Archive | June, 2013

David Chase Sings Goodbye to James Gandolfini

28 Jun

Sopranos creator David Chase gave a loving, considered eulogy this week in tribute to his star and friend, James Gandolfini, who played his great creation Tony Soprano. A humorous/serious and buoyant/reverent tribute it was. And like all his productions, he paired it with the appropriate music. Music as soundtrack to what we do. As he always does. As do I. So included in his scenario is just the right song. Here’s the Sopranos episode that never was, the story he “told” to Gandolfini:

“… You know, everybody knows that we always ended an episode with a song. That was kind of like me and the writers letting the real geniuses do the heavy lifting: Bruce, and Mick and Keith, and Howling Wolf and a bunch of them. So if this was an episode, it would end with a song. And the song, as far as I’m concerned, would be Joan Osborne’s (What If God Was) One of Us. And the set-up for this — we never did this, and you never even heard this — is that Tony was somehow lost in the Meadowlands. He didn’t have his car, and his wallet, and his car keys. I forget how he got there — there was some kind of a scrape — but he had nothing in his pocket but some change. He didn’t have his guys with him, he didn’t have his gun. And so mob boss Tony Soprano just had to be one of the working stiffs, getting in line to get on the bus. And the way we were going to film it, he was going to get on the bus, and the lyric that would’ve [played] over that would’ve been — and we don’t have Joan Osborne to sing it:”

If God had a face
what would it look like?
And would you want to see
if seeing meant you had to believe?
And yeah, yeah, God is great.
Yeah, yeah, God is good.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

“So Tony would get on the bus, and he would sit there, and the bus would pull out in this big billow of diesel smoke. And then the key lyric would come on, and it was:”

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
trying to make his way home.

“And that would’ve been playing over your face, Jimmy. But then — and this is where it gets kind of strange — now I would have to update, because of the events of the last week. And I would let the song play further, and the lyrics would be:”

Just trying to make his way home
Like a holy rollin’ stone
Back up to Heaven all alone
Nobody callin’ on the phone
‘cept for the Pope, maybe, in Rome.

What made this a great story that would have been a great episode was, c’mon people, say it with me now: the music. When a song evokes just the sentiment you wish to convey, well, that’s magic. It’s what David Chase does out of his knowledge of and his passion for music. He understands the power of music. It is the reason I connect with him. It is how I live and breathe. Music is woven through all my writing – you find it in my posts here. But it is especially omnipresent in those posts found in my other blog, Lollapalingo.

TonySoprano.6.28.13David Chase sent Tony Soprano off with a great story with the perfect song.

And he sent James Gandolfini off with a song from his heart.

RIP, James Gandolfini.


David Chase eulogy: Alan Sepinwall/HitFix
(What If God Was) One of Us lyrics:  Eric Bazillian/Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. (1996)
Tony Soprano Pic: HBO

Richard Matheson Begot Stephen King

26 Jun

What if – that is what always fired up Richard Matheson’s imagination. This legendary science fiction and horror story writer died this week.

If you’ve ever seen The Twilight Zone episode with William Shatner on an airplane watching a gremlin ripping up the airplane’s wing, you have never forgotten how scary it was. Richard Matheson wrote that:

“I was on an airplane and I looked out and there were all these fluffy clouds and I thought, ‘Gee, what if I saw a guy skiing across that like it was snow?,’ because it looked like snow. But when I thought it over, that’s not very scary, so I turned it into a gremlin out on the wing.”

It was Richard Matheson’s tales that inspired Stephen King’s own imagination, igniting his writing direction:

“He fired my imagination by placing his horrors not in European castles and Lovecraftian universes, but in American scenes I knew and could relate to. ‘I want to do that,’ I thought. ‘I must do that.’ Matheson showed the way.”



Richard Matheson quote: NY Times, June 26, 2013
Stephen King quote: Stephen King Official Website
The Twilight Zone poster:

From One Boss to the Other

25 Jun

Boss to Boss. Jerseyite to Jerseyite. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band honored James Gandolfini the other night during their Ricoh Arena concert in Coventry, England. About halfway through their set, The Boss announced that they would be playing all the songs from their Born to Run album.

BrucePlaysFor Gandolfini.6.24.13.MarkMetcalfe.GettyImages.crAn outstanding dedication to be sure. After all, there are commonalities between Gandolfini’s ruthless mob boss, Tony Soprano, and The Boss: Both are bosses, actually Bosses; both are from New Jersey; and both share the same right hand man –Steven Van Zandt, E Street guitarist and Tony Soprano’s consigliere, Silvio Dante.

“Trying to learn how to walk like heroes we thought we had to be
And after all this time to find we’re just like all the rest
Stranded in the park and forced to confess
To hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets
We swore forever friends on the backstreets until the end
Hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets”

The Boss’s stories tell us truths about ourselves, our lives. The crime boss had his own set of truths and lived by his own morality. And the actor who portrayed him was truthful to his character. Showing us his bravado and his brutality, but also his frailties and ultimately, convincingly his truths. Heroes? The Boss and the Actor would say otherwise. Their fans know different. To us, both Bosses are impressive, imposing, and powerful. We treasure the one we still have with us and appreciate the one who has passed. With thanks to the E Street Band’s reverential send-off, may Mr. Gandolfini rest in peace.


Rolling Stone
Bruce pic: Mark Metcalf/Getty Images
Backstreets lyrics: Official Bruce Springsteen Website

A Music Journalist Who Raised A Genre’s Standing

24 Jun

Chet Flippo died this week. He was a music journalist who had influence on a music genre. He eloquently garnered it awareness and consideration. Resulting in its lasting presence. At Rolling Stone in the 1970’s, it was Chet Flippo’s profiles of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Dolly Parton that led to their popularity by a pop music audience.

Rolling Stone’s music journalists’ names were well-known to its readers. We knew their different styles and what mattered to them. Mostly, what fascinated them fascinated us. And Flippo, as he was called, was one of the great music writers whose name we knew.

TrendingTrbute.Flippo.6.24.13From writing about Janis Joplin’s 10th year high school reunion in 1970, to John Lennon, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, his rock journo cred was established. But it was his interest in “country and western” music that led to his championing of the genre. And it was his passionate advocacy that ultimately helped it to become simply “country” music. Flippo played a crucial role in promoting it to a rock ‘n’ roll audience in the ’70s and ’80s. Starting with Willie Nelson, who he considered overlooked and underrated, he went on to write about Waylon Jennings, who was opening for the Grateful Dead, and Dolly Parton, “country music’s best-kept secret.” One of his early articles was Country Music: The Rock and Roll Influence.

ChetFlippo.RollingStones.bookAfter he left Rolling Stone, he wrote his first book, Your Cheatin’ Heart: A Biography of Hank Williams. His subsequent books were about Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, and David Bowie. He was Billboard’s Nashville Bureau Chief and, since 2001, he was editorial director of the country music cable channel CMT.

Bringing country music to the rock ‘n’ roll mainstream exposed incredible musicians to a new audience. That’s a pretty good legacy.

The New York Times: June 24, 2013
Rolling Stone: June 19, 2013

Public Speaking? Anyone Might Freeze

21 Jun

How come, when it matters the most, we fumble, we drop the ball, we choke? You’ve seen the Miss USA pageant video this week where Miss Utah, Marissa Powell, making it to the final five, was asked about equal pay for women. Her answer was, well, loopy. Beauty queen, not so bright, right? I think we know that stereotypes aren’t usually true.

Here’s the way I see it. There she was on the stage, competing in a contest, on TV in front of millions, down to the wire, and Marissa is asked a question that even policy wonks have trouble answering with any sureness (much less with the solution!), and she freaked. It wasn’t a simple question. Should she have handled it better? Maybe, but getting flustered is not a sin. Would you be able to answer it – on a dime, succinctly, and eloquently?

Sure, contestants are coached on answering challenging questions. After all, there’s no surprise – there will be a question. Public speaking takes practice and training. Preparing chief executives before speeches, panel discussions, and media interviews, I show them deft methods that, even if they don’t have the perfect answer, they won’t come off looking like a deer in headlights. Still, things happen. We are human and our nerves can impede our best efforts.

It’s a harrowing situation to be in. Gathering your thoughts to formulate a sensible answer is hard. No matter what field you are in – sports, theater, music, advertising, sales – we all experience performance anxiety. We get nervous and go blank. And so it was with Marissa. Under pressure to give a winning answer, her brain went blank. So what does that really mean? What happens in our brain and body when we are under stress?

BrainUnderPressure.examinerSian Beilock, PhD, a cognitive scientist and author of Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting it Right When You Have To, writes “…when all eyes are on us, it makes us stumble on our words…” We worry, we overthink, and we overly focus on our performance, causing our anxieties to interfere with our brain’s power to perform complex thinking and reasoning tasks. Tellingly for Marissa, Dr. Beilock explains:

“Choking is not simply poor performance. It is sub-optimal performance. It’s when you perform worse than expected given what you are capable of doing, and worse than what you have done in the past. This less than optimal performance doesn’t merely reflect a random fluctuation in skill level – we all have performance ups and downs. This choke occurs in response to a highly stressful situation.”

Matt Lauer on The Today Show gave Marissa the chance to provide another answer – the perfect answer it turns out. But it was on The Jimmy Kimmel Show that she truly showed her true colors – a bright, lighthearted, and affable woman.

Miss Utah ultimately showed poise and a sense of humor about her demise, turning critical hype into endearing triumph. By giving us a glimpse of brainpower behind her beauty, she showed us her humanity. I believe she simply freaked. And that’s ok.

I give the last word to Marissa, who got it right on her first try:

“…it’s better to just not take yourself too seriously. And learn how to laugh…It happened. I’m owning it.”

Miss Utah pic: ABC News, Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Choke: What The Secrets of the Brain…: Simon and Schuster
Pic of brain under pressure: The Examiner
Marissa Powell’s quote: The Jimmy Kimmel Show

Backup Singers Get Some Love

19 Jun

In the new documentary, Twenty Feet From Stardom, we are introduced to the singers who don’t get the credit. Who you see on stage but who largely remain nameless. That is, of course, until the star introduces her backup singers to the audience – always to rapturous applause. Because they made the performance and the song so much more – more harmonious and indelibly memorable. I watched it with abounding admiration for these wonderful talents. And sometimes through tears, reminded that I have been fortunate to call many of them my friends, including Ula Hedwig, Pattie Darcy, and Darlene Love. The fact is their lives are just as compelling as the lives of the stars they stand twenty feet from – for they have helped shape the popular music we have come to love.

DarleneLove.lastfmMerry Clayton, whose growling vocals have been behind Joe Cocker and The Rolling Stones, says her job is:

“…to make them sound incredible, because I’m gonna be on my thing.”

Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee Darlene Love explains:

“My life has been trying to make a success of the gift that I have.”

Director Morgan Neville sums up:

“…they’re the most incredible musicians you never heard of.”


Clayton and Neville quotes: CBS Sunday Morning June 16, 2013
Love quote: Twenty Feet From Stardom
Darlene Love pic:

Barbara Walters Knows How To Talk

14 Jun

“I have been on television continuously for over 50 years,” so said Barbara Walters upon announcing her retirement. Barbara Walters is someone I’ve paid extra attention to. As a communications professional, I have taken note of her accomplishments and her skills throughout my career. Feeling reflective over this news, I went to my bookshelf to pick up a cherished book.

FF.BarbaraWalters.6.14.13In her first book, How to Talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything published in 1970, she talks about talking. In fact she gives a Master Class on conversation. She says the skills she uses as a journalist “…have been a boon to me in hundreds of everyday situations.” Her practical advice has proven time and again to be timeless, insightful, and universally useful.

This is my dog-eared, much used, and bruised first edition copy. Try to get this long out-of-print book for yourself. As Barbara Walters has shown us for 50 years, there is an art to conversation.

On carrying on a conversation: “… There should be genuine interest on both sides, opportunity and respect for both to express themselves, and some dashes of tact and perception.”

On talking with a celebrity: Be sincere (be admiring but don’t gush), be prepared, and be considerate.

On talking with a business person: Ask what gives them their greatest feeling of accomplishment.

On talking with the President: “Think human.”

On age gaps: When talking to kids, “Be honest. Be simple, be direct, be open.” Older people appreciate being asked their opinions on the latest social and technological changes.

On the key to making contact: Inner confidence.

On charm: Be warm. Show interest, reach out, and be generous with your time.

Throughout her book, Barbara Walters emphasizes the importance of being honest and real. It is this anecdote that always stuck with me. To me, it summarizes her message. She quotes Elwood P. Dowd from the play, Harvey:

… My mother used to say to me, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”




Barbara Walters Quote:
How to Talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything: Doubleday & Company, Inc. (1970)

Does Hitting #1 Mean Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n’ Roll?

12 Jun

“…at a certain point, the thrill is being able to play music and have people show up.”

Huey Lewis


Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Sports album, released in 1983. It went to #1 on the Billboard charts and had four top 10 hits.

Quote Source: CBS Sunday Morning June 9, 2013

Dylan Tribute Helped by a Kickstarter Campaign

10 Jun

A proud city wants to honor one of its own. The Dylan by Duluth campaign is hoping to raise $159,000 to build a statue to honor a favorite son. Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, MN in 1941, or as its mayor calls it, Bobland. The bronze statue will stand over 12 feet tall and hopefully sit somewhere near Highway 61.

MMM.KSDylanStatue. nice way to honor an admirable legend, this is actually a thoughtful way to market a city. As Duluth Mayor Don Ness says:

Bob Dylan is rightfully regarded as one of the world’s most important artists of the last 50 years. I support this project as a way for our city to recognize our most accomplished native son and to celebrate Duluth’s authentic arts and music ethos, inspired by the place we call home.”

MMM.duluth-mapYou know what? This marketing model has potential. It is a soft-pedal approach to generate awareness for a city. Although this seaport city on Lake Superior may not offer the flash of other tourist destinations, it does possess a place in our collective musical history. This soft-sell approach can reach a new audience besides the normal tourism route – Dylan’s fan base, music lovers who may not have ever considered visiting his city of birth.

Creativity, passion, and an honorable goal. By creating a campaign that honors an artist with another artist’s work (sculptor Tom Page), this is something that perhaps Mr. Dylan, too, can appreciate.

As of this post, the campaign which started on June 3, has received almost $7,000 from 50+ backers. If you would like to help make this tribute to Dylan a reality, go to the Dylan by Duluth Kickstarter Campaign page.

P.S. Oh, and Mr. Mayor? Here’s a marketing tip for you. You know your Homegrown Music Festival that happens the first week in May each year that features over 150 local musical acts performing across the city? Be sure to incorporate the festival and the artists into your marketing strategy when you promote the Statue’s installation next year!

Friday Fave: Pressure Trending

7 Jun

From its inimitable scat singing opening, we know immediately what song we’re in for. Trending this week was the recent reveal of the isolated vocal track of David Bowie and Queen’s Freddie Mercury recording, Under Pressure. The story of how the song even got recorded by these icons of rock is equally noteworthy. Issued October 26, 1981 and featured on Queen’s 1982 album Hot Space, it is now a classic. Why? Is it that remarkable confluence of great artists, great lyrics, and great music?

Mm ba ba de, Um bum ba de, Um bu bu bum da de
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure that brings a building down
Splits a family in two, Puts people on streets
Um ba ba be, Um ba ba be, De day da
Ee day da – that’s okay.

How does such a song endure? The story behind it doesn’t hurt its legendary status – the history of the song’s life after its creation is as notable. Played by Queen at concerts, featured on live recordings, greatest hits compilations, sampled by Vanilla Ice in Ice Ice Baby (followed by a lawsuit between Vanilla Ice and Queen that culminated in lots of money and Vanilla Ice buying the song!), performed by David Bowie and Annie Lennox at the 1992 Concert For Life tribute to Freddie Mercury, featured in movies, covered by maBowie&Lennox.UnderPressureny modern artists, and its music video which doesn’t include any of its musicians. Well, it’s certainly a recipe that would be hard pressed to serve as a template for promoting a hit song, much less a classic.

And now that we hear the only-vocal track, we appreciate how remarkable a recording it is. Once heard, it is haunting, making it indelible. Tell me, is there a more compelling plea than Mercury and Bowie singing, pleading: Why can’t we give love???

David Bowie and Annie Lennox pic:

%d bloggers like this: