Last week we said two very sad goodbyes, one in music and the other in TV.
How will the music world recover from the loss of the King of the Blues, Riley B “B.B.” King? “The Thrill Is Gone” virtuoso passed away on May 14 at the age of 89. Not since Les Paul has one man done so much for the guitar, and with that guitar-affectionately named “Lucille”-King gave us some of the greatest jazz/blues/rock & roll music the world ever saw.
Photo courtesy of the American Academy of Achievement.
He bought his first guitar while he was growing up in Mississippi and began his career in 1947 on Beale Street in Memphis. The rest of the story is history, complete with 15 Grammy Awards, inductions into various halls of fame (including the Rock & Roll HOF in 1987 by Sting) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, amongst others. Still King never forgot his roots, performing in his home town of Indianola, MS every year for the last three decades. That town is also home to the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.
Performers from Buddy Guy to the Rolling Stones to Eric Clapton to Tracy Chapman and many others have been influenced by King, and he worked with them and many others because his appeal appeared to have no limits. One of my favorite collaborations of King’s was with U2 in 1988, “When Love Comes To Town” .
Thank you for the music, Mr. King. Rest in peace.
The second goodbye goes to AMC’s masterpiece, Mad Men. In a word, I am verklempt.
The 17 month hiatus between seasons four and five was bad enough, but now the break is final. Sigh.
Photo courtesy of AMC.
It was hard enough saying goodbye to NBC’s “Parenthood” earlier this year (read about that here). But now this? Whatever will I do without my weekly Don Draper fix (a/k/a the scrumptious Jon Hamm)? Or Betty and Joan’s gorgeous dresses to swoon over? What about Roger Sterling’s one liners? I gave up smoking over 5 years ago but each time one of the characters lit up a cigarette, I inhaled with them vicariously. And I am no longer embarrassed to order an Old Fashioned when I go out since Don & Roger enjoyed them as well.
And like the “Parenthood” finale, the end of the “Mad Men” series forced fans to deal with a death also-that of Betty Draper’s (the beautiful & talented January Jones). No, it did not happen on screen, but it was imminent from her lung cancer diagnosis in the penultimate episode. It was widely rumored on the internet that one character would have to suffer the consequences of all that smoking, but I was hoping it would be Peter Campbell. I know he did not smoke but he could have contracted the illness from the second hand effects (he was my least favorite character-can you tell?).
I just felt like the Draper kids had already been through so much as a result of their absentee father, their mother’s dysfunction, the death of Grandpa Gene, their parent’s divorce, the loss of their maid/nanny Carla and their subsequent move from the only home they knew to their step-father’s mansion. I wanted a better end to the kids story, not more grief. And the loss of their mother was one they were all too young to deal with. But Betty’s handling of her doom, and the letter she wrote to Sally about the funeral arrangements in the second to last episode? January Jones’ voice was so melancholy yet so resigned as she was heard reading the note that I was absolutely inconsolable. Kudos to her and her on-screen daughter Kiernan Shipka for the way they handled that & every scene of this story line-hell, in the entire series.
Other than that I was quite satisfied with the ending, despite how much I was dreading the show’s run coming to a close. Peggy found love as did Roger, and with a woman his own age-go figure. I was in such a “Mad Men” haze since AMC ran the entire series-all 7 seasons-from last Wednesday night leading up to the finale Sunday night. I was happy to relive as much of it as I could because in addition to the great acting, great writing and great directing, I will miss the spectacular music featured in each episode. Even the send off song the network used in promoting the end of the series-Paul Anka’s “The Times Of Your Life“-was perfect.
But my favorite song heard in the series was an instrumental of “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat and his Orchestra. Written by French composers André Popp and Pierre Cour, Mauriat’s version was released in 1967 and became an international smash. By early 1968 it hit #1 on the US charts for five weeks. I am ashamed to admit it, but this fantastic piece of music fell off my radar for many years until I heard it again at the end of episode 5 of season 6, “The Flood”. (If you prefer a more rock and roll version, check out Jeff Beck’s cover here.)
So goodbye, Mad Men. I cannot say I will miss you most of all since my favorite TV shows are dropping like flies this year, but this loss definitely hurts my heart so. And getting the chance to live through the decade of 1961-1971 through you and with you was a fascinating ride. Thanks for seven remarkable seasons. Uh oh, I am getting verklempt again. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic: Jon Hamm was neither a john nor a ham. Discuss.