WC, will as usual begin his end of the year wrap-up with the saddest bit: the recollection of those we lost in 2015.1
|Terry Pratchett signing WC’s copy of Wintersmith||Sir Terry Pratchett, O.B.E. WC lost his favorite author. Terry Pratchett died March 12 at age 66. There won’t be any more Pratchett novels. Commander Vimes has solved his last mystery. Granny Weatherwax won’t practice any more Headology. Lord Veterinari, the amazingly devious ruler of Ankh-Morpork, has no more schemes. Moist von Lipwig has run his last con. Death and his horse, Binky, have made their final call.
More than any 20th Century author, Pratchett inspired, entertained and amused WC. It saddens WC just to think about it: no more Pratchett novels. The world is a colder, bleaker, less humane and, above all, less amusing place with him gone.
|Ben E. King. Five #1 Hits. 12 Top Ten hits. 26 Top 40 hits. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Founder of the Stand By Me Foundation. He was still performing as late as 2014. His songs have been covered by pretty much everybody. “Stand by Me” likely has been covered by everybody.|
|Ernie Banks. WC watched Ernie Banks play his last game. September 25, 1971, the Cubs hopelessly mired in the bottom half of the National League East, the 40-year old Banks was playing with the bad knees that had forced him from shortstop to first base to sometime substitute, but there was still utter, child-like joy in every move he made on the field. He hit a double and scored, as WC recalls, helping the Cubs beat the Phillies. There was a radio interview of Banks along the first base line after the games. Mr. Cub was asked what he thought of the game; Banks smiled and said it was such a nice day they should have played two.
A superb ballplayer, a wonderful human being and every Cubs fan’s hero. WC can only say, “Hey Ernie, let’s play two!”
|Allen Toussaint. A wonderful composer, a stellar, self-taught pianist, a brilliant collaborator and a distinguished producer; WC heard him only once, at a Band concert on their Rock of Ages tour, where he sat in on a few songs. Magical, just magical.|
|Kenny Stabler. WC doesn’t often write about football or football players. But Stabler was not only a superb quarterback and an unabashed devil when the NFL tried to paint its players as saints; he was also left-handed. By far the most successful left-handed quarterback in NFL history. No opposing team’s lead was big enough late in the 4th quarter when the Snake and his receivers, Cliff Branch, Fred Biletnikoff and Dave Casper got hot.|
|B.B. King. King played with his eyes closed, his face a mask of pain, squeezing notes out of the neck of his guitar, always named Lucille. Talking between songs, he spoke of his hard scrabble childhood in a segregated Mississippi, of his work over the years with blues legends like Sonny Boy Williams, Muddy Waters and Lighting Hopkins, and the stories behind each of his songs. He told us why his guitars were always named Lucille, and why producer Bill Graham was a hero. There was only one woman in his life, and that was his guitar, Lucille, and while she was demanding, King said she had given him more comfort in the hard times than anyone else.
And us as well, Mr. King, and us as well.
|Julian Bond. The first and greatest of the second generation of civil rights activists, Bond founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was from 1998 to 2010, the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was a member of the Georgia Legislature from 1964 – 1987, despite the segregationists’ refusal to seat him – it took the supreme court decision in Bond v. Floyd (385 U.S. 116) for him to gain his seat – and repeated efforts to gerrymander his seat out of existence. WC heard Bond speak several times. His forceful, patient and unrelenting efforts made hims a role model for WC.|
|Percy Sledge. If all Sledge had done was write and record “When a Man Loves a Woman”he’d have made WC’s list; it’s the quintessential Black soul ballad. Recorded and released in March 1966, Sledge said the inspiration for the song came when his girlfriend left him for a modelling career after he was laid off from a construction job in late 1965. Because bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright helped him with the song, he gave all the songwriting credits to them. Sledge went on to record a string of hits. Even into his 70s, he could blow your socks off live.|
|Doug Tomkins. He and Susie Tompkins Buell, his first wife, co-founded the outdoor equipment and clothing company The North Face and the Esprit clothing line. Following their divorce and Tompkins’ departure from the business world in 1989, he became active in environmental and land conservation causes. He purchased and conserved over 2 million acres of wilderness in Chile and Argentina, more than any other private individual in the region, thus becoming among the largest private land-owners in the world. The Tompkins’ were focused on park creation, wildlife recovery, ecological agriculture, and activism, with the goal of saving biodiversity. A model for us all.|
|Leonard Nimoy. The hero of every nerd, he made logic and dispassion cool. His Spock is an icon of the era. Nimoy was conflicted about the public fascination with Spok. Both of his autobiographies, I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995), were written from the viewpoint of sharing his existence with the character. On June 2, 2015, an asteroid, discovered in 1988, was named 4864 Nimoy in his honor. Completely appropriate.
The fact he was a highly skilled photographer was just icing.
There were a distressing number of other deaths of persons memorable or important to WC in 2015. A consequence of growing old, WC supposes. The omission of those others isn’t intended as a slight. And feel free to add your own in comments.
- WordPress is being unusually difficult about tables for some reason. WC apologizes for any formatting glitched. ↩