Category Archives: Music

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Bless Its Pointed Little Head

After hitting it big with Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane were eager to show off their chops as a live band. That’s how Bless Its Pointed Little Head came to be.

The band’s live sound was fuller, edgier, and rocked harder than their previous studio albums.

I’ve always dug the dissolute feeling of the front and back covers. Bassist Jack Casady worked hard, so he was entitled to tie one on.

Here’s a scan of a beat-up back cover:

Looks like the Airplane had a long night, y’all.

Here’s the whole damn album with additional tracks via Spotify:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: A Hard Day’s Night

My second jab side effects were worse than the first but only lasted for 3 days then vanished. It was weird to walk like a drunk when  stone cold sober, which is why I spent most of my time on the couch.

When did the furniture people start calling a couch a sofa? I can go either way, but sofa potato isn’t as evocative as couch potato. I wonder which one the man who couldn’t spell potatoes, J Danforth Quayle, uses. Ah, the small mysteries of life.

I’m still watching bits and bobs of the Chauvin trial. My dislike for defense lawyer, Eric Nelson grows daily. If I were devising a drinking game for the trial every time he says “right” “correct” “agree” you take a shot. A surefire way to get shit faced drunk, right?

Despite the album cover featured image, it’s Saturday, not Wednesday. I didn’t mean to confuse anyone; that was a lie, I take great joy in sowing confusion across the land instead of either sleeping like a log or working like a dog.

This week’s theme song was written by Lennon and McCartney in 1964 for the movie of the same title. It has always been one of my favorite Beatles tunes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We have four versions of A Hard Day’s Night for your listening pleasure: the Fab Four, Perez Prado, the Smithereens, and Miss Peggy Lee.

Peggy Lee? Yes, Norma Engstrom herself. Paul McCartney was a big fan and gave her a song to record after seeing her perform in London in 1974.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Since that’s my favorite Beatley quote, here’s the song it comes from; in German too.

Ja, ja, ja.

Let’s jump to the break. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

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I’ve Got The World On A String

The featured image is of the Cab Calloway big band in its heyday. Cab was a larger-than-life character and performer who would have insisted that I mention him before moving on to the song itself.

I’ve Got The World On A String was written in 1932 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler for the Cotton Club series. It was, of course, the legendary Harlem night spot at which Black performers played to all-white audiences. The Cotton Club was also the subject of an ill-fated 1984 movie by Francis Coppola.

It’s time to stop stringing you along and play some music. We begin (where else?) with the great Cab Calloway:

I’ve Got The World On A String was something of an underrecorded song until Sinatra pulled the string. Where Francis Albert led others were sure to follow.

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Gaetzgate: Blankety Blank

We begin with a couple of housekeeping notes. I wrote my maiden Gaetzgate post before hearing that the Panhandle Pinhead himself made a request:

I’ve decided to take pity on a doomed pol and spell it his way instead of in all-caps. Who knew that the Panhandle Pinhead’s fellow whiny man baby had the wit to make such a good pun?

Since Gaetz allegedly sough a blanket pardon, the phrase blankety blank immediately came to mind. I didn’t realize that it was the name of the UK equivalent of The Match Game. Where have you gone Gene Rayburn, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Brett Somers? They’re all long dead, alas.

Dead is also the word that best describes Matt Gaetz’s political career. It’s so dead that not even the Impeached Insult Comedian could revive it. He’s yet to defend his little friend, Matt; only Gym Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene have done so. How’s that for:

I know I’ve made that joke before but I can’t get enough of it. That concludes the classic rock jokes section of the post.

How was that for an epic opening tangent? It’s windy even by my standards.

Let’s move on to the opening lines I wrote immediately upon hearing about the latest Gaetzgate twist:

Blankets have been in the news recently. First Andrew Cuomo, now Matt Gaetz.

in the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions.

Around that time, Mr. Gaetz was also publicly calling for broad pardons from Mr. Trump to thwart what he termed the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But Justice Department investigators had begun questioning Mr. Gaetz’s associates about his conduct, including whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws, in an inquiry that grew out of the case of an indicted associate in Florida.

It was unclear whether Mr. Gaetz or the White House knew at the time about the inquiry, or who else he sought pardons for. Mr. Gaetz did not tell White House aides that he was under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations when he made the request. But top White House lawyers and officials viewed the request for a pre-emptive pardon as a nonstarter that would set a bad precedent, the people said.

An idea so bad that even Team Trump flinched at the notion? That makes it a *really* bad even rotten idea. The whole Trump era could be summed up by the title of this failed Mel Brooks sitcom:

While Gaetz may not have known that a gate was to be affixed to his name when he begged for a pardon, he knew that his little friend Josh Greenberg was in deep shit and sinking fast. My hunch is that Greenberg was to be covered in the blankety blank blanket pardon. But was the My Pillow Guy involved? What’s a blanket without a pillow? I deserve to be given sheet for that joke…

I eagerly await the Panhandle Pinhead’s next PR gaffe. Who will he drag into his mess next: Hannity? KMac? BillO? Donnie Junior?

Stay tuned.

The last word goes to The Kinks:

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: In Search Of The Lost Chord

A friend recently asked why I’d never featured a Moody Blues cover in this space. I didn’t have a particularly good answer. I’ve never connected with their music, but that’s true of many other artists whose covers I’ve posted.

In Search Of The Lost Chord is one of the moodiest Moody Blues covers ever. The album was released in 1968 and has cover art by Philip Travers.

Here’s the whole damn album via the YouTube:

A Postcard From The Cheap Seats

 

 

Sheet Music for Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Did you know this is actually a woman singing about how she prefers baseball to men? Gives new meaning to “one, two, three strikes you’re out”.

 

In honor of the new Major League Baseball season having begun I thought I’d take my first shot at making a listicle. It melds two of my great passions in life, music and baseball. The Ten Best Songs About Baseball according to Shapiro his ownself. The song referenced above is not eligible as it stands in a category by itself. It oughta be the national anthem.

10) The D-O-D-G-E-R-S Song

A perfect meeting of song, style, and performer. Danny Kaye specialized in the “patter” song and here he turns a Giants-Dodgers game into what has to be one of the wildest finishes in baseball history. I also love this song for the fact that even though he’s a fan of the team he can make fun of the players, the manager, and even the owner. Oh and he has respect for their heated rivals. I on the other hand do not which is why this is no higher than number ten.

9) Willie, Mickey, And The Duke (Talking Baseball)

I hated this song when it first came out, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to understand and admire it’s subtle way of connecting childhood hero worship with nostalgia for a simpler time — like when the only thing you had to debate was who was the best centerfielder (Willie, obviously). Points to Terry Cashman also for being willing to parody himself on The Simpsons.

8) Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?

We head into a stretch of songs about individual players, Homeric odes to heroic larger than life legends. And there is no legend larger than that of the first African American to play in the majors. You can hear the pride in the singer’s voice. And if you will notice, all the other players mentioned in the song are African-Americans. On the one hand a subtle nod to them, on the other a reminder that back then you couldn’t mention white and black players together, even in a song.

7) Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

Paul Simon would later on ask where he’d gone, but here Joe DiMaggio is front and center, letting everyone know it’s time for him to go to work. He’s celebrated in swing fashion, full brass, girl singer, somewhat strange envious chorus from the band. Yeah, I’d want him on our side, what’s your problem?

6) Say Hey

One of the only baseball songs that celebrates someone for his ability to play defense. Excite with offense, but win with defense said some sports figure once upon a time. That dialogue opening sounds just like arguments I’ve had with friends in the stands. If only Adrastos and I had had the ability to call over Rennie Stennett and tell him not to sign with the Giants. Also listen to the music; it’s at that moment when big band is giving way to R&B and this song shows it (even on the 45 sleeve — look for it in the video). By the way when they say never meet your heroes I’d say yeah unless it’s Willie Mays cause he’s everything you would have thought he’d be.

5) The Ballad Of Bill Lee

Bill Lee was a pitcher, famously for the Boston Red Sox. He’ll never be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he’s number one with a bullet in the Sports Characters Hall of Fame. He would say things like “I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I got this guy out”. Who else but Warren Zevon could pay proper tribute to the Spaceman, as Lee was known. “And sometimes I say things I shouldn’t”. It’ll be emblazoned on Lee’s tombstone. Maybe it should be on Warren’s as well.

4) Hola America!

Musicians often have a lot of time to kill and some of them kill that time at the old ballyard. I could fill this list just with songs from The Baseball Project, an Indie rock supergroup. Consisting of  Peter BuckMike MillsScott McCaugheySteve Wynn and Linda Pitmon the band has produced three albums (Frozen Ropes and Dyin’ Quails, High and Tight, and 3rd) and songs that look at the current game from a unique rock fan/baseball fan angle. I mean you have to be an indie rocker to write songs about Lenny Dykstra (“From Nails to Thumbtacks”), Bernie Williams (“Monument Park”), or the second most famous game Dock Ellis ever pitched (“The Day Dock Went Hunting Heads”). This song, about Cuban defector Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and his amazing story of fleeing from Cuba on a rickety raft to pitching in the World Series less than a year later, shows them at their best.

3) A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request

Wanna know what it means to be a fan? Just listen to this song by one of America’s criminally lesser known great songwriters. When I go, just scatter my ashes at the Big Ballyard at 3rd and Townsend when the prevailing 30mph wind is blowing the right way so I end up in McCovey Cove, one last splash hit.

2) Glory Days

Those who know me are probably saying “what, he didn’t make this number one? He’s such a Springsteen fan”. Well I plead guilty to that but there is another song that’s just a smidgen better. This song is about the other side of fame. It even answers his own question “Is a dream a lie that don’t come true or is it something worse?”. It takes guts to keep going. It also takes guts to have your current wife appear in a video your soon to be next wife is also in. Now THAT’S being the Boss.

1) Centerfield

From the stadium style clapping at the opening to the use of a stadium organ, through the admonishment to be born again because there’s new grass on the field to the plea to just be allowed to play the game John Fogerty took all those hours listening to Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons doing Giant games (“You can tell it good-bye”) and turned it into an anthem to not only the game, but to the love of the game. Player, fan, doesn’t matter, there is no line between the two. We’re all just looking for a moment in the sun.

SPECIAL MENTION:

It’s not really about baseball. It’s about sex. Which is just like baseball. Incremental small advances leading to a huge climax. In the course of a game, a season, a career. Often ending with the suicide squeeze. And if you’re lucky the Scooter does the play by play for the whole shebang.

Shapiro Out

Sunday Morning Video: Diana Krall Live In Paris

I seem to have Paris on my mind this week. Here’s the divine Diana Krall live in 2002. FYI, she loves her fellow Canadian Oscar Peterson as much as I do.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Roll Away The Stone

Notre Dame by Pablo Picasso.

I’ve already blasphemed about Easter in my Son Of Jab Talking post so I’ll resist the urge here. Besides, how can a non-believer blaspheme? A question for the ages.

This week’s theme song was written in 1974 by Ian Hunter for Mott The Hoople’s The Hoople album. They’re one of my favorite bands of that era; all flash and swagger. I like flash and swagger in a rock band.

I saw Mott perform live on that tour on a bill with BTO and a totally unknown band from Boston, Aerosmith. Great show although I’m not sure what Mormon rocker Randy Bachman thought of Ian Hunter and Steven Tyler; not to mention Mott guitarist Ariel Bender. That’s a stage name: his real moniker is nearly as colorful, Luther Grosvenor.

We move from glam rock to roots rock with this week’s co-theme song. It was written by Michael Dempsey and Leon Russell for the latter’s eponymous debut album:

Two more songs with stone in the title:

Let’s crawl to the break then jump if such a thing is feasible.

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April In Paris

 

I’m not in Paris but it’s April. That’s why I picked April In Paris by Vernon Duke and Yip Harburg as this week’s selection. It was written in 1932 for a Broadway musical that nobody’s ever heard of so we’ll skip the name. The song, however, is memorable.

We begin this week’s promenade down memory lane with  Ella & Louis:

It’s vocalese time with Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan:

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Meet Robert Clary

I knew Robert Clary from watching Hogan’s Heroes reruns as a kid. He played the lovable Louis Le Beau who, in the manner of all comedic Frenchmen, was a swell cook forever bribing the inept guard Sergeant Schultz with food.

It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I learned there was much more to Clary. He was a Holocaust survivor and a helluva singer.

We have two covers this week: the weird Hogan’s Heroes album led me on a Clary quest. I found 1955’s Meet Robert Clary, which has a similar vibe to some early Beatles covers. Oui, oui, oui.

Here’s the Clary album via Spotify:

Quote Of The Day: Montana Meth Nostalgia Edition

Montana is not only famous for dental floss tycoons, it used to have its own homegrown meth. Just ask Senator Steve Daines:

“Twenty years ago in Montana, meth was homemade. It was homegrown. And you had purity levels less than 30 percent,” Daines said alongside other Republican seantors who had traveled to the southern border. “Today the meth that is getting into Montana is Mexican cartel. It has purities north of 95 percent. Far more dangerous, far more addictive, and it’s less expensive.”

Ah, the good old days of meth lab explosions and local entrepreneurship. Dang furriners are taking over everything.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a senator who says stupid shit and I mean you John Neely Kennedy.

I used a line from the Zappa song Montana for my senior yearbook quote: “Moving to Montana soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon.”

A friend’s mother asked him when I was leaving. A minor triumph but it was mine, all mine.

You’ve probably guessed by now that this entire post was a pretext to post those Zappa dental floss images I found on the internets. Just humor me.

The last word goes to Frank Zappa and the Mothers:

Sunday Morning Video: The Beach Boys Live In 1969

Here are the Beach Boys on French television without Monsieur Brian Wilson. His brothers Carl and Dennis are present and accounted for as is their asshole cousin Mike Love in full guru regalia.

Skylark

Skylark was written in 1941 by Hoagy Carmichael and Friday Cocktail Hour semi-regular Johnny Mercer. The featured image captures Ginger and Johhny Mercer on the town with Hoagy and Ruth Carmichael. Hoagy appears to be feeling no pain. Party on Hoagy. Party on, Johnny.

Carmichael based the music on a Bix Beiderbecke cornet improvisation. Mercer struggled with the lyrics for nearly a year before striking gold. It was worth the effort: It’s a great song and one of my personal favorites.

My Peninsula homey Bing Crosby had the first radio hit with Skylark:

I shouldn’t play favorites but Ella Fitzgerald’s version *is* my favorite. What can I tell ya?

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: The Harder They Come

There’s going to be a flow to some of this week’s regular features. This one flows out of Monday’s potpourri post.

The movie The Harder They Come was many American’s first introduction to reggae. It was mine. The soundtrack is just as fresh as it was upon its release in 1972.

 

Here’s the whole damn album via the YouTube.

Here’s the movie trailer:

Sitting In Half Vaccinated Limbo

In spite of the side effects, getting the first jab was exciting but my guard remains up. A friend let his down last month and spent 20 days in the COVID ward. Fortunately, he’s slowly but surely recovering but has some lingering brain fog. I regard him as a reverse role model as I feel impatient after a year in exile. Get well soon, mon frere.

Sitting in half vaccinated limbo isn’t easy but it beats the hell out of the alternative. Let’s cue our first musical interlude:

We did something social last weekend. It was outdoors on Bayou St. John with some close friends. I’ve posted about Half Pagan before, it was their vernal equinox show. I called it Half Vaccinated meets Half Pagan.

I heckled them at points and even sang high harmonies from the semi-comfort of a camp chair. The chair was appropriate because these are folks we see a lot of during Carnival. We hadn’t seen any of them since Thoth Sunday in 2020.

I’m a bit impatient for my second jab but for maximum efficacy the Pfizer vaccine requires a 3-week interval. I’m down with that. I want the damn thing to work, after all. I’ve got April 4th circled on every calendar as the day of my release from absolute exile, but my guard remains up.

Our second musical interlude is another Tormato tune:

This is advertised as a potpourri post, so I need some categories. I don’t want to dishonor the memory of the late, great Alex Trebek.

Headline Of The Week: It comes from Talking Points Memo:

Trump Wax Statue Put In Museum Storage After It Kept Getting Punched.

It took place at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in San Antonio thereby proving that there are many fine people in Texas. That reminds me of another song that could be described as a waxing earworm:

That concludes the Punch & Trumpy segment of this post.

The Curious Case of the Biden Republicans: Pollster Stan Greenburg is the guy who coined the term Reagan Democrats. He sees the same thing happening in reverse. He recently sat for an extended interview with Politico Magazine’s Zack Stanton.

Check it out. It improved my mood. It could have the same effect on you too.

Border Blues: The MSM is in search of a new crisis. One would think they’d be satiated by the Trump years but they’re back to playing gotcha with the current administration.

Border issues between the United States and Mexico have been going on since the 1830’s. They were exacerbated by the Trump regime and continue as the Team Biden tries to clean up that mess. It’s what happens when a poor country and a rich one share a long border. There will always be border issues.

Perhaps we should look for a new scapegoat: how about this guy?

Asian Spring: Showtime Circus performer Alex Wagner has written a fine piece for the Atlantic about the current wave of anti-Asian bigotry as seen the through the eyes of her own family’s experiences. I love it when writers weave together the personal and political. It’s the goal of much of what we do here at First Draft.

Finally, keep your guard up. We all have COVID fatigue, but the virus does not care. Florida appears ripe for another spike as Spring Breakers hit the beaches. College kids think that they’re invulnerable but they’re not. There are some on Bourbon Street as well. That’s why I’m sitting here in half vaccinated limbo.

The last word goes to the Neville Brothers and Bryan Ferry:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: On The Silent Wings Of Freedom

Photograph by Stanley Kubrick.

A bird got into our house while I was taking a jab nap. Claire Trevor was determined to get the poor wee house sparrow. I tried grabbling CT to close her in somewhere to no avail. I yelled at the cat to keep her away from the open door as the bird hopped from ceiling fan to ceiling fan. It finally flew out the front door. That’s as adventurous as it gets at Adrastos World HQ these days.

Mother-in-Law #1 is 99-years-old and in bad shape at her assisted living joint in Baton Rouge. The good news is that we’ve been able to visit her twice including yesterday. Her body is failing but her mind is still sharp. I’m not sure how long she’ll last but it’s a relief to be able to visit after not having seen her for 14 months because of the pandemic.

I’m voting later today in the special election called to fill Cedric Richmond’s congressional seat. I’m as underwhelmed by the choices on offer as I was by Cedric. The leading candidates are two hacks from New Orleans and a young firebrand from Baton Rouge. Since I do not want to be represented in Congress by someone from Red Stick, I’m voting for the hack I’m acquainted with, State Senator and former City Councilman Troy Carter. I loathe the other hack whose name shall not cross my lips.

This week’s theme song was written by Jon Anderson and Chris Squire for Yes’ 1978 album, Tormato. Yes are known for their great album covers. This is not one of them. The music is still pretty darn good.

We have two versions of On The Silent Wings Of Freedom for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a 2006 live instrumental version.

Follow the flying fingers of Chris Squire and jump to the break. No finger jokes this week. Pinky swear.

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Lush Life

One of the best things about First Draft is interacting with our readers. Sometimes we take requests. Longtime reader Carroll A suggested Lush Life for this feature. It’s a helluva idea so I’m making it so or some such Trekky shit.

Long before Billy Strayhorn joined forces with Duke Ellington, he wrote Lush Life. It came slowly and was written between 1933 and 1936. It was not recorded until 1948 but that opened the floodgates:  it has been recorded 450+ times since then.

We begin out of order with the version suggested by Carroll. You can’t go wrong with John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman:

Here’s one by the composer himself:

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Duke Ellington At The Bal Masque

I’ve had the Duke on my mind since the last Friday Cocktail Hour so let’s segue from Satin Doll to At The Bal Masque:

Actually, Satin Doll is on this 1958 album. Despite the swell cover, At The Bal Masque is regarded as lesser Ellington, which is why I couldn’t track down the whole damn album. Here are a couple of tracks from it:

Note the misspelled title and inferior re-release cover. Woe is me, bop.

Jab Talking

I’m half-vaccinated. They were dispensing the two-dose Pfizer vaccine at the Morial Convention Center here in New Orleans. The P is silent in Pfizer but I insist on pronouncing it just to be annoying. Puh-fizer has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

I also insist on calling a shot a jab as they do in woody old England. Does that make me as annoying as Bertie Wooster? A question for the ages.

The needle was larger than the one wielded above by Richard Widmark in Panic In The Streets, but the woman who stuck me was skilled. It didn’t hurt. I’m glad it wasn’t another early Widmark character, Tommy Udo in Kiss Of Death or this might have happened:

Yeah, I know, there were no stairs involved. What’s a little artistic license among friends?

Trivia time: It was the same hall that the Antique Roadshow used when they were in town. That was when I learned that my vintage autographed Giants baseballs were stamped, not signed. I was mildly crushed since Carl Hubbell himself gave them to me. Oh well, what the hell.

My left arm is a bit sore post-jab. I’ve also had some mild side effects including lethargy and dizziness.

Speaking of dizzy, let’s move from film noir to bubblegum with this musical interlude:

I’m not sure that the world needed a 6:31 remix of Dizzy but who am I to argue with DJ Disco Cat and Bubblegum Purrfection. I am a cat person, after all.

I am, of course, making light of the vaccination process because I want everyone to relax and get jabbed as soon as possible. It’s what I do, making light, not jabbing.

I am, however, a bit nervous about the After Times and you may be too. That’s why I commend to your attention a WaPo piece by Dr. Lucy McBride: I’ve been yearning for an end to the pandemic. Now that it’s here, I’m a little afraid.

McBride captures the anxieties and apprehension many of us feel. I have them too I just hide them with a flurry of jokes and musical interludes.

Finally, I wrote this about my vaccination appointment in Saturday Odds & Sods:

I’m a bit nervous and uncertain as to which vaccine I’ll be getting. I’m fine with any of them. The one-shot J&J variant has considerable appeal because I hate needles. Here’s hoping I get jabbed by someone with a light touch. Just don’t give me a smiley faced Band-Aid. I hope that’s not too much to ask.

They did fine with the vaccine, the jabbing, and the Band-Aid, but they gave everyone smiley face masks. I hate anything with a smiley face. It’s off-brand. A friend of mine said that he tried wearing it upside down, but it fell off. Oh well, what the hell.

Anyway, y’all get jabbed ASAP. If you’re still not eligible, signup pronto. It’s important. Try watching some knockabout comedy before and after like I did. Did I just propose myself as a role model? A scary thought indeed.

The last word goes to the Bee Gees. Just substitute jab for jive and Bob’s your uncle:

Shouldn’t that be Barry, Robin, or Maurice is your uncle? And why do the Brits pronounce Maurice, Morris? Another question for the ages.

Sunday Morning Video- Oscar Peterson: Keeping The Groove Alive

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Oscar Peterson?

Here’s another example: a 2003 documentary about his life. It’s narrated by Christopher Plummer who went to high school with Oscar in Montreal.