“They Might Think I’m A Part Of The Band” Rest in Peace, Fred Willard

Rest in Peace, Fred Willard.  The veteran comedian died, in his sleep, last night.  He was 86 years old.

It’s hard to think of anyone who was as naturally funny as Fred Willard.  Here’s one of my favorite Willard performances, from Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap:

Willard appeared in all of Christopher Guest’s improvised mockumentaries.  Here he is, with Catherine O’Hara, in Waiting for Guffman:

He was also in Best of Show, where his commentary on the dog show proved to be one of the film’s highlights:

Fred Willard, R.I.P.

Song of the Day: That Thing You Do (R.I.P., Adam Schlesinger)

Earlier today, COVID-19 claimed the life of singer-songwriter Adam Schlesinger.  Schlesinger was only 52 years old.

Adam Schlesinger may be best known for his work with Fountains of Wayne but he also wrote and produced songs for several films.  He was Oscar nominated for writing the title song to That Thing You Do, one of the best rock and roll films of the 90s.  The song was not only catchy but it was also the epitome of everything that was great about pop music.  With this song, Schlesinger and the film paid tribute to every single band that has ever had a one-hit wonder.

In tribute to Adam Schlesinger, here’s That Thing You Do:

Doin’ that thing you do,
Breaking my heart into a million pieces,
Like you always do
And you,
Don’t mean to be cruel,
You never even knew about the heartache,
I’ve been going through
Well I try and try to forget you girl,
But it’s just so hard to do,
Every time you do that thing you do
Know all the games you play,
And I’m gonna find a way to let you know that,
You’ll be mine someday
‘Cause we,
Could be happy can’t you see,
If you’d only let me be the one to hold you,
And keep you here with me
‘Cause I try and try to forget you girl,
But it’s just so hard to do,
Every time you do that thing you do
I don’t ask a lot girl,
But I know one thing’s for sure,
It’s the love I haven’t got girl,
And I just can’t take it anymore
‘Cause we,
Could be happy can’t you see,
If you’d only let me be the one to hold you,
And keep you here with me
Cause it hurts me so just to see you go,
Around with someone new,
And if I know you you’re doin’ that thing,
Every day just doin’ that thing,
I can’t take you doing that thing you do
RIP, Adam Schlesinger.

Music Video Of The Day: I Love Rock N Roll by Arrows (1976, directed by ????)

Though everyone is probably most familiar with Joan Jett’s cover of the song, I Love Rock N Roll was originally recorded by a London-based group called Arrows.

Though Arrows were only together for three years (from 1974 to 1977), they were popular with British teenagers and they even had their own TV show on Granada Television, where they would play their own songs and introduce other acts.  This video for I Love Rock N Roll comes from that television show.  This is probably from the same episode of the show that Joan Jett saw in 1976 while she and the Runaways were on tour in the UK.  She liked the song so much that she covered it when she made her first solo album.  Her version, of course, went on to become a huge hit.

(As popular as they were in the UK, Arrows were basically unknown in the United States.  During the time they were together, they only performed in the U.S. once and that was for an episode of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in 1975.  When Jett released her version of I Love Rock N Roll, most American listeners were unaware that it was a cover.)

The song was written by Alan Merrill, who was the lead singer for Arrows.  Sadly, Merrill, who was sick with COVID-19, died on Sunday.  Today’s music video of the day is dedicated to his memory.

In Memory of Mike Longo and Eric Weissberg

Sadly, we have to start today with some sad news.  On the 22nd, the world of music lost both Mike Longo and Eric Weissberg.

Mike Longo was 83 years old and passed away at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.  Longo, who was admitted to the hospital last Tuesday, died of COVID-19.  Tragically, he was the first American jazz casualty of the cornonavirus.  Long had a long and distinguished career as both a pianist and a composer.  Along with his own solo work, he was known for serving as Dizzy Gillepsie’s musical director.  Below is a performance of Gillespie’s band, taken from a 1968 concert in Copenhagen.  The song that their playing is a Longo composition called Ding A Ling:

Longo also had an extensive solo career and he also worked as an educator, passing on his knowledge and love for jazz to the next generation.

Eric Weissberg

Eric Weissberg was 80 and passed away in a Detroit nursing home.  He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years.  A folk musician who later became an in-demand sessions player, Weissberg was best-known as a banjo player.  With Steve Mandell, Weissberg arranged and performed the version of Dueling Banjos that is heard in the film Deliverance.

Rest in peace to both of these gentleman.  Thanks for the music.

A Scene That I Love: In Memory of Rudy Ray Moore, The Fight Scene From Dolemite

93 years ago, on this date in 1917, Rudy Ray Moore was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  From humble beginnings, Moore would grow up to become a comedian who inspires a cult-like following to this day.  Imagine Redd Foxx with even bluer material but less personal animus against the world and you might have some idea of the type of material that made Rudy Ray Moore famous.

Moore was not just a comedian.  He was also a self-proclaimed film star.  Dolemite, which he produced and starred in, remains his best-known movie.  Dolemite is a blaxploitation film but it’s a blaxploitation film unlike any other.  Moore plays Dolemite, a pimp who has been released from prison after serving 20 years.  Dolemite seeks revenge on the man who set him up, Willie Green (played by the film’s director, D’Urville Martin.)  Along the way, he proves himself to be the greatest kung fu-fighting pimp around.

Or, at least, that’s the idea.  As a movie, Dolemite is often considered to be an example of outsider art.  It’s a movie unlike any other and it is almost impossible to describe what it’s like to watch it for the first time.  In honor of Rudy Ray Moore’s birthday, here is one of the classic fight scenes from Dolemite:

4 Shots From 4 Films: R.I.P., Max von Sydow

Steppenwolf (1974, directed by Fred Haines)

I woke up to the sad news that Max von Sydow, one of the greatest actors of all time, died yesterday.  He was 90 years old and he leaves behind a truly amazing filmography.  He played saints, sinners, assassins, exorcists, generals, poets, doctors, and even ordinary men who were just trying to make it day-to-day.  That he was nominated for only two Academy Awards over a career that lasted 71 years was a major oversight on the Academy’s part.  He was an actor who was as capable in arthouse films as he was in the latest installment of a legendary sci-fi franchise.

It’s hard to take a career as long and productive as von Sydow’s and narrow it down to just four shots from four films so I’m not going to try.  The shots are below are some of my favorite von Sydow performances but they’re hardly definitive.  Max von Sydow gave so many good and memorable performances that it’s hard to know where to start.  Below are 4 shots from 4 films from a truly remarkable career.

Max von Sydow, R.I.P.

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Virgin Spring (1960, directed by Ingmar Bergman)

Flash Gordon (1980, directed by Mike Hodges)

Needful Things (1993, directed by Fraser C. Heston)

Shutter Island (2010, directed by Martin Scorsese)