SotD: Stan Ridgway, “The Last Honest Man”

Last week I briefly mentioned Jon, an agronomy grad student I met playing bridge at Illinois. I think we met in 89, at the nascent student bridge club started by my good friend Mark, a fellow math grad. Jon and I played together occasionally over the next couple of years, both on campus and at the club in town. We were both close to rank beginners, but I fancied myself the better player. My recollection is that he’d gotten interested in the game through his mother.

I occasionally gave Jon rides back to his home, and it was then that the conversations would turn to music. As I said earlier, he’s the one who suggested I listen to Jane Siberry’s No Borders Here, for which I’m still exceedingly grateful.  He let me borrow some of his disks/tapes (perhaps I reciprocated–it’d be like me to do so). I distinctly recall his choice for favorite album of 1990: Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints (mine was Kirsty MacColl’s Kite). Jon was always upbeat; nothing seemed to get him down, not even my much-too-harsh carping about his card play. Katie called him “Smiling Jon.”

I’ve thought about Jon occasionally over the years, wondering what happened after he finished his degree (he wrapped up a year before I did). I hadn’t taken time to Google him until last Monday, and I was stunned to find his obituary. He’d wound up in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Arkansas, where he was a highly regarded teacher and colleague. What I found in poking around a little bit indicates he completely loved his work and that he made some real contributions to his field. He passed away in late May 2013, a couple of months after he turned 54 (it’s not lost on me I’ll be reaching that moment in my life in mid-April).

Jon and I weren’t close, but I feel some loss and regret nonetheless. I would have enjoyed reaching out to him last week, hoping that he remembered me. It’s another reminder of the need to be more present, more conscientious about relationships.

One of the albums he lent me back in the day was Stan Ridgway’s Mosquitos; he highly recommended it. I didn’t make a recording, but a couple of its songs have stuck with me through the years. Here, in honor of Jon, is one of them. Cheers, to an old friend and more importantly, a genuinely nice person. Rest well.

In Memoriam: David Cassidy

Like any number of kids around my age, I watched The Partridge Family on TV for some period of time in the early 70s (and likely caught reruns in syndication later). While the eight-year-old in me thinks the most memorable characters were Rueben Kincaid and Danny Partridge, the show was a star-maker for the guy who played Keith Partridge.

I certainly didn’t idolize David Cassidy in his heyday, nor did I particularly follow his fits and starts over the ensuing decades. In reading about him last night and today, I see the chafing over the image created for him and the short- and long-term toll that substance abuse took.  He wanted his own musical (rock?) career, but it seems odd to me that the path he chose toward that included covers of easy-listening hits like “Cherish” and “How Can I Be Sure” (great as the originals are).  I remember “Lyin’ To Myself” from 90; even though I only heard it a few times, it’s a pretty solid number.  But I wonder if that mini-comeback came about in large part because of Donny Osmond’s success the previous year with “Soldier of Love.”

I concede that the Partridge Family was mostly a vehicle for great session musicians to do their thing behind David’s vocals (while not a strong voice, it’s a lot better than that of other 70s teen idols, including his half-brother Shaun, Leif Garrett, and—shudder—John Travolta).  But there is some great bubblegum stuff here.  “I Think I Love You” is legit awesome, totally deserving to be a #1 hit.  I like “I Woke Up in Love This Morning” quite a bit; my favorite, though, is “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted,” perhaps due to its presence on side 1 of a certain K-Tel album.

When Martha and I were cleaning out the basement of her parents’ house five years ago, we came across a few PF albums—she and her sister had been among Cassidy’s legion of fans.  One of the LPs was At Home with Their Greatest Hits, which was also in my house back in the day (making it one of the very few points of intersection in Martha’s and my respective album collections).  My suspicion is that Dad bought it because Amy and I regularly watched the show.  I know I played it some in the first years we had it, but there aren’t many songs outside of their four biggest hits whose titles stir any memories.  The exception is “Echo Valley 2-6809”—I guess I was a numbers guy even back then?  It’s the outro that I really remember—a repeated recitation of the song title followed by, “I shoulda called that number”—although it sounds different when I listen to it today from what I thought I heard forty-plus years ago. (Edited to add: I meant to mention that in looking things up today that I discovered Rupert Holmes co-wrote “Echo Valley.”)

I’m certainly sorry for the demons that he couldn’t conquer.  I hope that ultimately he was able to appreciate his contributions to some really enjoyable tunes.  RIP, Mr. Cassidy.

I know I won’t be the only one to post about him in the next few days; I’ll include links to others as I come across them.

–Here’s jb.

–Here’s Len from 45 Ruminations Per Megabyte.

In Memoriam: June Foray, 1917-2017

This morning I learned of the passing of June Foray, one of the voices of my childhood.  I watched plenty of Looney Tunes and Bullwinkle back in the day (though not as much of the latter as maybe I should have).  She worked regularly with Stan Freberg (for instance, the maiden almost devoured in “St. George and the Dragonet”) and she was active well into her later years (for instance, Mulan).  She died just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday.  RIP, Ms. Foray.  You brought joy and laughter to so many.