman, as he was a bit before my time, but I do know he was an influential figure in popular music, often nicknamed The Innovator, The Originator, or The Architect of Rock and Roll. His best known work dates back to the mid-1950s, when his charismatic showmanship, dynamic music and frenetic piano playing laid the foundation for rock and roll. He influenced numerous singers and musicians across musical genres from rock to hip hop and in a line-up he would have been easily recognisable because of his pompadour hairstyle.

Tutti Frutti became an instant first hit for him in 1955 but as we started off with Kenny Rogers, and mentioned his song Lucille, I think I’ll come full circle and end with Little Richard’s song of the same name. Lucille became a big hit for him in 1957 but he then abandoned rock and roll for born again Christianity.  When he was persuaded to tour Europe in 1962, the Beatles opened for him and Richard even advised them on how to perform his songs. He is cited as one of the first crossover black artists, and his music and concerts broke down barriers, drawing blacks and whites together despite attempts to sustain segregation. How sad therefore to see what is going on right now as I type, 60 years on.

Until next time, RIP Kenny, Bill, John and Richard, you will not be forgotten.

When I Get To Heaven Lyrics
(Song by John Prine)

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel, ain’t the afterlife grand?
And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town

Then as God as my witness, I’m gettin’ back into show business
I’m gonna open up a nightclub called “The Tree of Forgiveness”
And forgive everybody ever done me any harm
Well, I might even invite a few choice critics, those syph’litic parasitics
Buy ’em a pint of Smithwick’s and smother ’em with my charm

‘Cause then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah when I get to heaven, I’m gonna take that wristwatch off my arm
What are you gonna do with time after you’ve bought the farm?
And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts
And I always will remember these words my daddy said
He said, “Buddy, when you’re dead, you’re a dead pecker-head”
I hope to prove him wrong… that is, when I get to heaven

‘Cause I’m gonna have a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale

Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Communing With Nature, Bill Withers and “Lovely Day”

It’s been too long since I last posted anything, so all the ideas I’ve been mulling over have expired. I still have the long list of “posts pending” to tackle, but they all require a fair bit of research, so for another day. To kick start the blogging juices, it’ll have to be another picture post. It’s been a bit of a wet summer with us but this morning was lovely, both sunny and still, so for the first time this year I had my breakfast outside.

What with next door’s apple tree hovering over me, the second flowering of the patio rose (I’m so suburban, I know) and the pots of begonias (written about here before) giving us their final flush of flowers, I could almost forget about all that is going on in the news. It was last week that I first cottoned on to the calming influence of nature, as I ended up having two early morning forest walks in a row. Unlike this morning those days were not quite so lovely, but rather drizzly and a bit windy – Something bracing though about being out there facing the elements and definitely good for the old mental health.

My final pictures come from our trip down to The Cairngorms this last weekend. Mr WIAA had to return his repaired windsurfing board to the place where it usually resides, and by a stroke of luck, Saturday also turned out to be a “lovely day”. Not sure what came over me but on the way home I developed a craving for some good old fashioned fish ‘n’ chips. Last time I partook of that national delicacy it didn’t end well, but lo and behold, once we hit Aviemore we discovered that the Happy Haggis offered High Tea, complete with mushy peas, bread ‘n’ butter, mugs of tea and ice-cream for afters. We’ve driven past that shop for years never realising it also had a great wee traditional fish ‘n’ chip restaurant. It might be some time before we go again, as I’ve now had my quota of carbs for the year I think, but would thoroughly recommend.

But as I often say around here, this is supposed to be a music blog, so which song should I feature this time. The term “lovely day” has cropped up a fair few times in this post, so what better song to include than Lovely Day by Bill Withers. The most notable aspect of this song is that Bill sustains that note, towards the end, for a full 18 seconds, one of the longest ever recorded in a song. Lovely Day was first released as a single in late 1977, reaching No. 7 in the UK Singles Chart in January 1978 but has since been re-released at least twice and appeared in several television commercials.

As for Bill Withers, he is also responsible for one of my all-time favourite songs Ain’t No Sunshine which won him a Grammy in 1971. It was used for that great scene in the romantic comedy Notting Hill where lovesick Hugh Grant encounters all four seasons in the three minutes it takes Bill to sing the song.

Lovely Day by Bill Withers:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Last time I wrote about the band Madness, and how the term Night Boat has passed into cockney rhyming slang as a term for a giro, or unemployment benefit cheque. To use another bit of rhyming slang, It’s All Gone Pete Tong, and at the moment I can’t see the situation improving any time soon.

I remember suffering badly at the time of the 2008 financial crisis, as at one point it did seem as if the big four banks would go under and I anticipated all sorts of fallout. Some of the people I worked with were not in the slightest bit worried however, as they apparently “used another bank”, not realising the far-reaching effects of such an event. Similarly, there are plenty of people going about their daily business at the moment, not interested at all in what is going on in the Westminster bubble, as it “doesn’t affect them”.

As happened in 2008, nothing cataclysmic will probably occur on the 31st of October, and this cliff edge they talk about might turn out to be a gentle slope – At the moment we just don’t know, and there lies the problem. I wish I didn’t absorb all the negativity around at the moment but it’s pretty hard to avoid. What I am realising however is that a bit of communing with nature works wonders, so if you find yourself waking up to a “lovely day”, and you get the chance, I thoroughly recommend getting out and enjoying it. Works for me.

Until next time….

Lovely Day Lyrics
(Song by Bill Withers/Skip Scarborough)

When I wake up in the morning, love
And the sunlight hurts my eyes
And something without warning, love
Bears heavy on my mind

Then I look at you
And the world’s alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it’s gonna be
A lovely day
… lovely day, lovely day, lovely day …

When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face
When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way

Then I look at you
And the world’s alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it’s gonna be
A lovely day…..

When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face
When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way

Then I look at you
And the world’s alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it’s gonna be
A lovely day……