Category Archives: death

UNDERPLAYED VINYL: Free At Last

Underplayed Vinyl used to be a regular – monthly or so – feature of this blog until it somehow got waylaid. Part of it was not having a usable turntable, but that has since been rectified. The idea about Underplayed Vinyl is to talk about an album I own, but only an LP or 45 (or I suppose, a 78) that I own that I do not possess in digital form (CD or download).

Since it’s Martin Luther King’s birthday, the Monday holiday law notwithstanding, I thought I’d talk about an album of a couple of his speeches, plus an excerpt of his most famous address, Free at Last.

The album was issued 1968 on Gordy/Motown Records. Side 1 was the DRUM MAJOR INSTINCT SERMON, given at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on February 4, 1968. You can read it here, but of course, you don’t get the elocution, the nuances of the voice. The sermon included Dr. King’s desired eulogy, part of which reads:

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. (Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. (Yes)

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. (Yes)

I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. (Amen)

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. (Yes)

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. (Yes)

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that’s all I want to say.

If I can help somebody as I pass along,

If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,

If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,

Then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,

If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,

If I can spread the message as the master taught,

Then my living will not be in vain.

Side 2 contains I’VE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAIN delivered at the Mason Temple, the Church of God in Christ Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968, the day before he died. That speech can be seen and heard here.

One of my favorite parts is after he was stabbed by a woman in Harlem, he got this letter from a girl in high school, which he read:
While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.

But the payoff of the address is the I’ve Been To The Mountain Top section. It is amazing that not only did it foretell his death, it showed a strong parallel between King and and the Biblical figure Moses:
We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

(Recently, CBS News Sunday Morning did a segment on Moses with Mo Rocca which is found within this document, which links the Liberty bell, the pilgrims, Superman and M.L. King.)

Finally, the album ends with excerpts from the I HAVE A DREAM speech, including the FREE AT LAST segment.

I don’t know exactly when I bought this album, though I’m sure it was before I went to college in 1971. these speeches, along with the Beyond Vietnam speech of April 4, 1967 were pivotal in my philosophical development. Thus, this was quite an important recording for me.

ROG

Last Run

As I’ve probably alluded to, my wife Carol has been away at college for a couple weeks. Last summer, she did two intense weeks of intensive study, and she had to read a half dozen books and write a half dozen papers before she even got there. Then this past school year, she had a 600-hour internship. Now she’s back at college for another two-week stint, after the preparatory reading and writing.

This has meant that I have been calling her every morning between 6:30 and 6:45, her only free time, just before breakfast. I was about to call her one day last week when I see an e-mail from her, titled: “Sleeping late Wed 7/29”

“I am turning off my alarm clock to sleep in in the morning because I am just getting back to my room now. If you get this message, don’t call me in the morning. I’ll call you later to catch up during the day at work and then again in the evening so I can talk to Lydia.”

My wife is an early riser, so this was quite curious.

“There was a bus accident tonight when MCLA was returning from Tanglewood. I was not on the bus that ran off the road and am OK, but tired. I was on the bus that was following the one that ran off the road headlong into a ditch so we were right there. It looks as though the driver of that bus had a seizure and lost control of his bus. Two coaches got off our bus, opened the back emergency door, and tried to give the unconscious driver CPR and then the AED but got no response, and the driver was pronounced dead. I helped the rest of the adults climb out of the back of the bus. Five were taken to the hospital for minor (as far as we know now) injuries.

“MCLA classes are canceled for Wed. morning and will probably resume after lunch. They are getting counselors to talk to us if needed.”

It turned out that the bus driver had a heart attack. The 70-year-old man had just come back to work after bypass surgery. Carol could hear her bus driver talk to this guy, and he indicated that this particular drive would be his “last run” for the night. Ironically accurate.

Carol and I agreed that it would probably be better not to mention the bus accident to Lydia, since it might make her worry about her mother and/or worry about taking the bus on the field trip that very day.

I never did talk to Carol on Wednesday, but I did on Thursday and subsequently; she is fine.

One curiosity about the media coverage is that the Times Union, the local paper, had a reported a school bus accidents in Pittsfield involving five students. Since it didn’t mention the school, it gave the impression that the students were of the K-12 variety, rather than graduate students. ROG

An interesting choir year

The choir is done for the church year until September. It’s been a momentous period. Victor left last June, and in the proper Presbyterian tradition, a committee was formed to find a replacement. In the meantime, we had Don, a fellow I’d worked with often, who would be interim through Epiphany in early January. The committee found a candidate, OKed by the choir, but she was in the DC area and had to sell or rent her residence. Fortunately, with a new administration, she was able to come up on March 1. In the interim, Chris, our bass section leader, filled in as director.

Janet came up but, just as we got to Holy Week, fell ill. So it was Chris leading the choir on Easter Sunday. Janet returned, but her sister, who had been dying of cancer, got to the end stages. Jack, another bass in the choir, took over the last couple rehearsals and services. Evelyn, Janet’s sister died on Friday, June 26.

Coincidentally, Bradley Wong, a former member of the church and the choir – he was there when I first arrived nine years ago, though not in several seasons – died on Saturday, June 27.

It’s those deaths, along with the number of celebrity deaths and maybe the constant rain of late that put Samuel Barber to mind. I had a friend named Donna George who died a few years ago. She had given me this recording of eight different versions of Barber’s Adagio.

So I went to YouTube and found this choral version of the Agnus Dei plus a more traditional version.

ROG

Remembering the living


Today is the anniversary of the death of John Lennon. I realize that, while I always mark his birth (October 9, 1940), I don’t always note his death (December 8, 1980), not just because the death was so tragic and senseless, but because I’d been operating on the assumption that it was somehow disrespectful to focus on death. One should focus on life! Though I do remember calling my friend since kindergarten Karen at 2 a.m. that night Also working at FantaCo the Sunday after, we closed the store for ten minutes in the middle of the afternoon for a time of silence, with some of the customers still inside (at their request).

Then I pondered: am I’m being unrealistic? Public figures, especially, come into one’s life generally after one is born. I remember November 22, 1963 but do I even KNOW John F. Kennedy’s birthday. Well, yes, it’s May 29, 1917, but only because I once blogged about it. (Aren’t blogs educational?)

Likewise, I’m convinced that the push for a Martin Luther King holiday was born, in part, by people who didn’t want April 4, 1968 to be his legacy but January 15, 1929, a/k/a the third Monday in January.

So, I suppose, instead of overthinking this, I should, in the words of one of Mr. Lennon’s colleagues, “let it be.”

THE Lennon song I think about today
The nice video
LINK
The not-so-nice video
LINK.

Odetta died last week. I have a grand double album of her music on something you kids may not recall, vinyl. This was one of my father’s true musical heroes, and her passing, in some way, makes his passing eight years ago, more real.
LINK

LINK

Forry Ackerman, who died a few days ago, was a huge part of my life at FantaCo, for we sold oodles of copies of the magazine he founded, Famous Monsters of Filmland. The earlier issues were classics, but the latter ones, most of which came out after he’d left the publication, were often reprints of previously published material.

It was so significant a publication to publisher Tom Skulan that three years after I left, FantaCo published the Famous Monsters Chronicles. Though a book rather than a magazine, Tom always considered it the last of the Chronicles series that started with the X-Men Chronicles a decade earlier. It’s out of print and apparently in demand based on the Mile High price listing.

I went to see the AIDS quilt last Wednesday. Not so incidentally, the program was cut from five days to four because of budget cuts. For the last three years, I had requested that the section featuring my old friend Vito Mastrogiovanni come to Albany. This year, it made it. There it was, a much more simple design than some of the others. There it was.

Seeing it, I thought I’d get emotional, but I did not. There it is. Until I started talking to one of the guides, a task I had done in previous years, talking about how we were in high school together, how we tried to end the Viet Nam war together, how we partied together. There it is. And then I did get just a little verklempt. There it is – Vito Mastrogiovanni 1951-1991. May 15, 1991, same good friend Karen, who was his best friend, noted when I called her that evening.

There it is.

ROG

Questions about Death

This is, as most Americans of a certain age – what a quaint phrase – the 45th anniversary of the assassination of the 35th President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I remember it well, I think. Or, as I have surmised in the past, I may have shared the story with acquaintances so often that now I recall the retelling rather than the actual event. No matter.

The facts were these: I was in my fifth grade class at Daniel S. Dickinson school in Binghamton, NY when our teacher, Miss (Marie) Oberlik was called into the hall by someone. She came back into the class to announce that the President had been killed. then she left. Immediately our 10-year old minds were reeling. What happened? And what does this mean for the country. I’m fairly sure that we were not versed in the rulkes of Presidential succession and I doubt that I even knew who Lyndon Johnson was. Suddenly, Miss Oberlik returns to the class screaming, “Everyone else in the school is being quiet in respect fior the President!” Well, yeah, but I bet their teachers didn’t drop a bombshell on them and then LEAVE.

BTW, I also saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot on live TV that weekend.

My questions, which I request that you answer:
1. Who was the first tragedy (death or other traumatic event) you know that was NOT personally involving your sphere of family and friends. For me it was JFK’s death; for my wife, who is younger than I am, it was Richard Nixon’s resignation, probabl;y for the reason I felt about JFK – what now? (Wheras I was rather pleased by Nixon’s departure.)

2. Who was the first person you knew personally to die?
For me, it was all in one short stretch of my great-grandfather (my paternal grandmother’s father), my paternal grandmother, and my great aunt (my maternal grandmother’s sister). They may have been a year or two apart, but they all feel now as though it were the same gloomy stretch.
ROG