The Kennedy Center Honors 2013

Right before they went off to South Africa to honor Nelson Mandela, Barack and Michelle Obama attended The Kennedy Center Honors. I always watch the broadcast, which this year is on December 29 on CBS-TV. Four of the five honorees I’m very familiar with.

Opera singer Martina Arroyo is a name I’ve heard, but to say I was familiar with her work would be a gross overstatement.

Actress Shirley MacLaine was in a number of movies I’ve seen over the years, including The Apartment (1960), the creepy The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972), The Turning Point (1977), the Oscar-winning Tears of InternmentTerms of Endearment (1983), Steel Magnolias (1989), Postcards from the Edge (1990), Guarding Tess (1994), and most recently in Bernie (2011), which I liked. I probably saw her sitcom in the early 1970s. But my favorite MacLaine vehicle has to be Being There (1979) with Peter Sellers, one of the very first VHS tapes I ever bought, along with Annie Hall.

One of my work colleagues was listening to Soul Sacrifice, the song that ends the first Santana album, just last month. It was the version of that song at Woodstock that turned the world on to the guitar artistry of Carlos Santana. I loved the first several Santana albums, especially the second one, Abraxas, with that Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen/Oye Como Va segue. (Here’s the original Abraxas and here’s the Abraxas with extra live tracks.) I have some of his jazz fusion music as well. If I wasn’t as enamored with some of his all-star collaborations this century, it was no reflection on his fine playing.

I saw keyboardist/composer Herbie Hancock perform in the Albany area, perhaps in the 1990s at the Palace Theatre, though it could have been at the Troy Music Hall. I didn’t love the show – it seemed too sedate -but I have enough of his albums, including his Joni Mitchell tribute album I picked up just this year, to know that his recordings are quite eclectic. My collection spans back to Maiden Voyage in 1965, and include Gershwin’s World (1998), featuring Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder, and The New Standard (1996) that my jazz-loving friend Donna hated, but that I embraced, so she gave it to me. Here’s Hancock’s YouTube channel.

I have a LOT of albums by Billy Joel, singer, composer, Piano Man. Him I saw in concert in New Paltz, NY in 1974. He was very late – they got lost coming up from Long Island. He wasn’t the showman he became, sitting stiffly at his piano, but his songs, even early on, were always strong. His early MTV videos were generally quite entertaining. I’d be hard pressed to come up with my favorite of his songs (but I’ll try in five years). Here’s Joel’s YouTube channel.

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