Sunday Reads: The Duck Walk is Over, Long Live the “Curmudgeonly Columnist”


I have to admit, last night when I saw a few post up on social media with images of Chuck Barry… I thought perhaps it was an anniversary of his death. (Yeah, I thought he was already dead. Isn’t that terrible?) After losing so many icons last year, this one true man who brought on the sound we all know as rock and roll, passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

Chuck Berry, wild man of rock who helped define its rebellious spirit, dies at 90 – The Washington Post

Chuck Berry, the perpetual wild man of rock music who helped define its rebellious spirit in the 1950s and was the sly poet laureate of songs about girls, cars, school and even the “any old way you choose it” vitality of the music itself, died March 18 at at his home in St. Charles County, Mo. He was 90.

St. Charles County police announced the death in a Facebook post on its Website, saying officers responded to a medical emergency at Mr. Berry’s home and administered lifesaving techniques but could not revive him. No further information was available.

“While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together,” reads Mr. Berry’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

A seminal figure in early rock music, he was all the rarer still for writing, singing and playing his own music. His songs and the boisterous performance standards he set directly influenced the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and later Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger.

Mr. Berry so embodied the American rock tradition that his recording of “Johnny B. Goode” was included on a disc launched into space on the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1977.

Chuck Berry, Rock ’n’ Roll Pioneer, Dies at 90 – The New York Times

Chuck Berry, who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years, died on Saturday. He was 90.

This LA Times goes back to a review from a set Chuck Berry did when he was 75 years old…

How Chuck Berry managed to look and sound so good even in his later years – LA Times

Berry, on the other hand, was so full of vitality you wanted to X-ray that old Gibson guitar of his to find the flask he must have filled at the fountain of youth.

The spirit, spontaneity and energy rock’s first poet put into his hourlong set was all the more remarkable in light of decades of half-hearted performances in which he typically battled rather than meshed with unrehearsed musicians hired for him in each town.

[…]

“It must still be fun, because I don’t have to hit a lick anymore,” Berry acknowledged during an interview Thursday in his dressing room at “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” before a joint appearance that night with Richard. The implication was that fans will cheer this first-round Rock and Roll Hall of Famer no matter what he does, or doesn’t do, on stage at this point in his career.

“What keeps me going is the fact that I appreciate that response,” Berry added. “Plus I’m still learning, and that’s a big part of my life–to learn. These guitar strokes I’m learning, still learning–yes, it’s fun. Anybody would understand it’s fun.”

A look at some tributes to Berry:

The Music Community Mourns ‘Rock’s Greatest’ Chuck Berry

The news sadly broke on Saturday night that Chuck Berry — who, let’s be real, invented the idea of rock and roll — died at the age of 90 in St. Charles County, Missouri. His death is an undeniable loss to the music community as a whole, and musicians (of all genres) are letting their grief be known by posting remembrances and tributes all over social media. Crank up the “Johnny B Goode” out of respect and read all of them below.

Go to the link to read them.

The Rolling Stones Pay Tribute To Chuck Berry With Touching Notes On Social Media | The Huffington Post

Following news of Chuck Berry’s death on Saturday, plenty of fellow musicians shared touching tributes to the rock ‘n’ roll legend on social media. Among them being The Rolling Stones, who considered Berry a huge influence on their own music.

“The Rolling Stones are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Chuck Berry,” the band wrote in a statement on Facebook. “He was a true pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll and a massive influence on us. Chuck was not only a brilliant guitarist, singer and performer, but most importantly, he was a master craftsman as a songwriter. His songs will live forever.”

Key dates in the life of rock visionary Chuck Berry | Tampa Bay Times

I wanted to share more articles with you about Chuck Berry, but so many websites are becoming paid subscription only. It is becoming difficult to find items to post on these threads. I’d like to be able to send you to links that you will actually be able to open up and read.

In fact, just a few links on the political front:

White House Admits Trump ‘Insurance For Everybody’ Guarantee Isn’t Going To Happen | The Huffington Post

Tom Cotton: ‘Able-bodied’ Poor People Shouldn’t Qualify For ‘Welfare’ Like Medicaid | Crooks and Liars

Mulvaney: ‘The only way to get truly universal care is to throw people in jail if they don’t have it’ | TheHill

Prosecutor will not charge prison guards who ‘boiled inmate to death’ | theGrio

‘This isn’t freedom’: Chris Wallace grills Paul Ryan for plan to crush seniors with health care costs

 

We lost another icon, this one was a newspaper man…

Jimmy Breslin, Legendary New York City Newspaper Columnist, Dies at 88 – The New York Times

Jimmy Breslin, the New York City newspaper columnist and best-selling author who leveled the powerful and elevated the powerless for more than 50 years with brick-hard words and a jagged-glass wit, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 88, and until very recently, was still pushing somebody’s buttons with two-finger jabs at his keyboard.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Ronnie Eldridge, a prominent Democratic politician in Manhattan. Mr. Breslin had been recovering from pneumonia.

With prose that was savagely funny, deceptively simple and poorly imitated, Mr. Breslin created his own distinct rhythm in the hurly-burly music of newspapers. Here, for example, is how he described Clifton Pollard, the man who dug President John F. Kennedy’s grave, in a celebrated column from 1963 that sent legions of journalists to find their “gravedigger”:

“Pollard is forty-two. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.”

Here is how, in one of the columns that won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, he focused on a single man, David Camacho, to humanize the AIDS epidemic, which was widely misunderstood at the time:

“He had two good weeks in July and then the fever returned and he was back in the hospital for half of last August. He got out again and returned to Eighth Street. The date this time doesn’t count. By now, he measured nothing around him. Week, month, day, night, summer heat, fall chill, the color of the sky, the sound of the street, clothes, music, lights, wealth dwindled in meaning.”

And here is how he described what motivated Breslin the writer: “Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”

Poetic and profane, softhearted and unforgiving, Mr. Breslin inspired every emotion but indifference; letters from outraged readers gladdened his heart. He often went after his own, from Irish-Americans with “shopping-center faces” who had forgotten their hardscrabble roots to the Roman Catholic Church, whose sex scandals prompted him to write an angry book called “The Church That Forgot Christ,” published in 2004. It ends with a cheeky vow to start a new church that would demand more low-income housing and better posture.

Jimmy Breslin — the cigar-chomping, hard-nosed newspaperman who won the Pulitzer Prize for his Daily News’ columns championing ordinary New Yorkers — died Sunday morning. He was 88.

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The cause of death was complications from pneumonia, his personal physician said.

“Jimmy Breslin was a furious, funny, outrageous and caring voice of the people who made newspaper writing into literature,” Daily News Editor-in-Chief Arthur Browne said.

Breslin’s colleagues mourned the loss of a street-smart truth teller who scoured the streets of New York, pen and paper in hand, looking for stories no one else could capture.

Los Angeles Times columnist Jack Smith once described Breslin’s writing style as being “like an Irish wind that has blown through Queens and Harlem and Mutchie’s bar. It is a pound of Hemingway and a pound of Joyce and 240 pounds of Breslin.”

Breslin was part of the wave of practitioners of what came to be known as New Journalism: a group of gifted writers that included Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion and others who reported on the social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s in newspaper and magazine journalism that read like good fiction.

“I never thought about how to do a column,” Breslin told Marc Weingarten, author of “The Gang That Wouldn’t Write Straight,” a 2006 book about the New Journalism revolution. “It just came naturally, I guess. It had a point of view and it had to spring right out of the news.”

There is, Breslin added, “an immediacy that makes the column fresh. Like you were covering the eighth race at Belmont. But no one was doing it when I started. That’s why everyone thought it was new.”

Jimmy Breslin, legendary New York City columnist, dies at 88 – LA Times Photo Gallery

For an “unlettered bum,” as Mr. Breslin called himself, he left an estimable legacy of published work, including 16 books, seven of them novels, plus two anthologies of his columns.

What set him apart as a writer was the inimitable style of his journalism across the last great decades of ink-on-paper news, in the 1960s for the old New York Herald Tribune and later for the Daily News and the city pages of Long Island-based Newsday, where his final regular column appeared in 2004.

In that pre-Web era, before desk-bound bloggers saturated the opinion market, Mr. Breslin was a familiar archetype — the quintessential sidewalk-pounding, big-city columnist, loved and loathed all over town, a champion of the put-upon and a thorn to the mighty and the swell.

He and other marquee metropolitan columnists back then, notably Mike Royko, Mr. Breslin’s counterpart in Chicago, were household names in their cities, their faces splashed in ads on the sides of buses and newspaper delivery trucks.

“Built like a Tammany ward heeler of a century ago, all belly and lopsided grin,” as People magazine put it in 1982, Mr. Breslin was a hyperliterate everyman, a barstool bard full of bluster and mirth. He covered nearly every big crisis, outrage and scandal afflicting New York in his newspaper years, from the 1964 Harlem race riot to the tragedy of 9/11, his columns at turns poignant, biting, comical and brash.

On November 26, 1963, The New York Herald Tribune published “It’s an Honor,” one of the most memorable newspaper columns of all time.

Jimmy Breslin tells the story of President John Kennedy’s funeral from the perspective of Clifton Pollard, a gravedigger at Arlington National Cemetery.

This is how Breslin’s story begins:

Please go to those various links and read the stories.

Sorry about the lateness of this post…this is an open thread.

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30 Comments on “Sunday Reads: The Duck Walk is Over, Long Live the “Curmudgeonly Columnist””

  1. Minkoff Minx says:

    I need to reformat the thread. But I didn’t realize how late it was. I got caught up in reading stories and old articles by Jimmy Breslin.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      I was reading them as well! Got caught up in his words and “heart” that made him a “must read” in my day.

      Right up there with Mike Royko and Art Buchwald for those of us who remember them.

    • NW Luna says:

      What a truly great journalist! Thank you for the depth on him.

  2. dakinikat says:

    Bernie Wright died also. He was probably the greatest living illustrator. He did wonderful things for the horror Genre including Swamp thing.

    http://io9.gizmodo.com/famed-comic-book-artist-bernie-wrightson-dies-at-68-1793421051

  3. dakinikat says:

    If you’ve never seen his illustrations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, you’re missing out big time on some gorgeous work …

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. Fannie says:

    Thanks for tribute to Chuck Berry……….mighty fine musician. Great photos too, he was handsome.

  6. dakinikat says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      I saw this earlier today and it was noted presidents have rebounded in the past from numbers this low -but I don’t think tRump will. I don’t think he is capable or the GOPers are capable of digging out from under their horrendous policies.

      The horrible caveat is what would they resort to in order to restore popularity, which includes the always reliable precedent of going to war.,

      • joanelle says:

        Oh, I think war was their intention from the start, Enheduanna. Bush was the first American president to START a war. It seems it’s the only way they know how to keep the 1% wealthy

  7. Enheduanna says:

    We’re just starting to lose a huge cadre of the most well-known and celebrated people in history. I only say that because the 20th century brought the world into an age of communication never known before. We know about all these people because of technological advances in communication. It was so hard last year but I don’t think it will become easier anytime soon. I feel very privileged to live in an era that has shown a light on so many gifted and extraordinary souls.

  8. NW Luna says:

  9. janicen says:

    Everyone watching the Comey testimony?

  10. janicen says:

    I can’t believe how stressed I am watching this testimony. I may not be able to watch it all. I have butterflies in my stomach and heart.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    Helpful article on listening to Comey’s testimony today from Lawfare Blog.

    https://www.lawfareblog.com/how-listen-jim-comeys-testimony-monday

  12. bostonboomer says:

    Republicans are focusing on the leaks rather than Russia’s interference in the election.

  13. janicen says:

    I’m envisioning Roger Stone frantically packing his bags to make a run for it.

  14. Sweet Sue says:

    About thirty five years ago, I was a waitress in NYC whose claim to fame was spilling hot coffee on Jimmy Breslin. and he was awfully nice about it.
    Full disclosure: I was very pretty then.
    Oh, and I want Adam Schiff (although as a Law and Order fan, his name makes me giggle) as our Attorney General.

  15. bostonboomer says:

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  16. bostonboomer says:

    Neither Rogers nor Comey will comment on whether it is clear that there was no collusion between Trump and Russia.