Sunday, January 22, 2012

Etta James 1938 - 2012

A beautiful, strong, brave woman who overcame some pretty heavy stuff in her life. Every time she sang you could practically see her soul. The choir in the next dimension is richer for her presence.

The many faces of Etta...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Johnny Otis 1921 - 2012

We all have heroes. Some of us have lots of them. In my 70 years, I've had a boatload of heroes, but a few truly stand out... in a class by themselves... my "Super Heroes." Johnny Otis is one of those stand-outs.

He burst into my life on my eleventh birthday. My mother and father had gifted me that day with my very own radio for my bedroom. I'd had a rambunctious party that afternoon, and was feeling really tired, so had decided to go to bed early, and allow my new radio to lull me to sleep. After some dial twiddling, I found the local classical station - the station most often played in our house. Alas, they were playing Rimsky-Korsakov's "Sheherazade", one of my least favorite works in the entire classical repertoire. So I twiddled the dial further and came upon some music unlike any I'd ever heard before. A woman with a Theresa Brewer-like voice was singing about how badly her boyfriend was treating her. It definitely wasn't Theresa Brewer, though... this singer was gutsy and grinding, and her backup music was banging out a raunchy beat that made me want to get up out of the bed and dance, in spite of how tired I was. It sounded wonderful, and I loved it instantly. After a few minutes, a very up-tempo man's voice informed me I'd just heard Ruth Brown singing, "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean." The excitable man then launched us into another song that was just as strange and wonderful as Ms Brown's song had been. This incredible music continued for over an hour, until 9:00, when the man finally identified himself as Johnny Otis, and invited me to come back tomorrow night at 6:00, and we'd "do it all over again." I was so excited about what I'd heard, I could barely calm down enough to go to sleep. At school the next day, I asked around to see if anyone knew who Johnny Otis was. Most kids had never heard of him, but one boy looked at me disdainfully and said, "Oh, he's the guy that plays that 'colored' music." In my lilly-white environment, I'd had almost no exposure to "colored" people, or their music, so, of course... my fuse was lit.

Long story short... I started listening to The Johnny Otis Show every night. I quickly discovered after The J.O show was over, The Sleepy Stein Show came on, and Sleepy played jazz until midnight... but that's another story.

Over the years, I followed Johnny's shows, both live and on-air, and was delighted as his kind of music finally gained acceptance in the greater sphere of things. My professional life has always been as a classical musician, but I feel my musical personality has been well-balanced thanks to my appreciation of Rhythm and Blues and Jazz. Ultimately, I probably would have discovered both genres through other channels, but I've always given Johnny Otis credit for doing the deed. Johnny was instrumental in introducing a phenomenal number of musicians to the R & B scene, as well as being a singer, bandleader, composer and entrepreneur. He was truly a force to be reckoned with.

This is my favorite picture of Johnny... sitting in the broadcast booth, doing what he did best... spreading the good news of R & B.

With his band in the '50s...
The woman in the back in the red dress is Etta James... another legend lost to us this week.

One of my favorite CDs, with clips from broadcasts of his shows...

In later years... still going strong!!

While Johnny didn't "discover" B.B. King, my all-time favorite Blues Man, he did an excellent job of exposing the world to him... MUCH to my delight!!!

Many are unaware that Johnny was a very talented artist... his work is bold, colorful, very "Black", and, to me, reminiscent of the work of Diego Riviera. This book tells it all...

Thanks for everything, Johnny!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm so happy...!!!!!

I FINALLY had my second cataract surgery yesterday, and I am one very happy lady!! After two years of dealing with totally unbalanced eyes - the right one working at close ups and the left one working at distances - I can finally walk around without glasses and not fear falling on my keester and breaking my butt. Now, I can work at the computer, read a book, sew, play Solitare on my iPhone, climb stairs, read labels in the grocery store, watch television, order food from a menu, and, best of all, read music on the music desk of the piano and organ or on my flute music stand... ALL without needing glasses! I cannot begin to tell you how liberated I feel!

Distances will still require glasses, but I can totally live with that. It was just SUCH a drag (and an expensive one, at that) to have to wear one pair of glasses for normal day-to-day activities, and also keep reading glasses all over the place... in my purse, on the organ, on the piano, in my studio, by the computer... I feel as though I've been freed from a kind of bondage!

I'm thinking this wonderful change of events is going to make me far less crabby, too. Won't THAT make everyone happy!!!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Something New for the New Year

This book was recommend to me by my late friend Angus Crocker. In the last years of his life, Angus developed prostate cancer, and by the time it was discovered, it was already at "stage 4." Like anyone would, Angus wanted to fight the disease and live as long as he possibly could. Unlike just anyone would, Angus completely changed his diet and, with the help of this book managed to live several years beyond the time originally predicted for him. I visited him twice during this period of his life, and both times he prepared a lunch of recipes from this book. He declared it, "one of the best discoveries he'd ever made."

After spending much of last year dealing with injuries, major dental issues, and sundry health problems, I spent some time over the holidays really getting into this book. I've decided I'm going to "do an Angus", and see if, by changing my diet, I can turn my health around. Fortunately, I'm not dealing with any form of cancer (to my knowledge), but asthma, high blood pressure, and being seriously overweight are major issues I face every day. I've been trying (and failing) to eat a vegetarian diet for many years, and already have on hand in my pantry, many of the foods used to prepare the recipes in this book. It's high time to start using both the goods and the book!

As I approach my 70th birthday in February, I've set a goal to lose 70 pounds. It'll probably take me a couple of years, but, dagnabbit... I'm going to do it!

There! I've said it for all the world to hear!