Category Archives: R.I.P.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Deeper Water

Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer.

Since we have something of a nautical-as opposed to naughty-theme I thought we’d dive right in without any dockside formalities. I won’t invite you into my stateroom because this might happen:

I would never take a cruise. The thought of doing so reminds me of the not so great Poop Cruise of 2013. Hell, I get seasick contemplating the Winslow Homer painting above.

Let’s move on to this week’s theme song. Singer-songwriter Paul Kelly is often called the Bob Dylan of Australia but he never broke through stateside. Kelly co-wrote Deeper Water in 1994 with Randy Jacobs of Was (Not Was) in case you was (not was) wondering.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. First, the 1995 studio version that was the title track of Kelly’s tenth album. Second, a 2013 live version from a show Kelly did with Neil Finn. For some reason it’s listed as Deep Water but it’s the same tune. Wow, that’s deep, man.

I hope we’re not in over our heads. Let’s mount the diving board and jump to the break.

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Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, R.I.P.

The first, and thus far only, woman elected Governor of the Gret Stet of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, has died at the age of 77 after a long battle with cancer. It’s often forgotten that Blanco was a strong, effective, and popular Governor on her way to re-election until Hurricane Katrina struck. It was a life changing event for all concerned and, unfortunately, led eventually to the election of Bobby Jindal who ran the state into the ground.

Much of the post-K criticism of Blanco was unfair. The storm was expected to hit the Florida panhandle until the 10 PM advisory on August 26. There wasn’t much time to prepare for a massive evacuation but it could have gone far worse. It *was* a mess but most of that was down to panicky and inept New Orleans Mayor C Ray Nagin. The subsequent flood was a federal affair.

The Bush administration, in conjunction with Nagin, chose Blanco as their political patsy. That was made obvious when the White House made Karl Rove its Katrina point man. Turd Blossom left his partisan stink all over the recovery effort and our Democratic Governor took the fall for Bush and Nagin’s mistakes. She stood her ground and won many battles, but lost the PR war.

Kathleen Blanco was a kind, compassionate, empathetic, and warm human being. She was “pro-life” but, unlike our current Governor, insisted that there be exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother in an anti-choice bill passed by the lege during her term as Governor. Her record otherwise was sterling, big-hearted, and liberal for a Blue Dog Democrat.

Blanco’s reputation has grown since leaving office. She was so effective in her dealings with the lunkheads in the lege that she earned the nickname, The Queen Bee. And the term steel magnolia seemed to have been invented for his charming, kindly but tough woman.

Other than shaking her hand at a public event, I never had the chance to meet Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, so I’m linking to three friends who had the pleasure of her acquaintance: Bob Mann, Clancy DuBos, and Lamar White Jr.

Finally, it was a rough weekend in New Orleans. Beloved local anchorwoman, Nancy Parker, died in an airplane crash while doing a story on the pilot. I’ve enjoyed her work over her 26 years as lead co-anchor at WVUE, but I’m a WWL news viewer. It’s a tribute to Parker that the competition has devoted so much airtime honoring her. Like Kathleen Blanco, Nancy Parker was famous for being nice. They will both be missed.

A Salute To Jerry Garcia

Today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 77th birthday. I don’t believe in astrology. I do, however, get a kick out of sharing a sign with Jerry. Us Leos have to stick together, dead or alive.

The only fitting salute to Jerry is to post his music. We’ll do the Spotify playlist thing with 20 of Jerry’s best tunes; 19 of which have lyrics by Robert Hunter:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Brother’s Keeper

Art Neville’s memorial service was yesterday, hence this week’s selection. Like most Neville Brothers studio albums Brother’s Keeper is a mixed bag. They were always at their best live but it has many highlights including Brother Jake and last week’s Odds & Sods theme song, River Of Life.

The cover art is brilliant. It’s by Alison Saar an African American artist from Los Angeles who is primarily a sculptor.

The back cover features a photograph by Larry Williams.

Here’s the whole damn album in the YouTube playlist format.

Saturday Odds & Sods: River Of Life

Elegy For Moss Land by Clarence John Laughlin.

It’s been a noisy week at Adrastos World HQ. The utility company is doing some work on our block: they’ve dug holes and marked off spaces for new gas mains and meters. Here’s hoping they finish soon.

I’ve had the Neville Brothers on my mind since Art’s passing. But he did not write River Of Life; one of the most underrated songs in the Neville Brothers canon. It was written by Cyril Neville, Daryl Johnson, and Brian Stoltz for the band’s 1990 album, Brother’s Keeper.

Here are two versions of this week’s theme song. I dare you not to get up and rock:

Now that we’ve flowed with the river of life, let’s swim to the break. No drowning, please.

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Art Neville, R.I.P.

This is another tough one for me. The man we in New Orleans call Poppa Funk, Art Neville has died at the age of 81.

I was lucky enough to know Art; not well, he was more of a neighborhood acquaintance. We’re both proud residents of the 13th Ward in Uptown New Orleans. Our conversations mostly took place with him on his porch and me on the sidewalk. I wasn’t a stalker: Art lived a few blocks up Valence Street from Adrastos World HQ. Plus, I know one of his sons and several of his nieces and nephews. Repeat after me: New Orleans is the world’s largest small town. Condolences to everyone in the Neville family.

When I was neighborhood leader, I used to walk the neighborhood a lot. The first time I saw Art, I almost didn’t stop to chat. As a hardcore New Orleanian, I try to hide my inner fan boy. Fortunately, Art was a warm and friendly man who was always glad to talk when he wasn’t on the road with the Neville Brothers or the Meters.

Most of our conversations were relatively brief and fairly long ago, alas. We talked about neighborhood stuff, the weather, food, the Saints, and music; always music. I wasn’t even sure if he knew my name, but I knew his. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of reflected glory, 13th Ward style.

We had two particularly memorable conversations:

I told him that my first date with Dr. A ended up at Tipitina’s where we saw the Neville Brothers. Art smiled and said: “So, we helped you get the girl? That’s great, man.”

One day we talked about the late San Francisco concert promoter/music mogul, Bill Graham. Near the end of his life, Graham was on a largely successful mission to boost Art and his brothers and bring their music to the world. In fact, the first time I saw the Meters was when they opened for the Rolling Stones at a Bill Graham Presents show at the Oakland Coliseum.

I told Art about playing basketball (badly) against Graham at Winterland before a Grateful Dead concert. Graham had sharp elbows and an even sharper tongue. The game was on the honor system, so I called a foul on Bill when he poked me with an elbow. He protested: “The fuck you say.”

Even then, I was a smart ass: “You gonna throw me out of the arena?”

He smirked and said: “What kind of asshole you take me for? Your punishment is a fucking no-call. Ya dig, shit-head?”

After telling Art this story, he nodded and said, “Bill threw some sharp elbows for us too. Most creative cusser I ever met.”

I hadn’t seen Art for many years when I heard the sad but not unexpected news. I wish I had gotten to know him better but as John Lennon put it, “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

I suspect my encounters with Art Neville were infinitely more memorable to me than to him. He was an unpretentious music legend and a good listener. The perfect audience, the perfect neighbor.

Finally, a quote from Keith Spera’s tribute to Art in the Picvocate:

“It was peaceful,” said Kent Sorrell, Neville’s longtime manager. “He passed away at home with his adoring wife Lorraine by his side. He toured the world how many times, but he always came home to Valence Street.”

And that’s where we met. He will be missed by everyone who loved his music, especially those of us in his neighborhood, the 13th Ward. He always came home to Valence Street.

Here’s some music, Poppa Funk style:

Sunday Morning Video: Johnny Clegg & Savuka Live In Paris

It’s time for another tribute to the late, great Johnny Clegg with this 1990 show at the Zenith Paris.

John Paul Stevens & Jim Bouton, R.I.P.

You’re not hallucinating. That is indeed a signed John Paul Stevens baseball card. It was created by David Mitchner who mailed it to Justice Stevens during the 2016 World Series. You know, the Cubs’ first championship since 1908. Justice Stevens returned the signed card and the rest is history. The photo of Stevens in Cubs gear dates from 2005 when he threw out the first pitch at a Cubs-Reds game in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

You’re probably wondering why I paired Justice Stevens and pitcher/author Jim Bouton in a tribute. They’re both people I admired who died recently, that’s why. Besides, I’m notorious for my oddball combinations. Stevens and Bouton were both genial, kindly men who loved baseball. It’s time to uncouple this Odd Couple; one that’s almost worthy of the late Neil Simon.

Let’s take them in order of demise. We’ll use the time-honored Odds & Sods device of the New York Times link thingamabob as subject headers/dividers.

 

I failed to pay proper tribute to Jim Bouton last week because of the Wednesday flood and the approach of Whatever That Was Barry. He had a mediocre career highlighted by two fine seasons with the New York Yankees in 1963 and 1964. He blew out his arm in 1965 and by 1969 was trying to make a comeback as a knuckleball pitcher with the expansion Seattle Pilots. The Pilots lasted one year before being sold and moved to Milwaukee where they ditched the awful uniforms and became the Brewers.

1969 was the dividing line in Jim Bouton’s life. It was the year that he recorded the diary entries that would become the sensation that was Ball Four. Bouton was pilloried by the stuffy, ultra-conservative baseball establishment for admitting that ballplayers were human beings. Mickey Mantle drank and played hungover? A huge shocker in 1970 but no surprise to anyone who actually knew the Mick.

Along with Catch-22, Burr, and Breakfast of Champions, Ball Four was my favorite book of that era. Heller, Vidal, and Vonnegut were pretty lofty company for a washed-up pitcher to keep. But all four books were irreverent and hilarious; influences I try to put to good use as a writer.

Teen-age me was thrilled to learn that someone who played my favorite sport was an anti-war liberal with a wicked sense of humor. Ballplayers pretended to be apolitical paragons in those days. Bouton was a breath of fresh air.

One of the best tributes I’ve read to Bouton is by my friend Vince Filak. He focuses on Bouton’s unique voice and exceptional story-telling ability. It’s a helluva good read.

I’ll give Jim Bouton the last word of the segment:

“A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

Let’s move on from a former Yankees/Pilots/Astros/Braves pitcher to a zealous Cubs fan.

John Paul Stevens always maintained that he was a conservative and that SCOTUS had moved so far to the right that he looked like a liberal in contrast. I think of Stevens as the sort of liberal Republican that is largely extinct in 2019.

He grew up in Chicago, which was a town dominated by a corrupt Democratic political machine. The natural thing for an independent minded lawyer was to become a liberal Republican in the tradition of fellow Supremes Charles Evans Hughes, Harlan Stone, and Earl Warren. Stevens’ appointment was by far and away the best thing that Jerry Ford did during his brief presidency.

As a Supreme, Stevens was an independent force with a fervent belief in the rule of law. I think Jeffrey Rosen best summed up Stevens’ credo as a judge:

In our conversation, three consistent themes in his jurisprudence emerged: his belief in the duty of the government to be neutral; the duty of judges to be transparent; and the need for judges to interpret the Constitution in light of the entire scope of its history, including the post–Civil War amendments, rather than stopping in the founding era.

Those are themes that all judges should aspire to but are sadly lacking among today’s conservative justices who are eager to gut precedents they dislike. That’s what John Paul Stevens meant when he called himself a conservative. He wanted to conserve what was best in the law and reform the worst.

Circling back to our baseball theme. As a young lawyer, Stevens was involved in Congressional hearings that addressed baseball’s anti-trust exemption. There’s a swell piece in the archives of the Atlantic about how Stevens changed baseball.

That concludes this odd couple tribute to two men I admired. Jim Bouton and John Paul Stevens made the world a better and livelier place. They will be missed.

Johnny Clegg, R.I.P.

Johnny Clegg and Nelson Mandela in 1997.

This news felt like a gut punch. The great South African singer-songwriter and anti-Apartheid activist, Johnny Clegg has died at the age of 66.

Dr. A and I have many of Clegg’s albums with both Juluka and Savuka. We saw him perform live on several occasions. Most memorably at Tipitina’s when he played New Orleans in support of his Heat, Dust and Dreams album. We spoke to him at the stage door. I don’t recall the contents of the conversation but I recall the warmth and kindness exuded by the artist. It’s a pity that it was pre-camera phone so we don’t have a picture with us to remember him by. But we have his music.

The best tribute to any musician is the music itself. Here are a few old favorites:

Finally, a song that Johnny Clegg wrote in tribute to his fallen friend and band mate, Dudu Zulu:

I hope his crossing is a smooth one.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Happy Trails

Gary Duncan, a founding member of Quicksilver Messenger Service, died at the age of 72 a few weeks ago. The San Francisco based Quicksilver were one of the original jam bands. Their  influence has grown in the last twenty years. Quicksilver’s 1969 live album Happy Trails was one of the jammiest jam band albums of all.

The cover was something of an oddity at the time. It looks more like the cover of a book by Zane Grey or Holly Martins instead of an album by a psychedelic rock band. That’s why it’s so cool. The back cover is swell as well.

Here’s the whole damn album:

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Other Side Of Summer

o-GUSTON-900

City Limits by Philip Guston.

I wrote the opening, now second, paragraph below before posting yesterday. I’m too stressed and/or lazy to change it. So it goes:

It’s been the week from hell in New Orleans. Our car flooded during Wednesday’s deluge and there’s a tropical system nearby. I’m writing this on Thursday: our internet is wonky so I want to have something in place in case it and/or the power goes out. I refuse to be buried by Barry.

I don’t have the full-blown Odds & Sods spirit BUT since I’d assembled a post,  I figured I’d put it out there for y’all to enjoy. I know our Saturday readership is devoted so I don’t want to let you down. Instead of our usual three acts, we have a first act followed by what would usually be our third act of regular features. Highly irregular but what can ya do?

Elvis Costello wrote The Other Side Of Summer for his 1991 album, Mighty Like A Rose. I used it the other day in the post about my Bayou Brief newspaper war piece. This time we have two versions: the video and EC live.

Now that we’ve seen the other side of summer for what it is, let’s jump to the break.

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The Fog Of History: 1992

When Ross Perot died the other day there was a surge of hits on a post I wrote in 2015, Enough Already With The Perot-Trump Comparisons. Thanks, y’all.

I never voted for Ross Perot but he was much better person than Trump. Perot was a genuine self-made man who had “a very good brain.” Perot also knew his way around a folksy aphorism whereas Trump merely babbles and repeats himself; NO COLLUSION, NO COLLUSION, NO COLLUSION. Additionally, Perot gave freely of his time and money to a variety of good causes and we all know about the Insult Comedian’s stingy ways.

The New York Times obit of Perot is a classic of the genre:

And in 1992 he became one of the most unlikely candidates ever to run for president. He had never held public office, and he seemed all wrong, like a cartoon character sprung to life: an elfin 5 feet 6 inches and 144 pounds, with a 1950s crew cut; a squeaky, nasal country-boy twang; and ears that stuck out like Alfred E. Neuman’s on a Mad magazine cover. Stiff-necked, cantankerous, impetuous, often sentimental, he was given to homespun epigrams: “If you see a snake, just kill it. Don’t appoint a committee on snakes.”

Timesman Robert D. McFadden also described Perot as a “wiry Texas gadfly.” I’m fond of gadflies. I’m one myself.

1992 was one of the most exciting elections of my lifetime. It had everything: sex scandals, a huge Democratic field, and an incumbent president who was good at governing but rotten at campaigning. Poppy Bush was challenged by wingnut gadfly Pat Buchanan whose insurgent campaign damaged the incumbent enough to doom his candidacy. Thanks, Pat.

And then there was Ross Perot. He entered the race on Larry King Live, exited the race during the Democratic Convention, then re-entered the race just in time to debate Bush and Clinton.

The featured image is of my favorite moment in the first debate: Bush checking his watch. Does anybody really know what time it is, does anybody really care?

Perot did well in 1992, winning 19% of the popular vote and his candidacy was the final blow to Poppy Bush’s chances.

Perot was quirky and idiosyncratic. The term eccentric billionaire seemed to have been coined for him. I’d like to thank him at this point for helping to elect the Clinton-Gore ticket thereby breaking the Democrats losing streak in presidential races. It was a helluva campaign y’all.

Perot’s third party candidacy in 1992 showed the utility of such an effort whereas his 1996 campaign showed its futility: he won only 8% of the popular vote and wasn’t invited to debate Clinton and Dole.

I used to do a wicked Ross Perot impression but I lost it after he left center stage. It typically involved the phrase “great sucking sound,” which he used to describe NAFTA but is equally applicable to the Trump Regime.

The last word goes to Patsy Cline with the song Team Perot played as he hit the stage to concede in 1992:

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Monkey Speaks His Mind

Woman and Monkeys by Henri Matisse.

The leading lights of New Orleans culture keep leaving us. This time it was Dave Bartholomew who died at the age of 100. He was best known for his collaboration with Fats Domino as his arranger, co-writer, producer, and band leader. Bartholomew was a formidable trumpeter in his own right. He was also one of the contenders for the title of father of rock and roll. If nothing else, he was present at the creation.

In her tribute to Bartholomew the fabulous New Orleans music writer Alison Fensterstock wrote about some of his solo recordings including this week’s theme song:

But the sides he did record for himself in the ’50s were masterful and diverse, from the clattering Caribbean rhythms of “Shrimp and Gumbo” to the goofy novelty “My Ding-A-Ling” (which Chuck Berry unearthed for a 1972 hit) to the singular grinding blues “The Monkey Speaks His Mind,” a strange fable that questions whether humans, with all their sin, are truly superior among the primates, and which showcases his bellowing, stentorian baritone.

This week’s theme song is best understood as a parable of the civil rights movement. Did that make Dave Bartholomew rock’s own George Orwell? Beats the hell outta me.

The Monkey Speaks His Mind was written and recorded by Dave Bartholomew in 1957. It’s been recorded by a variety of artists. We have three versions for your listening pleasure:

It’s time to stop monkeying around and brachiate to the break. There will be a banana for everyone willing to take the plunge.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Every Picture Tells A Story

The Sorrows Of The King by Henri Matisse.

It’s a solemn day in New Orleans: Dr. John’s memorial service and second line are later today. There was already an informal, impromptu second line but this is the real deal. Rest in peace, Mac. We’ll miss you.

The news has been relentlessly bleak of late, which is why I’ve turned my attention to the New Orleans Pelicans success in the recent NBA draft. Zion Williamson seems to be a real game changer. While I’m uncertain if he’ll be the next LeBron James, he may be the next Charles Barkley. We needed some good news after the way Anthony Davis pouted his way out of town. New Pels honcho, David Griffin, took the Lakers to the cleaners in trading away AD and seems to have drafted and traded wisely. This pre-draft tweet sums things up quite well:

Here’s hoping the Zion era doesn’t end like the Baron Davis, Chris Paul or Anthony Davis eras. That concludes the inside New Orleans basketball portion of the Saturday post.

I’m “I remember when Rod Stewart was a respected artist and critics darling” years old. This week’s theme song was the title track of Stewart’s 1971 commercial breakthrough album. Every Picture Tells A Story was written by Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. It’s the opening track of one of the best albums of the 1970’s. Unfortunately, Rod the Mod threw it all way artistically when he moved to Los Angeles and released the shitty “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and other horrendous hits. I hope I didn’t give anyone an earworm.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original and a live medley of Too Bad and Every Picture Tells A Story. The Faces are the backing band in both instances and, as always, they rock hard.

Now that you’ve got the picture, let’s hop into one of those prop planes and fly to the break. I’m reluctant to say jump because I don’t want to bail out on y’all.

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Thank You

I’m not sure if I’m going to be up to writing today. We’re going to the vet and making arrangements for Della’s remains this morning as well as dealing with a few loose ends.

I’d like to thank everyone for the kind wishes about Della Street here, on Facebook, and Twitter. I’m a bit overwhelmed but Della would consider it her due. She’d be right.

I’ll be back on Wednesday but until then a few pictures of the late, great Della Street:

Finally, a picture of Della with her beloved big brother, Oscar.

The last word goes to Sly and the Family Stone:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Right Place, Wrong Time

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

I finished this post before hearing the terrible news about Our Della Street. I usually apply another layer of polish before publishing but I wasn’t feeling it. If it’s disjointed, so be it. Apologies to our late night Odds & Sods readers, I wanted my Della tribute to be at the top until 8-ish. She would have insisted.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming:

A wee cool front hit New Orleans this week. It’s still hot but not as muggy. It’s nice to step outside without breaking into an insta-sweat. It’s a minor triumph but we’ll take what we can get. It will be gone just in time for the weekend. So it goes.

The big local story comes from St. Tammany Parish. It used to be country but morphed into white flight suburbia in the late 20th Century. It’s the most Republican parish in the Gret Stet and its residents are wont to lecture us depraved city folk about morals and crime. They should knock it off. Former St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain was arrested this week on rape and incest charges. He spent several nights in the jail he ran for 20 years. Schadenfreude thy name is Adrastos.

I still have the late Dr. John on my mind so this week’s theme song is his biggest hit: Right Place, Wrong Time. He wrote it for his 1973 album In The Right Place, which was something of a New Orleans musical summit meeting. It was produced by Allen Toussaint and The Meters were Mac’s backing band on the album.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original studio recording and a 1996 teevee performance with Eric Clapton.

I’m desitively confused by this song. I actually called it Right Time, Wrong Place when discussing Our Mac with my barber the other day. Mac’s penchant for malaprops seems to be contagious even for a man of my edumaction. Let’s jump to the break before I get even more tongue twisted.

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Della Street, R.I.P.

Our mouthy, smirking, cranky, and gorgeous internet rock star, Della Street, died today. It was a shocker. She had a chronic thyroid problem that we were dealing with. She took ill at the beginning of the week, then rallied on Thursday night when we watched the NBA finals together. She even went to the door and stared down the pit bull next door.

This morning she took a dramatic turn for the worse. Dr. A is out of town so our good friend Brett went with me to the vet. We dropped her off at around 10 and she was gone a mere 6 hours later. Della was 12. We’ve seen other elder kitties go downhill but not this fast.

I am genuinely shocked and, as you know, I neither shock nor scare easily. Della was Dr. A’s cat so I thought she’d hang on until her human returned home, but she was ready to go out on her own terms, that was our Della.

I know some might find it odd that I’d sit down and write a tribute to Della so soon. I knew that our readers would want to know as soon as possible. That’s what I love about First Draft, we’re a community. And Della has been entertaining you with her antics since she was 2 years old. Ain’t it funny how time slips away?

I don’t cry easily or often but I did upon hearing this stunning news. I rallied because I knew the last thing Della Street would want is for me to be maudlin over her passing. She was a tough and feisty cat who was best known for her smirk and glare. She was the queen of dirty looks and I was the happy recipient of many of those looks as was her pesky kid brother, Paul Drake, who is even more confused than usual by her absence.

She will be missed but never forgotten.

The last word goes to Crowded House:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Estimated Prophet

Le Cirque by Henri Matisse.

It was a difficult week in New Orleans. In addition to the passing of Dr. John, we lost Chef Leah Chase who died at the age of 96. Her family’s Creole eatery, Dooky Chase’s, has fed presidents, civil rights leaders, and freedom riders as well as the hoi polloi since 1941. A reminder: feeding an integrated group such as the freedom riders was against the law in the Jim Crow Era. Chef Leah did it anyway. After her death, Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry wrote a piece about Chef Leah’s role in the Civil Rights movement. She didn’t scare easily, not even when a bomb was thrown at her Orleans Avenue restaurant.

As she aged, Chef Leah was the smiling, welcoming face of this Treme institution but she never stopped cooking. In recent years, she was a sort of secular saint in our community; something most would find burdensome but she wore it lightly. She led a long and eventful life. She will be missed.

Last month in this space I mentioned the Krewe of Nyx’s hare-brained scheme to stage a summer parade. The city government has finally responded. Here’s how Gambit editor and Adrastos crony Kevin Allman characterized it on the tweeter tube:

This week’s theme song, Estimated Prophet, was written by Bob Weir and John Perry Barlow in 1976. It was tested onstage many times before it became the opening track on one of the Dead’s better studio albums, Terrapin Station.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the studio original, then a boss reggae cover by Burning Spear.

Now that we’ve visited the burning shore of California, let’s jump through a hoop of fire to the break. Hopefully, we won’t get scorched.

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Dr. John, R.I.P.

Dr. John as Krewe du Vieux King, 2010.

New Orleans takes its local heroes seriously, especially the musicians among them. We’ve lost one of the greats, Malcolm John Rebennack who was better known by his stage name, Dr. John.  His friends called him Mac, I referred to him as Our Mac because he was such an important part of the extended New Orleans family. Dr. John died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 77.

There’s usually only one degree of separation between your humble blogger and even the best known New Orleanian. I had the pleasure of some brief encounters with Our Mac but did not know him personally. I have friends who knew him well and one of the advantages of social media is hearing their stories. Like most New Orleanians, Mac was an unpretentious and friendly man. It’s why we feel so close to our local heroes. But their realness is a quality that seems to be receding like the Louisiana coastline.

Our Mac spoke his own language. It’s often described as “hipster patois” but I’m not fond of the term. It made him sound like a a man-bun wearing Bywater dweller who was always looking for the next trend to hop on. Mac was a trend-setter, not a trend-hopper. My favorite Dr. John-ism was on the subject of Katrina and the Federal Flood, he said that we were “traumaticalized.” Yeah, you right, Mac.

The music is what mattered most to Mac. He had wide-ranging musical tastes and was open to new players and styles even in his Seventies. Be it funk, blues, jazz, rock, R&B, or standards, Mac translated the music and Dr. John-ized it. His gruff, husky, and heavily New Orleans accented voice was instantly recognizable even in jingles or Disney tunes. Eclectic thy name was Dr. John.

This is the second major blow to New Orleans culture this week. Chef Leah Chase died at the age of 96. I’ll have more to say about her tomorrow. It’s a sad but fitting coincidence that these two greats died this week: they both contributed mightily to who and what we are as a city. The grief for both is genuine as are the fears that what they represented is slipping away.

New Orleans is blessed with some fine music writers who have already chimed in about Our Mac’s passing:

What’s a tribute to Dr. John without some music? I decided to focus on his love of music from the Great American Songbook, which he, of course, Dr. John-ized.

We begin with a happy song to mark this sad occasion:

Mac loved Johnny Mercer:

Since Mac was New Orleans royalty (including his reign as Krewe du Vieux King in 2010) he had a natural affinity with Duke Ellington:

Finally, I’ve had Mac’s take on this Leadbelly classic in my head ever since hearing the news:

Goodnight, Mac. I’ll see you in my dreams.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Leon Redbone

Leon Redbone was a world class character. He burst on the music scene with his retro stylings in the late 1970’s and kept at it until his death last week at the age of 69.

Redbone was as mysterious and enigmatic as a Le Carre character. His web site even claimed that he was 126 when he passed. They could not let down the side.

The best thing I’ve ever read about the man and his music was published in the Oxford American last March. Meghan Pugh’s piece was titled Vesel Of Antiquity. She nailed Leon Redbone’s style and mystique.

Redbone’s album covers were always interesting. Below are two of them side-by-side:

In lieu of the albums, here’s a poorly lit 1981 live performance by the man, the myth: