(Pictured: writer and arranger Anita Kerr at work in 1973.)
Last weekend The Mrs. and I went back to the Illinois college town where we lived for three years in the middle of the 80s. As I wrote earlier this week, when we left, we left for good: we think it’s only the second time either of us has been back since 1987. I would not have recognized the house we rented when we lived there if Ann hadn’t pointed it out to me; the trees on the street are far taller now, and the house is a different color. It looks like it’s been a rental ever since, as it’s gotten pretty shabby.
In general, a lot of things around town were vaguely familiar, but a lot of it we didn’t remember at all. True, 35 years is a long damn time to be gone, even from a familiar place. But also, I think we knew back then, in the way you “know” things when you’re in your mid-20s and just starting out, that we weren’t going to be there forever, or even for very long. And so we didn’t let it become part of us the way the Quad Cities did, or Iowa City (where we didn’t live as long).
On Monday I linked to a post I wrote in 2018 about “the badly run station in the nowhere town,” and if you didn’t click on it then, you’re welcome to do so now. The rather entertaining story of how my brief tenure there ended, which was written in 2007, is here. I noodled with new ideas to write about all week, but I got nothin’. It was a place we lived, we went back, we looked at stuff, we stayed overnight, then we got up and left. We may go back someday, I suppose. If our pattern holds, I’ll be 97 years old when we do.
To give you the type of value you expect from this low-rent Internet shebeen, let’s go back over some stuff that has passed through my Twitter feed this week, on the flip.
—Overnight Bruce Springsteen released his version of the Commodores’ “Nightshift,” which will be on his forthcoming album of soul covers, Only the Strong Survive. It’s not as awesomely great as I hoped it would be, but it’s still a worthwhile listen. Mostly, it confirms what a great, moving song “Nightshift” is, no matter who sings it. I’m still looking forward to the whole album.
—It’s 25 years this week since John Denver was killed in the crash of a plane he was flying. He was a far more prolific and interesting artist than most people remember; his image is overshadowed by cheese like “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” At some point in the middle of the 1990s, The Mrs. and I stood in line at a bookstore for an hour to get a signed copy of his autobiography; the poor man was quite clearly either sick or exhausted that day, and we had barely a word with him.
—There was a time, 50 years ago, when Rod McKuen was a household name. Today, he’s largely forgotten. Who he was, how he got famous, and why he was forgotten is a fascinating story. If you find that interesting, listen to the episode of Nate Wilcox’s terrific Let It Roll podcast with McKuen biographer Barry Alfonso.
—It was quite a coincidence that McKuen’s onetime collaborator Anita Kerr died at the age of 94 on the same day the McKuen piece started getting traction around the Internet. Kerr is one of the superstars of easy listening, and not merely for her work with McKuen under the name of the San Sebastian Strings. The Anita Kerr Singers helped create Nashville’s countrypolitan sound, and she was a towering figure in the world of advertising and radio jingles.
—After Loretta Lynn died last week, I knew that people smarter than I would have better and more interesting things to say than I did. NPR’s story doesn’t really contradict anything I said, but it offers more context about her career and impact.
—In San Francisco, legendary news-talk station KGO dumped its format last week and replaced it with one focused on sports betting, which is gross. Wagering has gone on since the beginning of time, but the huckstering industry that’s grown up around American sports like an invasive weed in the last few years is an indication of just how cynically fucked-up our society has become. It’s a real bread-and-circuses, fall-of-Rome vibe.
3 thoughts on “Going Back”
CBS news correspondent has a pretty solid remembrance of John Denver that includes talking to some of the singer’s contemporaries in his latest edition of his podcast Mobituaries.
Just listened to McKuen friend Anita Kerr, her quartet Liitle Dippers singing Forever (1960). Ms Kerr, quite a storied career!
I remember hearing Forever on WRIT Milwaukee, on my (our) new General Electric transister radio. My third sister. 1960 full of fine tunes and Dick Clark and Braves baseball and Packers new coach Vince Lombardi. Plus, the birth of a fine radio personality/author.
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