Whitney

Why can’t we just let it be? Why do we have to dig, and ask, and stalk, and uncover the private and potentially even more heartbreaking details about the death of an icon? What is it in us that must be satiated?

I realize knowing the full story is important for us to move on, to put it to rest, but in this very sad and untimely instance of Whitney Houston’s death, I find myself simply hoping for people to leave the “rest of the story” alone.

We know she was having a hard time. We know life with Bobby wasn’t roses. We know that a superstar among superstars lives a life that 99.99% of earth’s population will never remotely understand.

Yet we can’t leave it alone. We pry. We check TMZ. We watch Nancy Grace-type “news” coverage, that, if we stop and think about it, should make us all sick during moments such as this. Look, I was just watching HLN’s coverage about Whitney, so I’m in this like the rest of us. But I continue to grow tired of it.

A good story is a good story, and the death of a musical legend in her Beverly Hills hotel room literally 24 hours before the GRAMMY Awards is a captivating story. Yes, of course. But since 99.99% or more of us cannot and will not ever understand what it was like to live Whitney’s life, I sincerely hope we can focus on the good times: her good times, and the good times she brought every single one of us.

Whitney Houston was a beautiful part of creation. She obviously had one of the best singing voices ever. Let us all pause and consider her wonderful contributions to our world. Let’s focus on the good times.

How do you want to be remembered?

Stevie Ray Vaughan, 20 Years On

I found out that the biggest problem that I had was self-centeredness and ego. That’s really what my addiction seems to boil down to. [chuckles] To keep that part of myself under control while everybody’s telling you how great you are is quite a task.

-Stevie Ray Vaughan, in the book Guitar World Presents Stevie Ray Vaughan: From the Pages of Guitar World Magazine

Friday, August 27, 2010 marked the twentieth anniversary of the untimely death of guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I don’t claim to be the biggest guitar fan in the world, but I do know that Vaughan is one of the absolute best, and most important, guitar players that ever lived.

Stevie Ray died in a helicopter crash at the age of 35. He had just performed with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Jimmie Vaughan (his brother) at the Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin, when the helicopter he was in went down just after take-off around 1 a.m.

The National Transportation Safety Board reported that the helicopter went down 3/5 of a mile from its takeoff point. Not only did the accident occur extremely close to the venue, it is possible some in attendance were still making their way out.

From the book, Guitar Gods: The 25 Players Who Made Rock History, via Dan Forte’s liner notes in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Greatest Hits (Epic/Legacy, 1995):

When Eric Clapton himself first heard Stevie play, he said that no one he had ever heard commanded more respect: “Whoever this is, I’ve got to find out. Whoever this is is going to shake the world. It’s going to be a long time before anyone that brilliant will come along again.”

Photographer John R. Rogers took the following beautiful photo of the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue, on the banks of Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas. Visit Rogers’ website here.

The following (6:35) video is from VH1 Legends.

September When It Comes

His [Johnny Cash’s] daughter Cindy came to stay with him in June [2003]. Although he was 80 percent blind, he had her bring more photographs of June to his office. He even had Mark Burckhardt, an artist from Austin, Texas, paint June’s face on the elevator doors. “He missed her so bad,” says Cindy. “He sobbed for her daily. He would pick up the phone to talk to her as if she was on the other end.”

…One time she [Cindy] took him in his wheelchair to see June’s grave. “He stared at it a while and tried to focus so that he could see the tombstone,” she says. “As soon as he had focused, he said, ‘I’m coming baby. I’m coming’.”

-From Steve Turner’s incredible book, The Man Called Cash

There is this gorgeous, beautiful song by Rosanne Cash called, “September When It Comes,” on her March 2003 album, Rules of Travel. The song contains a very special guest: her dad, Johnny Cash.

Johnny’s wife and Rosanne’s stepmom, June Carter Cash, passed away on May 15, 2003. Not even four months later, September 12 marked the last day of Johnny Cash’s life.

How amazing that this song was recorded before we lost Johnny, and released the year we did. I read in an MSNBC article that Rosanne’s husband and producer, John Leventhal, who wrote the song with her, suggested she record “September When It Comes” with her dad. Although reluctant at first, she decided to do it.

I don’t know why Rosanne picked September in the song, but that Johnny died in September is eerily poetic.

I cannot move a mountain now; I can no longer run

I cannot be who I was then; in a way, I never was

If you are yet to watch the masterpiece music video to Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt,” please watch it here. Following, appreciate the (below) video for “September When It Comes.”

Death of a King

I submit that Elvis Aaron Presley is the most famous and recognized entertainment figure in the history of the world. More than The Beatles and Michael Jackson.

What are your thoughts?

Either way, Elvis was huge, and remains such.

Today, August 16, 2010, marks the thirty-third anniversary of his untimely passing at his home in Memphis: Graceland.

From Elvis’ official website,

It is estimated that Elvis Presley has sold over one billion record units worldwide, more than anyone in record industry history. In America alone, Elvis has had 150 different albums and singles that have been certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), with more certifications expected as research into his past record sales continues and as current sales go on. Research is also underway to document his record sales achievements in other countries. It is estimated that 40% of Elvis’ total record sales have been outside the United States.

To learn more about Elvis’ record sales, jump to this page from his site.

There was something so extremely special, so “it” factor about this guy, that it really is somewhat ridiculous when you start comparing him to others. Unfortunately, his name has been drug through the mud far too oft via well-intentioned, but horrendously executed, impersonations, life rumors and wedding chapels.

Elvis’ family moved from Tupelo to Memphis in 1948, putting him in proximity to Sam Phillips and Sun Records.

Presley was at the right place at the right time, but consider the cumulative history of early 1950s United States. Think about that World War that had ended not too many years prior, the racial situation, the state of music, and television was still very new.

The U.S. was at an enormous turning point, as was most of the world.

Then comes along this guy named Elvis.

Not alone, but he did set the bar. Actually, he established the canon of Rock and Roll.

Elvis Presley changed the world.

I leave you with video of The King performing Kris Kristofferson’s classic, “For The Good Times,” on April 9, 1972 in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Tear Us Apart

I do not remotely claim to actually know what Ian Curtis or Michael Hutchence were thinking when they wrote the lyrics to “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Never Tear Us Apart,” respectively. Some inferences can safely be made about both songs.

The former a bit more on the negative side, written while Curtis’ marriage was not going well, perhaps among other things: “Why is it something so good, just can’t function no more?”

The latter more on the positive side: “Two worlds collided, and they could never tear us apart.”

Sadly, life ended extremely early for both men. Curtis, of suicide, in May 1980. He was 23. Hutchence, of apparent suicide, November 1997. He was 37.

At the risk of trying too hard to make connections between things that probably have no connection, I can’t help but continue to wonder about the opposite direction of these songs. Such similar titles, but antithetical to each other.

It’s as if one guy knew what was coming and the other was hoping it wouldn’t.

Ian Curtis

Michael Hutchence

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