Monthly Archives: February 2014

...didn't make it to the vase

Roses – the long and short of them

23 roses made it to the vase...

23 roses made it to the vase…

My husband bought me two dozen beautiful roses for Valentine’s Day. Of course I love them and handled them with care as I transferred them to the vase. 23 made it without incident; the 24th rose broke off at the head. Oh well, I thought, let’s just float it in a glass and see what happens. Guess what? It is continuing to open just the same as the ones in the vase, and smells just as beautiful.

We are stronger at the broken places,” said John Updike. Even a broken flower brings beauty.

...one didn't make it to the vase

…one didn’t make it to the vase

"It's gotta be rock n' roll music if you want to dance with me."

50 years since the Beatles conquered America on the Ed Sullivan Show…and why we have Chuck Berry to thank for it.

"It's gotta be rock n' roll music if you want to dance with me."

“It’s gotta be rock n’ roll music if you want to dance with me.”

If you missed the CBS special, “A Grammy Salute to the Beatles” on Sunday night, you’re in luck – they are rerunning it tonight (February 12) at 8:30PM. Set your DVRs if you are otherwise occupied (say, with the Olympics).

Although the choice of performing artists may have been questionable in some cases (yes to Maroon 5 but Imagine Dragons – OK, I like them, but with all the talent in the room couldn’t they have found someone with more gravitas to handle “Revolution”?), the music rules. No question about it. (Especially when Joe Walsh and/or Dave Grohl is involved – not to mention Peter Frampton in the backing band!)

And when Paul and Ringo sing together it is truly magical. I saw Ringo with his All-Star Band a few years ago and had a wonderful time. Just being in the same room  (yes, it was a 10,000 seat arena but I was in the third row on the floor) with a Beatle was thrilling. When it came time for “Yellow Submarine,” Ringo introduced it by saying, “if you’re not singing along with this, you’re in the wrong place.” We all sang that silly song and loved every minute of it. “Sky of blue, sea of green, in our yellow submarine…”

I’m old enough to remember watching the original broadcast of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1963. It was one of those historic moments, similar to the moon landing and 9/11, that I will always remember where I was. Seeing them on TV made it clear why all the fuss was being made over them. We knew they had changed music; what we didn’t know what was that, really, they would change our world.

The Beatles have never been shy about citing American musicians as their influences. Primary among them was Chuck Berry. In the words of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where Chuck was inducted with the first group of honorees in 1986, “Chuck Berry is the poet laureate of rock and roll. In the mid-Fifties, he took a fledgling idiom, born out of rhythm & blues and country & western, and gave it form and identity. A true original, Berry crafted many of rock and roll’s greatest riffs and married them to lyrics that shaped the rock and roll vernacular for generations. He has written numerous rock and roll classics that have been covered by multitudes of artists and stood the test of time. In all essential ways, he understood the power of rock and roll – how it worked, what it was about and who it was for. ”

And it wasn’t only the Beatles who were listening. Again, from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: “Indeed, Berry’s repertoire of licks and lyrics from the Fifties and early Sixties paved the way for the British Invasion. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Animals and many other U.K. acts covered Berry’s songs while developing their own styles. The Stones continued to include Berry’s songs in their repertoire throughout their career. Even the Beach Boys, youthful architects of West Coast surf and pop songs, turned to Berry for inspiration. Their 1963 hit “Surfin’ U.S.A.” appropriated the melody and rhythm of “Sweet Little Sixteen.” Berry successfully sued for copyright infringement and won a songwriting credit.”

Thank you to the Beatles for creating the soundtrack of our lives and songs that will be cherished for generations. It seems fitting that the Beatles first took to the U.S. airwaves in the month that came to be the time for the celebration of Black history. So here’s a tip of the hat to you, Mr. Berry, for making it all happen, and for recognizing the talent of your protégés.

Remembering Shirley Temple Black and her contribution to Black history

Shirley Temple Black and Bill "Bojangles:" Robinson

Shirley Temple Black and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson are inextricably linked by cinematic history.

Shirley Temple Black, who began her acting career at age 3 and became a massive box-office draw before turning 10 (commanding an unprecedented salary of $50,000 per film), passed away today at the age of 85 of natural causes at her Woodside, California, home.

Her star shone brightest as a toddler, besting adult stars such as Clark Gable and Bing Crosby at the box office. Shirley’s career peaked from 1935 through 1938 as she gave hope to a the country muddling through the impact of the Great Depression. By age 22 she had retired from making movies but this was not the end of her turn in the spotlight.

Reinventing herself, she embarked on a new career as a foreign diplomat, beginning with serving as part of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations from 1969 to 1974. She was appointed U.S. ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976, and served as U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992.

Black led a remarkable life. It is ironic, perhaps, that one of the things for which she is best remembered is her on-screen partnership came with the great tap dance master Bill “Bojangles” Robinson; two of their four films, The Little Colonel and The Littlest Rebel, both were made in 1935.

As reported by thegrio.com, “The pairing of the elderly Robinson with schoolgirl Temple was a Hollywood milestone. In her 2012 Huffington Post piece “Shall We Dance? Shirley Temple and Bill Robinson: Hollywood’s First Interracial Couple,” Constance Valis Hill, author of Tap Dancing America, A Cultural History, referencing the staircase tap dancing scene in The Little Colonel:

“She took his hand and learned his steps, and they danced their way into cinema history as the first interracial tap-dancing couple, albeit a 6-year-old white girl and 57-year-old black man.”

They may have danced together on screen, but the relationship of their characters was in no way equal. As Ronda Racha Penrice noted in her piece on The Grio, “That Robinson comes across as a toy to Temple’s characters, only there to entertain and delight them, is a huge disservice and perpetuates the myth that black people are happiest when serving whites and, thus, are incapable of having feelings and thoughts beyond that purpose.”

Robinson may have played a subsurvient character in these films, but this did not reflect his real life, according to thegrio.com. For instance, he was notorious for refusing to allow restaurants to not serve him. He contributed to numerous black causes and was a founding member of the Negro Actors Guild of America in addition to co-founding the Negro Leagues Baseball team, the New York Black Yankees. On top of that, he was a member of New York’s famed 369th Infantry, better known as the Harlem Hellfighters, during World War I.

So let’s raise a Shirley Temple cocktail in honor of a woman who left an enduring legacy, and at the same time commit ourselves to supporting an end to racism in all its ugly guises, onscreen and off, during Black History Month and all year long.