Saturday, September 27, 2008


Some recent deaths, from the world of entertainment:

Richard Wright, 1943-2008

The death of Pink Floyd's Richard Wright, on Sept. 15, leaves only Roger Waters and Nick Mason from the original line-up that included those three plus Syd Barrett. In the early stages after Barrett's departure, Wright's composing was as important to the overall product as his better-known band mates' Waters and Gilmour, particularly on the long instrumental passages in songs like "A Saucerful of Secrets" and "Echoes," and his clean, precise vocals graced songs like "Astronomy Domine" and "Echoes." From the '60s, check out his solo compositions "Remember a Day" and "Paintbox," and his "Sisyphus," on the studio disc quartered in individual slices on Ummagumma (1969); his stately and spacey keyboards -- which occasionally featured honky tonk and vaudeville excursions -- were a major factor in the Floyd's music on their soundtrack work and defined much of the sound of those two high-points: Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and Wish You Were Here (1975). "Would you like to say / something before you go / Perhaps you'd care to state exactly how you feel / We say goodbye before we've said hello" -- Richard Wright, "Summer of '68" (1970)

Paul Newman, 1925-2008

The death of Paul Newman on Sept. 26 might just spell the last knell of my parents' Hollywood. Which is to say, after the deaths of Chuck Heston and Newman, both in 2008, I don't know who's left of the real movie stars, the ones from my parental generation. Newman, as good-looking as any Hollywood actor, ever, could've been a lightweight letting his looks carry him, but instead he was able to inhabit roles where his character has some learning to do, and that can only be communicated by his ability to render inner meanings rather than surface show. Newman was also a creditable maverick (to use a word too often used these days) in his distance from Hollywood's brainless glamor and in his work for worthwhile charities. Some of my favorite Newman movies: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958); The Young Philadelphians (1959); The Hustler (1961); Cool Hand Luke (1967); Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (1969); The Sting (1973); Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976); Slap Shot (1977); The Verdict (1982); The Color of Money (1986); and Road to Perdition (2002), but the one I probably prefer to them all is his aged, wise, battered, weathered, impossibly charming performance in Nobody's Fool (1994).

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