Punk, Algerian chaabi music, Rai, rock and techno: Rachid Taha had it all going on. He drew inspiration from the music of North Africa, New Orleans jazz, delta blues, The Clash and Elvis Presley. He cut his teeth spinning albums as a DJ and playing in a number of bands as he came of age in France. He worked with famed producers like Don Was and Steve Hillage and traveled in the same circles as David Bowie. In his later years, he was slowed down by muscular dystrophy, but he continued to rock, nonetheless. You've very likely enjoyed his music used in films and video games without ever knowing it. It's beautiful, fire-filled stuff.
On September 12th, Rachid Taha passed away at the age of 59. Read the rest
That time Robin Williams hung out with Koko in 2001.
Sad news out of Woodside, California:
Koko, the western lowland gorilla who mastered American Sign Language, passed away Wednesday in her sleep at the age of 46.
The Gorilla Foundation, an organization founded by Koko's beloved caretaker and teacher Dr. Penny Patterson and Dr. Ronald Cohn, released a statement:
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...Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy. She was beloved and will be deeply missed.
Koko, a western lowland gorilla, was born Hanabi-ko (Japanese for “Fireworks Child”) on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo. Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson began working with Koko the next year, famously teaching her sign language. Dr. Patterson and Dr. Ronald Cohn moved Koko and the project to Stanford in 1974 and went on to establish The Gorilla Foundation. While at Stanford the project expanded to include a second western lowland gorilla, Michael. In 1979 Koko and The Gorilla Foundation moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains where Ndume joined them as a fellow ambassador for their species.
Koko’s capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions. She has been featured in multiple documentaries and appeared on the cover of National Geographic twice. The first cover, in October of 1978, featured a photograph Koko had taken of herself in a mirror. The second issue, in January of 1985, included the story of Koko and her kitten, All Ball.
Actor Harry Anderson, best known for presiding over NBC's 'Night Court,' has died. He was 65. Read the rest
Animation visionary Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli fame died on April 5, and Smithsonian magazine published a great written overview that complements the video essay above. Read the rest
Irish music lost one of its legends this week, with the passing of Liam O'Flynn.
A player of the Uilleann pipes, O'Flynn, or as he was known by the Gaeilge iteration of his name, Liam Óg Ó Floinn, was born in 1945 to a family of musicians. In his youth, his piping earned him prizes at county and national levels, but it wasn't until he was in his thirties that he really hit his stride. As one of the founding members of Irish trad super group Planxty, O'Flynn helped to breathe new life to traditional Irish music by showing that it could be every bit as exciting and full of life as rock and roll. Without Planxty, there may not have been a Dexy's Midnight Runners; No Waterboys, Pogues, or Dropkick Murphys. We'd all be poorer for it. Plantxy's music left me with the impression, as a kid, that the tunes I played on the instruments I grew up with were cool. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. O'Flynn at a musical festival I was covering for a magazine back in the 1990s. He was pleasant and seemed genuinely pleased to make my acquaintance. The encounter left me feeling giddy for days afterwards.
One of my favorite songs by Planxty, Raggle Taggle Gypsy, has a tune lashed on to the end of it called Tabhair dom do laimh, which roughly translates as Give Me Your Hand. O'Flynn's rendition of the tune has been one of my happy places for decades. Read the rest
I used to pretend to cry, whenever I was down, just so my dog Lucy would run up and comfort me. This worked well for a little over 16 years.
I have lived my entire life with dogs. I have been lucky enough to know several really special ones. Lucy Patterson was, from the very first day we got her, up until the minute she left, a dog that opened up every heart around her -- and then stole their food.
Lucy was a glutton. She once ate an entire 3lb bag of "Bit o' Honey" off my kitchen table. Lu proceeded to crap corn syrup and wax paper for days. I doubt she regretted it.
Lucy took a point blank shot in the face from a skunk, and in her suffering somehow decided to run back into the house and roll around in the clean laundry to try and get the stink off. She, and the house smelled for months.
Lu chewed the gear shift lever in every car she could.
When Lucy was 12 her cardiologist told us she had 3 to 6 months to live. Lucy did not hear this.
Mad at a member of our family, Lucy once took a dump at their spot on the dinner table.
Lucy would sleep on my feet, and I'd call her 'LuLu Shoes' -- when she'd sleep on my head it was known as a 'PatsPats Hat.'
Lucy trained Calliope to be a near perfect dog, but Zuul really became her mini-me. Read the rest
The great Chuck Berry, “who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years,” died on Saturday, the New York Times and others reported Saturday. He was 90.
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“How will you make it on your own?,” the theme song asked a “girl,” played by Mary Tyler Moore. “This world is awfully big.” She made it, after all.
"Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine," her rep said in a statement. Read the rest
John Glenn, a war hero and the first American to orbit planet Earth, has died after being hospitalized in Ohio for the last two weeks. Read the rest
Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba and leader of the Caribbean nation's Communist revolution, has died, state TV announced tonight. He was 90. His brother Raúl Castro, who is the current President of Cuba, announced Fidel's death on state television tonight.
"The historical leader of the Cuban Revolution died on the night of Friday, November 25, at 22:29 hrs., and his remains will be cremated, in accordance with his will," said the Cuban president.
Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century before handing over the powers to his brother Raul in 2008.
His supporters praised him as a man who had given Cuba back to the people. But his opponents accused him of brutally suppressing opposition.
The funeral details for Fidel will be announced in the coming hours, said Raúl. Fidel was last seen on November 15, when President Tran Dai Quang of Vietnam visited the longtime Cuban leader's residence.
[El País] Read the rest
Twenty-nine years ago I photographed people at play for a series in my portfolio. I wanted to shoot Tom Hayden, who I knew as the right fielder on a team in the men’s baseball league I played in. He agreed to pose for me at a batting cage in mid-town, and we made some good images. I gave him a print, and figured that was the end of our business. The next year I was looking for a new team, and called him to get his manager’s number. And that’s how I joined the Hollywood Stars in 1988.
Over the next two years Tom and I became friends, first through baseball, then through politics, and then just because. We had midweek work-outs and rode to games together on Sunday. We went to movies. I volunteered on some of his campaigns, and he kept me involved between elections. He debriefed me after my first date with my wife, and we attended each other’s wedding receptions. He gave our son a tour of the State Senate. Mostly, though, we had baseball.
That version of the Hollywood Stars eventually disbanded, and the bond between us weakened. It’s always that way in baseball; the ties forged on the field decay at a constant rate away from it. We last spoke about 13 years ago. We played catch in Culver City, and talked about his young son and about my teenage son. Then we parted and got on with our lives.
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Activist Tom Hayden has passed away at the age of 76. Read the rest
The British actor who played R2-D2 in the classic Star Wars films died today, age 81, after a long illness.
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Michu Meszaros, the circus performer and actor who played Alf the extraterrestrial on the 1980s sitcom, has died at age 76. Maestros also appeared in “Looks Who’s Talking, "Big Top Pee-wee," and episodes of "Dear John” and “H.R. Pufnstuf." Read the rest
Paul Kantner, founding member of Jefferson Airplane and icon of the sixties San Francisco rock explosion, died today. He was 74. Earlier this week, he suffered a heart attack, and had for years been dealing with serious health issues.
His death was confirmed by longtime publicist and friend Cynthia Bowman, who told reporters he died of multiple organ failure and septic shock.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
With Jefferson Airplane, Mr. Kantner pioneered what became known as the San Francisco sound in the mid-1960s, with such hits as “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.”
The Airplane was renowned for thrilling vocal gymnastics by singers Marty Balin, Grace Slick and Mr. Kantner, the psychedelic blues-rock sound developed by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bass player Jack Casady and the LSD-spiked, ’60s-era revolutionary fervor of its lyrics.
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As she requested before her death, Elaine Fydrych of Gloucester Township, New Jersey had the following line included in her obituary: “In lieu of flowers, please do not vote for Hillary Clinton." Read the rest
Richard Kiel who played the steel-toothed Jaws in the James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979) has died; he was 74 and 7-foot-2. Read the rest