Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, Out of this World

(* See also at The Telegram web site)

Robin Williams stole something from all of us, himself. In a weird way, that's sort of how it feels when thinking about the sudden, shocking departure from living, of Williams. For anyone who realizes the astounding talent, gifts, humour, energy, and, it's being told, his personable character, it just feels like "it can't be true", or, "I don't want to think about it being true". There are deaths of all kinds, none of them happy, but to take yourself out of it, seems like it would rank high on the "saddest" scale.

It's too shocking. Robin Williams especially, totally personified energy, life, fun and laughter. It would be no exaggeration to say that he made 100s of millions of people laugh, often, all over the world, for close to 40 years.

"One of a kind" easily comes to mind when thinking of him. Williams' fiber-optically fast brain wiring was like watching the fastest computer in the world, make up jokes, and tell them to an audience. There was more than one time when the impression he gave, was that he was wired, as in, "What is the matter with him?" or, "What is he on?" It sometimes seemed like his brain was continuously on hyper, and he could not restrain it. Well, lucky for so many, he didn't restrain it too much, but instead, performed and shared his brilliantly wired mind, wit, and comedic abilities with the world.

His delivery was lightning quick, amazingly impromptu, and unpredictable. Very few can make it up "as you go", but he could. Many years ago, after watching a standup up routine of his, there was a feeling of being dazzled just by how he operated as a performer. Even if there was a script to go by, it felt like he injected material that just occurred to him.

His first appearance on Happy Days in 1978, could be one of the shows most memorable episodes, when Williams' Mork character, an alien, gave the viewing audience it's first taste of his unique style. An alien from a more advanced world could not have fit Robin Williams' style better. His speech was rapid quick, persona was one of being ahead of others, thought-wise, and the unusual alien words, phrases and behavioral mannerisms in the role, just looked like it was made for him. It's hard to imagine it being pulled off so well by any other. His natural ability to perform the hardly natural, made it extra believable for acting as a character from a more advanced world.

Similarly, with Mrs. Doubtfire. It was reported months ago that he agreed to make a follow up Mrs. Doubtfire movie. But now, it seems an impossible act to try and follow up. Comedienne Joy Behr said that nobody in the standup comic field wanted to follow his act, because his energy, performance, and humour was electric and impossible to at least match. For a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire, only a twin or clone, maybe, could try. He was so unique as an entertainer.

Williams was public also about his treatments for substance abuse, and struggles with it. His PR representative said that recently he had been suffering from severe depression. It will no doubt, bring more fire to society's growing awareness, and concern about depression, and mental illnesses. That's a good thing, and there will be much more written and discussed about it.

Now, he is out of the picture, but, still left the world with a huge catalog of him in the pictures, providing healthy doses of laughter. It's a good medicine every day, where the side effect is smiling, laughing and making life worthwhile. From playing doctors, singing like Elmer Fudd, acting like aliens and more, his creativity, genius, and entertaining abilities were very much, out of this world. The next time you look up at the night sky, look for the extra bright star.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Salute to Phil Everly

* Also, see this at The Telegram, Jan. 11, 2014.

Phil Everly's voice could restart your heart, or stop it, especially when he harmonized with his famous other half, Don. The higher he harmonized with Don, the more awakened your heart and emotions became. It wasn't even the actual message or story that had to be sung, it could be just the opening word to Little Richard's "Lucille" that the captivating duo spellbindingly pined at their 1983 reunion concert.

Singer Linda Ronstadt, who made even more famous, Phil Everly's "When Will I Be Loved", said that the Everlys ".. had that sibling sound.. you can get a sound [with family] that you never get with someone who's not blood-related to you."

Phil Everly's voice and music with Don made people feel glad they were alive to hear their harmonic vocal perfection. His voice was the slightly higher tenor, while Don's, more baritone. It's been said that it was hard to distinguish one from the other – it’s easy to hear why. On record or on stage, their synchronicity sounded like a high reaching voice, and its shadow, conjoined at the voice box.

From 1957 to 1962, the boys had achieved their peak success with such time-honored singalongs as "Bye Bye Love", "Wake Up Little Susie", the sadder, yet melodic "Crying in the Rain", the upbeat and innocent "Til I Kissed You", "Birddog", and the romantic "All I have to do is Dream".

The Everlys owe much of their stardom to husband and wife songsmiths, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who composed "Bye Bye Love", "Wake up Little Susie", "Devoted to You", and many more. Phil and Don could write hits also, "Cathy's Clown", "Til I Kissed You", and "When Will I be Loved". They continued to write as a group, and as solo artists. They played guitars, as did their somewhat famous dad, Ike, back in Kentucky. He was quite the picker. But the main instrument of the boys was their two piece vocals, which together sounded like a third vocal instrument. That's what largely inspired countless other singers and stars to follow. A few you may recognize.. Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, John and Paul and their little ensemble, The Beatles, who referred to themselves as the Foreverly Brothers. Their influence carries on with current stars, like Norah Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong who just released a recording of the Everly's second album songs.

Singing in harmony is one thing, but soaring high together on a melodically catchy and pretty tune, is a beauty in itself. It's an appreciation of the natural gifts possessed, the precision, the skill, but also, the brotherhood, echoing in agreement a sentiment, and a shared understanding of the songs message or desired mood.

1983 Reunion Concert

While Phil and Don, had their spats, one resulting in a ten year separation, from 1973-83, they did communicate a love and admiration for each other in doing what they were born to do, sing and entertain. That bond, particularly evident in 1983, when they reunited for concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London, was also a reason why audiences found them appealing. A reporter once asked Phil what his most memorable experience was. He said it was the 1983 reunion concert with Don. Phil himself was humble, a gentleman, and as one of his fellow musicians put it, a man who was even sweeter than his music.

Listening to the beauty of the Everly’s harmony still causes smiles, happiness and now, sadness of a void, of another reunion that will never be, and perhaps, will leave many fans, cryin' in the rain. Many could just dream for more, but we could not ask for more. Thanks Phil Everly for sharing your gifts with us.