Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recollections and some news

What with trips to New Orleans, New York, Nashville and other places, spring went by very quickly. But spring is still here, even though it feels like summer already because of the warm weather. The start of summer is on June 20th. I was going to write a post on spring flowers but we have been home for a few days and I caught up with the news. I still would like to show our very pretty hydrangea shrub. We bought it at a The Hydrangea Festival in LaGrange, a town in mid-Georgia. It has white star-like flowers on the outside and a bunch of tiny blue buds inside. I believe it is called “Blue Bunny” a cultivar of the species involucrate or bracted hydrangea (hortensia in French.) I showed the flower in my top picture and here is the little shrub below.

This spring there was some sad news and some good news. Some of the news made me nostalgic; I’ll explain why. Growing up I was surrounded by music. There was the radio or my father playing the piano. My mother loved dancing and taught me how to dance when I was 4 years old. When she heard a tango or a Viennese waltz on the radio she would call me and we would dance. My father having been badly injured in WW2 could not dance with her anymore. I loved all the Johann Strauss, Jr. waltzes we danced.

The Viennese Waltz by Vladimir Pervuninsky, Russian, born in 1957

Later on, as a teenager I really enjoyed listening to all types of music – the dancing music, opera and classical music, and most of all jazz. I also bought many records, 45 rpm and 33 long players of French singers, like those shown below: Joe Dassin, Georges Moustaki, Demis Roussos, Hughes Aufrey, Georges Brassens, Serge Gainsbourg, Edith Piaf and many others.

One of my favorite singers was, and still is, the French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour. I had many records of his songs and now I have CDs too.

I brought all these old records with me when I moved to the US. When I met my husband in San Francisco, he introduced me to the music he liked, which was folk music like Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Collins, Richard and Mimi Fariña, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and others. He also listened to bluegrass music. So these were other genres of music I started to listen to with him. It was with sadness that I heard that one of the great musicians we listened to, and still do, just passed away. His name was Doc Watson. He was a guitarist, singer and songwriter. He won seven Grammy awards and several others. He died on May 29, 2012 – he was 89 years old. He played traditional folk, bluegrass, blues and gospel music. Below is a picture of him, courtesy Getty Images.

Doc Watson was from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and like so many people from that area he was a born storyteller. He was blind since one year old of age. Doc Watson was an authentic artist. He had a flat-picking style for playing his guitar - his fingers were so quick and the sound so smooth. We spent many hours listening to him.

Just one of the People2011 Sculpture in Boone, North Carolina created by Alex Hallmark (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

In the clip below of an old video he sings “Deep River Blues.”

In 1982 I started working in an aircraft manufacturing company and for the first 14 years, until 1996, my position was to be the “liaison” between the company and foreign trainees who came to study and to learn how to maintain the aircraft their governments or companies had purchased. Three weeks after I began working there sixty trainees came from Algeria. None spoke English – just Algerian and French. I had to find housing for them, take them to driving school, doctors, show them around our town and be like their “big sister.” Here I am below in an old photo with a group leaving for an end of year vacation. I think about 50 of them left that day but I am shown here with only 14 of the trainees.

At first, and until they started to speak some English, I would go with them to movies or discos. My husband did not come because he does not like to dance, but my assistant and I would often dance. The singer who really made our crowd dance was Donna Summer. Here is a photo of her below (author unknown.)

She won the Grammy Award five times because of her innovative style and beautiful mezzo-soprano voice. In December 2009 she performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway. Donna died on May 17th, 2012 at age 63. She had a tremendous voice as well as class and style. Her funeral was held in Nashville, Tennessee. When I heard about it I still could see us dancing in Atlanta while she sang her hits like “Bad Girl” and others. Another era is gone. Below is a clip of Donna Summer singing “Hot Stuff.”

It is so hard to see such talented artists leaving us. Another one who passed away on May 8th, 2012, was the author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. He was 83 years old. His book “Where the Wild Things are” published in 1963 was a classic. Even though he said that he did not write for children, he told stories that delighted children. He wrote and illustrated dozens of books as well as operas.

Last January Maurice Sendak appeared twice on the TV comedy show “The Colbert Report.” I watched both segments then. It was brilliant. Sendak was gruff, grumpy and funny with a dark sense of humor – a unique fellow. He had great repartee to Colbert. When Colbert asked him if he liked writing children’s books he replied “I don't write for children, I write, and then someone says, 'That's for children.'" Below is Maurice Sendak with his dog Herman, named after Melville (photo courtesy of Annie Leibovitz and Vanity Fair.)

Here is another line from Sendak : "I didn't set out to make children happy or make life easier for them ... I like [children] as few and far between as I do adults. Maybe a bit more because I really don't like adults at all." He may sound mean but he was very charitable. After his 50-year longtime companion, the psychoanalyst Dr. Eugene Glynn, died Sendak donated $1 million to the clinic where Dr. Glynn treated young people. When people we like and admire leave us, a little bit of us goes away with them too. Here is a rose for their remembrance - the rose Mister Lincoln flowering in our garden this week.

But there were some good news too, such as the election of the new president of France Francois Hollande. Well, the future will tell if he can redress the mistakes that former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a good friend of George W. Bush, made with his conservative regime. The best news, of course, is that the current president of the United States, Barack Obama, has declared that he supports same-sex marriage. This is not a religious or moral issue; this is an issue of equal rights. The law does not say “equal but separate” or equal unless the Bible says…, or the Koran says… or any other religious book says… something to the contrary. Hatred based on religion is not admissible in a “free” country. When America affirms that there is liberty for all, then simply - there should be liberty for all, equal rights for all, with all citizens enjoying the same benefits. That’s it.

All men are created equal Line from the Declaration of Independence (public domain)

In North America, Canada has legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. I have not read on Canadian blogs that it has harmed heterosexual marriages in any way. Many states are trying to legalize bigotry and hatred – this should not be a state issue anyway - same-sex marriages should be legal under Federal law. When I became a US citizen I read the Declaration of Independence and remember that it says : “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.….” All US Citizens, regardless of sex, color, religion, age, national origins have the same rights to happiness – it is equal protection under the law. In a 1967 decision the Supreme Court said that no state could prohibit mixed-race marriages because “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man.’ And it is – it is a civil and human right.

Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull, American 1756-1843


Frances said...

Oh Vagabonde, I so agree with what you've written here. And how I wish that we'd been able to include Doc Watson and Maurice Sendak in our breakfast conversation.

It's so grand to know that the future will allow us many more conversations.

(Although tonight it seems that something is very curious about my access to my email. I guess one cannot have every wish come true.)


Kay L. Davies said...

I enjoyed listening to Deep River Blues, and of course I remember Donna Summer.
I also agree with you about human rights. The current prime minister of Canada (a follower of George W. Bush) is trying hard to encourage bigotry and racism in our country, and it frightens me. I have many friends who look, live or believe differently from me, but I do not think they should be attacked for their beliefs or for their way of life.
I love the photo of you with your Algerian "little brothers"!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Two such great "Musical Artists" gone now. It seems as if every day, we are loosing "ARTISTS" from all walks of life...
I LOVE that Rose from your Garden---Mr. Lincoln...BEAUTIFUL!
And that's a wonderful picture of you--you look beautiful and you are surrounded by a very handsome group of gentlemen...! Those sound like 'heady' days, my dear.

A few days ago--on the weekend maybe, PBS showed a WONDERFUL Documentary on "THE WEAVERS", made maybe 30 years ago when they re-united for a concert at Carnegie Hall--PLUS, there is new footage with those still alive, talking about the concert and preparing for it..It Was FANTASTIC!! I donated a contribution so I could get the DVD---now, I am sorry I didn't get two--One for you and your husband, as well...Doc Watson wasn't part of that group, but he was certainly of that period.
I LOVED both of those clips!!!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh, and I forgot to say...I so agree with you about "All Men Are Created Equal"....It is shameful that so many Americans don't actually feel that way, nor do they live that way...I reviewed a book on my blog that was written by two men who have been a loving commited couple for over 50 years....! It is a wonderful book---and very touching!

Thérèse said...

Great post, great memories. Mr Sendak as well as Mr Watson and Mrs Summers are part of our life too... it is so very sad to see them disappear.
1967 is not far away but there is still so much to achieve concerning these rights, sometimes it feels as if a few of these past ideas were coming back...

Vicki Lane said...

Sendak and Doc Watson were both well-loved in our household. I was lucky enough to see Doc several times at Merlefest -- such a pleasant, easy-going stage presence he had.

DJan said...

After he died I researched information on Sendak and saw those Colbert episodes. They were brilliant and showed who he was. I too feel a sadness when people who are part of our lives and helped to create the world we live in pass away. Our lives were enriched by them, therefore we are mourning for that which is gone. You said it all for me about equal rights. It's where we are all headed. Thanks for this great post, VB. I enjoyed both videos, too. :-)

Kay Dennison said...

What a varied and beautiful post!!!!

Gotta love Doc Watson!!!

Kay Dennison said...

What a varied and beautiful post!!!!

Gotta love Doc Watson!!!

Pat said...

The one good thing when we lose these talented artists we still have the legacy of their work.
I enjoyed the music - thank you.
It is a long wearisone task to get everyone to believe that all men are equal - but much progress has been made in my lifetime.

Down by the sea said...

Your posts are always so interesting, I enjoyed your journey through your musical memories and the flowers in your garden.
I agree with what you wrote on my blog. I would hate my blog to get so big that there wasn't enough time to correspond with others. That is one of the best bits of blogging!
Sarah x

Jeanie said...

Oh, Vagabonde, I do agree with you on each and every bit of this post. I was particularly bereft with the losses of Doc Watson (who lives not far from Rick's dad in NC, although they didn't know one another) and Maurice Sendak, who was always a favorite of mine. But everything you said resonates. Lovely!

Barb said...

Some great entertainers and artists passed in May. Your post is a fine tribute. Those peony flowers remind me of gardenias. You certainly covered some ground this spring. Enjoy your home base.

Al said...

I've listened to Doc Watson many times, although I never had the chance to see him in concert. I also don't understand why same-sex marriages threaten me in any way - the sanctity of my marriage is between me, my wife, and God.

Gail Dixon said...

What a sweet story about dancing with your mom. Enjoyed your post. :)

Anonymous said...

Tes nouvelles sont toujours très intéressantes à suivre, Vagabonde.
Merci et bon week-end!

✿France✿ said...

COUCOU j'espère que tu vas bien
oui des artistes qui partent et de nouveaux qui arrivent
la vie est donc ainsi Passe une belle journée et merci pour tes écrits bisou

Jeanne said...

This is a great post, and enjoyed the music. Remember these artists well. Thanks for sharing this nostalgia!

Don said...

I'm with you all the way!

joared said...

So many fascinating topics to think about. I especially like the flowers.

I share your appreciation for jazz, blues, and, actually, select tunes and artists/orchestras in most every genre including classical.

Your delightful story about dancing with your mother prompted music memories with my own mother. She told me of going off to dance during horse and buggy days unknown to her father who opposed such behavior -- otherwise, a very genial forward-thinking man who supported women's rights.

"Equal rights" seems like such a simple straight forward concept everyone should understand.

Significant people, and those much less known, or known only to a few, seem to depart our lives increasingly I notice as I age. I know that is the way of life, but that does not lessen the sense of loss I feel. Fortunately, some as you note, leave us with their artful creations to enjoy into eternity.

Years ago when one of the first nearby small independent bookstores had to close, I purchased a couple marked down Sendak books thinking someday I might have small ones again that I could gift. Last year my red-headed grandson joined the family so I look forward to his reactions to these books that will be his.

Vicki Lane said...

And I had to come back to say that the lovely image of you and your mother waltzing together keeps coming back to me. What a charming memory.

Ruth said...

Each of your posts is a mini-documentary, of culture, art, history, social issues, cross-cultural interest, and all through your insightful perceptions. This is no exception, and I appreciate the connections here.

At your job you remind me of Judi Dench's character in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." Once you see it, you'll see what I mean.

I don't know how I missed the news of Maurice Sendak's death. I admit I have not paid too much attention to the news this past month, but this is a shock. I have long admired his work and was just getting to know more things about him. Too bad that happens so close to the end of a person's life too often.

I especially appreciate your openness about gay marriage and equal rights. May all people get more enlightened, that there is no danger, and marriage will only be enhanced as more committed couples are allowed to marry.

Thank you.

Elaine said...

I enjoyed your recollections. It does seem that every time we turn on the news another famous artist is gone. I wonder if the younger artists that are popular now will have such enduring popularity as these older artists do. I love the hydrangea bush, really a different looking variety. I have always loved hydrangeas, but they are one of the plants that won't grow here.

Ginnie said...

You know how much I love following you wherever you take us, dear Vagabonde. I especially love that you eneded this post on marriage equality. Sometimes I lose all hope but then something happens and I believe it may yet happen in my lifetime, sooner than later, that I can move back to America with my wife. I really hope it is soon. We're getting too old for this sh**!

Pondside said...

Another lovely post from you - one that calls for re-reading.
I have strong feelings/opinions about equality and I'm glad to live in a country in which 'family' is an inclusive word not least because my one sister-in-law is married to my sister.

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