My thoughts on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Oh, and sports too.
Well, 2016 has pretty much sucked on an epic level. There has been more significant deaths this past year, than any other year I can remember. We’ve seen the death of justice. We have seen the death of democracy. We have seen the death of fact-based journalism, and we have seen the death of the office of The President of The United States. These are all things that I could write 10,000 words about. However, that is not what this blog is going to be about. Today I writing to pay tribute to the numerous celebrities, that died this year, who had a real impact in my life, throughout the years. Never before have I written one of these types of blogs and been more sad. Although the list of people to pass this year is far too long and distinguished, to comment on them all, I just want point out that nearly everyone who passed in 2016 had at least a small place in my heart. Whether it be Abe Vigoda as “Fish”, Dan Haggerty as “Grizzly Adams”, Tony Burton as Apollo Creed’s trainer, Anton Yelchin as Chekov in the new Star Trek movies, the always hip Craig Sager, or any one of the many icons like Gary Marshall, Doris Roberts, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Muhammed Ali, Leonard Cohen, John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Morley Safer, Gordie Howe, Pat Summit or Debbie Reynolds. Everyone of which I have a memory of, in some form or another. This year has seen a literal hall of fame list of celebrity deaths. It’s unbelievable. That being said, I just want to take a few moments to comment on the people who’s careers spoke to me louder than the rest.
Admittedly, I was never a die-hard Bowie fan through the years. I always liked him, but my knowledge of all his work was average at best. I knew what most fans knew. I knew the hits. I knew who he was married to. I knew the movies he had been in. I knew the fashion statements he had made over the years, but that was about all. Well, I did know one other thing. I knew that he was way more than the few things I knew. Naturally, as all the tributes started rolling in after his passing, my knowledge of this man grew exponentially. The other thing that grew was the library of David Bowie songs that I was now listening to. XM had a channel dedicated to his music for a couple weeks, and I was listening all day, everyday. I was mesmerized at the sheer number of songs he had that I had never heard before. Songs that I was finding far better than the hits I had known my whole life. This dude was a freakin’ musical genius. So many different styles, musically and lyrically. As a music lover, it cut me to the core that I had not been on the David Bowie train much earlier in my life. Fortunately, that is the great thing about music. If it is of a superior nature, it will last forever. Therefore, I still had plenty of time to get on board. I have quite a ways to go, but I’m getting there………..thankfully. I know this song isn’t exactly obscure, but it’s one of my favorite, so I’ll leave it right here. 😉
This one sucked big time. When Michael Jackson died, I was bummed, but not completely surprised. When Whitney Houston died, I was also bummed, but still not completely surprised. When Prince died, I was stunned and utterly speechless. If ever I wanted someone’s death to really be an internet hoax, this was the time. Unfortunately, it was 100% true. Prince was an icon in every sense of the word. Much like David Bowie, ironically. The songs, the clothes, the movies, and of course, the guitar. I read an article, after he died, of an interview that Eric Clapton did some years back. The interviewer asked Clapton what it was like being the greatest guitar player alive, to which he responded, “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Prince.” How cool of an answer is that? Super cool. And that was what Prince was, Super Cool. He composed music like Mozart, he wrote lyrics like Shakespeare, and he played a guitar like Yo Yo Ma plays a cello. Throw in all the great clothes, combined with his never douchey swagger, and you had arguably the most significant musician ever. To think that him and Bowie left us, within months of each other, is not just heartbreaking, it’s unfair. Thoroughly unfair. And don’t get me started on Vanity. A Prince disciple. Ugggh. Now I know I could leave you with any one of a dozen Prince songs, but this one will likely be my favorite for a long time. Enjoy. “Ya gotta have a mother for me, so move your bag ass ’round this way so I can work on that zipper, baby. Tonight, you’re a star, and I’m the big dipper.”
David Bowie, Prince, and now George Michael? WTF 2016? Are you trying to erase every great musical memory from my youth? Now, don’t go saying that George doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the other 2 guys, because that’s like saying that David Ortiz doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. Nobody is saying Ortiz or Michael are as good as their superior counterparts, but they are still both hall of famers. This guy truly had his fingers on the pulse of late 80’s/early 90’s music, and accumulated 8 number 1 hits. That’s a lot. Hell, Whitney Houston only had 11. Much like Bowie and Prince, he also had fashion style. Not to the same level, but it was there. He just had “it”. Many of the greats do. He owned the radio and MTV for over a decade, and only got better with age. Although there is no need to run down all of his songs, and my thoughts on them, the one that will likely always be my favorite is Freedom! ’90. The thing I loved most about that song was the buildup to the chorus. “Some times the clothes do not make the man.” Brilliant song on so many levels.
Malik Taylor aka Phife Dawg
Ok. We have already established that I was a real fan of the 3 people above, but now we are talking about someone, from a genre that I am extremely well versed in. I love rock, pop, r&b, blues and funk, but rap and hip hop is where my true love is. Especially old school hip hop. Moreover, A Tribe Called Quest is likely my favorite group of all-time, and although Q-Tip was the captain of the ship, The Five Foot Assassin was most definitely his first mate. For a guy who started out thinking that he didn’t have the skills to get on the mic, Phife proved everyone wrong, including himself. He was the Yin to Tip’s Yang. Pippen to his Jordan. Messier to his Gretzky. The perfect pair. I could probably recite the verses to every single song Tribe ever did, and at no point will I ever put more effort into Tip’s lyrics than I will Phife’s. He was extremely good at his craft, and probably one of the most underrated rappers ever. I’m not saying he’s top 20, or anything, just that he’s better than he gets credit for. All I know is that in my house, this guy will most definitely live on forever. FOREVER! “Microphone check 1-2, what is this?”
I wholeheartedly admit that even though his career was fantastic, he will always be Hans Gruber to me, or is it Bill Clay? Either way, he was the coolest bad guy, in the biggest action blockbuster of the 80’s. Die Hard was to action what The Breakfast Club was to teen angst. The benchmark. Right in the middle of it was Alan Rickman. His portrayal of the lead protagonist was brilliant, and truly gave you a window into the man who would go on to have a terrific life in the entertainment industry. He could play any role with ease, and he was a joy to watch. I know that those who are younger than me will be more inclined to remember him as Severus Snape, and that’s ok. It just proves that he bridged the gap from one generation to the next. How awesome is that? Every story I heard after his passing, from those who knew him best, was that he was an even better human being than he was an actor. Considering all the jaded lives that so many in Hollywood live, it is refreshing to know that he was above all that. I was going to post a video of him dying at the end of Die Hard, but that seemed in poor taste, so I’ll give you some Hans Gruber being cool, because let’s face it, Alan Rickman was cool.
What can I say here, that hasn’t been said a million times in the last week. This one hurts. Much like Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher had an amazing career, but just like Rickman she will always be remembered by me for one of her earliest roles, Princess Leia/General Organa. That’s right. I said General Organa. I said it because she deserves the recognition that comes with her advancement in the Star Wars world, because it mirrors her real life. The person she was in 1978, is not the person she had become in 2016. Much like Leia, she had been through battles and wars, and came out the other side a far more strong and seasoned woman. She exuded badassery, in every way. I know that she is a far bigger success than just a character from Star Wars, but that will likely be her most remembered role. As a big Star Wars fan, I was hoping very much that she would finally get to use the Jedi skills, that we all know she has, before this new trilogy is over. Now, all I think about is the fact that the next movie is already in the can, which means that General Organa’s death will be delivered to Star Wars fans via the opening scroll of Episode 9. That makes me want to cry just thinking about it. Dammit, I hate 2016.