The Grim Reaper must be into numerology.
But now he has an assistant. Jack Kevorkian, occasionally called “Doctor Death” because of his years of commitment to physician-assisted suicide, died Friday at the age of 83. Ironically, no one helped him; it was a combination of kidney failure and thrombosis (clot-related ailments). An odd pop tangent is that Kevorkian’s lawyer was Geoffrey Feiger, brother of the late Doug Fieger of The Knack. Their courtroom battles – Kevorkian was never convicted when Fieger was his lawyer – are the basis for the movie You Don’t Know Jack. (Don’t confuse that with this).
James Arness, legendary as Marshall Dillon on Gunsmoke, finally rode off into the sunset on Friday after 88 years on this dusty trail. Gunsmoke aired for twenty years and 635 episodes and made Arness a household name. The series, and the character, still finish high upon any list of the best in television history. Like his friend John Wayne, Arness was an imposing authority figure, although reserved and artistic in his private life. Many also know that his brother was the late Peter Graves.
And if Friday wasn’t already bad enough, Andrew Gold died after a heart attack at the too-young age of 59. Gold had hits in the 80s with “Lonely Boy” and “Thank You For Being A Friend“, as well as the theme from Mad About You, “Final Frontier“. But in my haven of liner notes, he was better known for being embedded in the SoCal scene where Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles and Jackson Browne were all over each other’s albums. Like J.D. Souther – to whom he bore a slight resemblance – he didn’t often get the front-line credit for his effort, but was an integral and dynamic contributor to a generation of music.
Less is usually said about his later career, when projects like Wax UK and The Fraternal Order Of The All gave him vehicles for his love of Beatles and Beach Boys song structure and melodies. Copy Cat was a covers album featuring ten Beatles tracks, Green Day, Elton John and even covers of his own songs. A great talent who will be missed.
Video: “Lonely Boy”
Quite a coincidence that on this very date two senseless and related tragic acts took place, and it’s interesting how differently history looks back on them.
- 1993: The Waco Siege took place at the Branch Davidian Complex after a 51 day stand-off. The question of “who fired first” is still hotly debated, and I think that image of Janet Reno staring over her glasses will be singed into my brain forever.
- Exactly two years later in 1995 was the Oklahoma City Bombing…a shocking act of terrorism committed by an American whose motive was largely tied to the government attacks at Waco and Ruby Ridge. (If you also lost someone in the Oklahoma City Bombing, you’re probably aware of the National Memorial, which was dedicated on this day in 2000, five years after the bombing. Peace.)
It’s frightening to think how these events took place during a period of time when America was enjoying prosperity. Makes you wonder what to expect now…the global economy is in a tumble, a nutjob in North Korea is flaunting nukes, and pirates in rowboats somehow blatantly challenge the world’s superpowers on a daily basis by capturing vessels in the most important shipping lane in our oil-dependent world. Are we all going crazy?
But somehow we get through tough times. I do it with humor and music. It’s the only way I can stay sane in the face of madness. Hopefully you have your release as well.
And speaking of madness, something good happened on April 19th. It was on this date in 1987 when we first saw The Simpsons as a feature on the Tracey Ullman Show. Twenty-two years later they are still rocking our world as the longest running sitcom and longest running animated program in television history. And after this year, they will break the tie with Gunsmoke as the longest running prime time television series in history. Cowabunga, man!
Here’s some great Simpsons trivia.
Homer: Got any of that beer that has candy floating in it? You know, Skittlebrau?
Apu: Such a beer does not exist, sir. I think you must have dreamed it.
Homer: Oh. Well, then just give me a six-pack and a couple of bags of Skittles