Posts Tagged ‘ #RIP ’

#RIP: Etta James

Jamesetta Hawkins aka Etta James:
25th January 1938 – 20th January 2012

with sadness we note the death of one of the greatest ever blues, soul, R&B and jazz singers.

anima eius et animae omnium fidelium
defunctorum per dei misericordiam
requiescant in pace

despite, and no doubt partially because of, suffering the effects of physical abuse, professional mismanagement and a long-term heroin addiction, Etta James will be remembered as simply one of the greats.

she had a magical voice, which she turned to several genres, from gospel and doo-wop to rock and roll, was a charismatic performer and a talented, often uncredited, lyricist.

Sunday Kind of Love by Etta James

#RIP: Ken Russell

Henry Kenneth Alfred Russell:
3rd July 1927 – 27th November 2011

with sadness we note the death of one of the greatest directors, photographers, music lovers and patrons of the arts to grace our times.

anima eius et animae omnium fidelium
defunctorum per dei misericordiam
requiescant in pace

Russell is best known for his adaptations of D.H. Lawrence’s Women In Love (1969), which stands as one of the all-time great British films, his dramatic, theological masterpiece The Devils (1971), and the film version of The Who’s rock-opera Tommy (1975).

despite being a keen fan of these great films, it is for another entry in his portfolio that i will best remember Russell. while it wasn’t until my late teens that i saw the films listed above, it was as a child of eleven that i sat transfixed by a late-night, BBC 2 broadcast of his techno-coloured, psycho-sexual odyssey, Altered States (1980).

in this hallucino-sci-fi classic, William Hurt plays a University research chemist (based on John C. Lilly) who takes first LSD, then a tincture made from Mexican Caapi vines, suspends himself in a flotation tank and attempts to record and reflect on the results.

apart from opening my eyes to the possibilities of the human mind, the human body and Drew Barrymore (who debuts), that night marked a key point in the development of my passion for films. as well as the strange wonders worked by Russell and Hurt in Altered States, a not-insignificant part of my love for it comes from John Corigliano’s superb (and superbly used) soundtrack.

Russell’s influence on the evolution of the modern film soundtrack is widely under-appreciated, yet profound. not only were the two films he released in 1975, Tommy and Lisztomania, two of the first motion pictures to feature Dolby-encoded soundtracks (something for which he fought hard), but also his passion for and superb use of music is evidenced throughout his back-catalogue.

those who only know Russell from his recent, eccentric appearances on reality TV are unlikely to be reading this blog, but if that’s true of you, i urge you to rent his films and therein encounter a true genius of the cinema.

i will leave you to seek out Altered States and Coriglino’s score, and instead conclude this eulogy with one of Russell’s favourite pieces – used expertly in a great performance scene his 1970 Tchaikovsky biopic, The Music Lovers.

Rafael Orozco with The London Symphony Orchestra
conducted by André Previn – Allegro Non Troppo E Molto Maestoso
from Piano Concerto #1 In B Flat Minor by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

#RIP: Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch: 
3rd November 1943 – 5th October 2011

with sadness we note the death of one of folk music’s purest souls and the bearer of some of its nimblest and most artful fingers.

anima eius et animae omnium
fidelium defunctorum per dei
misericordiam requiescant in pace

Jansch (who, unlike most of his family, pronounced his surname with a hard jay sound), was a Scott, guitarist of great accomplishment, writer of touching music and a faithful bearer of the torch of the old songs. His career spanned forty six years and yielded over two dozen albums.

He wrote and performed alone, with other key members of the British revival scene like Anne Briggs, Martin Carthy, Sandy Denny, Davy Graham and John Renbourn, and later (with Renbourn) in the band Pentangle.

A key member of the generation that took up the style and social ethos of Guthrie, Broonzy and Seeger and lead a revival of folk music in 60s Britain, he inspired countless performers that followed including Nick Drake, Paul Simon and Neil Young and is survived by a large catalogue of meaningful music.

October Song by Bert Jansch

#RIP: remembering two anniversaries

from time to time i force myself to seek out an online stream of the Fox News Channel (“The Most Powerful Name In News”).

without meaning to sound like a masochist or some sort of self-nominated martyr, i consider it a sort of unpleasant discipline.

for obvious reasons, i assumed that the last few days would prove an apposite opportunity to observe the FNC team in full rhetorical flow, and i have been both not disappointed and very much so.

as the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took place in New York and Washington on the 11th of September, 2001 draws nigh, Fox News has thrown itself headlong into a dizzy maelstrom of archive footage spliced with emotive testimony of those involved, sandwiched between up to date comment and analysis on 9/11 during its feature slots.

there has of course been some room for breaking news stories, but even many of those covered have been artfully woven into the overarching rhetoric of ‘9/11 remembered’.

‘minority’ complaints about tribute fields of American flags, the NFL’s (now reversed) decision to ban players from commemorating 9/11 on their equipment (cleats, gloves, etc) and the rumoured threat of another terrorist attack in NYC have required little effort, but, more creatively (for example), the current economic crisis has become an aspect of the long-term legacy of 9/11, rather than profligate, brutal Capitalism, and the (reportedly violent) protests of Wisconsin union members are especially ‘unpatriotic’ given the calendrical context.

(nb. those interested in the wrapping up of the American financial crises with the effects of terrorism should note the growing profile of USAA).

however, setting aside the highly rhetorical, overarching and all-encompassing tone, the one thing that has saddened (although not altogether surprised) me the most is the continuing expression of ‘clash of cultures’ ideology.

the othering of those responsible for the attacks served an obvious sociological function in their immediate aftermath, but the ongoing emphasis in much of the Fox comment and analysis on how ‘they’ wanted, and still want, to destroy ‘our’ freedom, religion, democracy and way of life, goes way beyond that sort of emergency consolidation strategy.

ironically – considering the orgy of 9/11 anecdote that is currently consuming the space between the main slots on FNC – regardless of the nationality and political or faith persuasions of those caught up in what happened a decade ago, the spectre of broad-brush categorization (e.g. American (=Christian) vs. Muslim (nb. the use of the term ‘Muslim world’)) haunts ground zero as it is constructed by many in the America media.

as a Christian residing on the other side of the Atlantic, it would be easy for me to close my eyes to all this, to dismiss Fox News as a product of the neo-conservative fringe, and to console myself that HBO is a far more powerful cultural entity.

the reality, however, is that there are plenty on the American right who are deeply invested in the notion that Islam is a religion of violence, hatred and ignorance and that the ‘Muslim world’ is the chief enemy of America and the ‘Christian West’ (a strange geographical construct that includes Israel and excludes most of Europe), and Fox News is a popular, ‘legitimate’ funnel through which varyingly diluted elements of their perverse ideologies freely and widely flow.

rather than risk both causing unnecessary offence and alienating myself from the discourse by opposing certain 9/11 memorials on the grounds of the rhetoric that shapes them, i simply wish to direct attention to another impending and tragic anniversary which is worthy of equal remembrance.

29 years ago this coming Friday (16th Sept, 1982), somewhere between 1300-3500 Palestinians (the exact number is disputed) living in the Shatila refugee camp in the slum neighbourhood of Sabra in southern West Beirut, were massacred by the militia wing of the Christian, right-wing, Lebanese political party Kata’eb, aided by the Israeli Defence Force.

the Shatila camp first sprung up as a result of the inability of the large number of Palestinians that had fled into Lebanon during the 1948 Palestine war (both the ’47/’48 civil war and the ’48 Arab-Israeli conflict) to return home because of the land claimed by the newly created State of Israel.

then, during the 1970s – following their expulsion from Jordan – the camp became a significant power and operations base for the PLO. Shatila became a target during the Israeli military incursion into southern Lebanon in June 1982 which resulted from the attempted assassination of Israel’s UK Ambassador, Shlomo Argov, in London. although Argov was actually shot by members of the ANO, a rival Palestinian group that were planning a similar strike on a PLO official, Israel used the incident as justification for a military operation against their larger and more well-known enemy.

following two months of intense fighting, in August the US brokered a cease-fire between Israel and the PLO, under the terms of which the PLO agreed to leave Lebanon (under international supervision) and Israel agreed not to venture further into the country.

on the 23rd of August Bachir Gemayel, a senior Kata’eb member, was elected President of Lebanon. the ascension of a Christian party, and one of their key allies against the PLO, further strengthened Israel’s position.

by the 1st September the supervised exit of the PLO from Beirut was complete and, ten days later, the international force that had been in place to guarantee the safety of Palestinian refugees also withdrew from the region.

however, on the 14th of September President Gemayal was assassinated by a bomb that Kata’eb supporters immediately attributed to a PLO remnant in West Beirut. in response, the IDF broke its treaty and reentered West Beirut, completely surrounding Shatila. having taken control of all entrance, exit and nearby, elevated observation points, the IDF began to shell the camp.

two days later, Israeli Defence Minister Ariel Sharon met with members of the Kata’eb militia and agreed that while the IDF kept Shatila on lock-down, the militia could enter the camp and seek out those they considered responsible for Gemeyal’s assassination.

for the next three days (16th, 17th, 18th), while the IDF guarded its perimeter and illuminated the camp at night with overhead flares, the Kata’eb militia massacred up to 3500 Palestinian men, women and children.

bodies discovered later showed signs of mass ‘firing squad’ executions, rape and severe mutilation – including young men who had been castrated, others scalped and yet others had crosses carved into their chests, pregnant women whose torsos had been ripped open, and infants who had been sliced open and left in piles.

it later emerged that Gemeyal had been killed not by the PLO but by a disgruntled, left-wing Lebanese national.

you may not come across much coverage of the anniversary of the Sabra-Shatila massacre over the next few days – i certainly doubt that any major news agencies will given it even a fiftieth of the coverage devoted to the 9/11 attacks (with the potential exception of Al Jazeera). however, i will be remembering both with equal lament and heaviness of heart.

in fact, just as i imagine mental images of the 9/11 pilots praising Allah as they flew into the towers of the World Trade Centre or the Pentagon haunt many Muslims, i cannot help but feel especially affected by the notion that a fellow Christian could carve the symbol of our shared faith into the writhing chest of another human being.

i do not for a minute believe that any RQT readers will have been swayed by the notion that there was anything definitively Islamic about what played out ten years ago in New York and Washington, but we should also never become blasé, or kid ourselves that we are ever immune from the effects of media rhetoric.

both, therefore, because i think it is equally important in its own right, and because it serves as a fitting rejoinder to any latent Islamophobia that might be encountered in the media over the next few days, this week i will be remembering the 16th of September, 1982 as well as the 11th of September, 2001.

ps: if you’ve not yet seen it, i heartily recommend Ari Folmam’s animated, autobiographical documentary Waltz With Bashir (from which the animated images above are taken). it explores Folman’s attempts to recall the precise nature of, and then come to terms with, his role in the massacre while on National Service with the IDF as a teenager.

#RIP: Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron:
1st April 1949 – 27th May 2011

with sadness we note the death of one of modern music’s most talented, truthful and troubled writers and performers.

anima eius et animae omnium
fidelium defunctorum per dei
misericordiam requiescant in pace

Gil was born in Chicago, but raised in first Jackson, Tennessee, then the Bronx. his writing was impressive from an early age, winning him a scholarship to exclusive New York prep school Fieldston. from there he went on to Lincoln University, following in the footsteps of his idle Langston Hughes. he never completed his degree, but instead left in order to write, both poetry and prose, full-time – a move which lead to the publication of two acclaimed novels, The Vulture and The Nigger Factory.

in 1970, he began a recording career that would span five decades and produce some of modern jazz and soul’s most memorable cuts. from the raw beat poetry and proto-rap of his early records, to the smoother soul of his later collaborations with Brian Jackson, a constant thread in his music was his political insight and his insistence on speaking truth to power.

in a cruel twist of irony, GSH spent most of his life battling with a hard-drug addiction of the sort that reflected the very socio-economic issues that his music highlighted. in his later years, as his health declined, he also spent several stretched in prison for possession of cocaine and drug-related violations of parole.

he will be sorely missed and remembered as a prophetic voice that knew all too well the effects of the evils against which it spoke.


Home Is Where The Hatred Is by Gil Scott-Heron

#RIP: Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet: 25th June 1924 –
9th April 2011

with sadness we note the death of one of cinema’s greatest directors, producers and screenwriters.

anima eius et animae omnium fidelium
defunctorum per dei misericordiam
requiescant in pace

in addition to being renowned for his outstanding skill with both camera and pen, Lumet was widely regarded as one of the warmest and most humane of Hollywood’s greats. while his long career featured work on more than fifty motion pictures, he will be most fondly remembered as the director of (among many others):

12 Angry Men (1957)
The Appointment (1969)
Serpico (1973)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
The Verdict (1982)
Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)

here, however, is the classic scene from my favourite of his films, Network (1976). it’s a brilliant movie, and as powerful and prophetic today as it was then.

#RIP: John Barry

John Barry Prendergast:
3rd November 1933 – 30th January 2011

with sadness we note the death of one of the twentieth century’s greatest composers, arrangers and orchestra leaders.

anima eius et animae omnium
fidelium defunctorum per dei
misericordiam requiescant in pace

born in York in 1933, Barry is, of course, best known for the unforgettable scores he composed for the James Bond film series, but these were but a few of his brilliant contributions to film and TV soundtrack history.

he scored Zulu, The Ipcress File, Beat Girl, The Quiller Memorandum, Game of Death, Midnight Cowboy, The Persuaders, and many, many more great films and TV programmes.


Beat for Beatniks by The John Barry Orchestra

#RIP: Henryk Górecki

Henryk Górecki: 6th December 1933 – 12th November 2010

with sadness we note the death of one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant composers.

anima eius et animae omnium fidelium 
defunctorum per dei misericordiam
requiescant in pace

Górecki is best known and rightly celebrated for his hauntingly beautiful Symphony No. 3, Op 36, commonly known as A Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. the most well known of the symphony’s three movements is the second – Lento e Largo – which contains a libretto for soprano that borrows the words of a prayer addressed to the Virgin Mary which was inscribed on the wall of cell 3 in the gestapo prison in Zakopane by Helena Błażusiak (1926-1999), a then 18 year old prisoner.

the prayer translates as something approximating:

Mama do not cry, do not.
Pure Queen of Heaven,
you are always supporting me.
Hail Mary.


Dawn Upshaw with London Sinfonietta conducted by David Zinman – Lento e Largo (Tranquillissimo)
from Symphony No. 3, Op 36 by Henryk Górecki

#RIP: Steve Reid

Steve Reid: 29th January 1944 – 13th April 2010

with sadness we note the death of one of percussion’s true geniuses

anima eius et animae omnium fidelium
defunctorum per dei misericordiam
requiescant in pace

during a long and distinguished career, Reid played with the likes of James Brown, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, and Miles Davis. starting out, he had spells drumming for the Apollo Theatre House Band and as a session player for Motown, and then went on to lead the Legendary Master Brotherhood. from 1969-71, he was imprisoned in Lewisberg Federal Penitentiary for refusing to register for the Vietnam draft.


Lions of Juda by Steve Reid