Tales of Rock – SPECIAL REPORT: Little Richard, Founding Father of Rock Who Broke Musical Barriers, Dead at 87

Pianist-singer behind “Tutti Frutti,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Long Tall Sally” set the template that a generation of musicians would follow

Advertisements

Little Richard, a founding father of rock and roll whose fervent shrieks, flamboyant garb, and joyful, gender-bending persona embodied the spirit and sound of that new art form, died Saturday. He was 87. The musician’s son, Danny Jones Penniman, confirmed the pioneer’s death to Rolling Stone, but said the cause of death was unknown.

Starting with “Tutti Frutti” in 1956, Little Richard cut a series of unstoppable hits – “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up” that same year, “Lucille” in 1957, and “Good Golly Miss Molly” in 1958 – driven by his simple, pumping piano, gospel-influenced vocal exclamations and sexually charged (often gibberish) lyrics. “I heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and that was it,” Elton John told Rolling Stone in 1973. “I didn’t ever want to be anything else. I’m more of a Little Richard stylist than a Jerry Lee Lewis, I think. Jerry Lee is a very intricate piano player and very skillful, but Little Richard is more of a pounder.”

Although he never hit the top 10 again after 1958, Little Richard’s influence was massive. The Beatles recorded several of his songs, including “Long Tall Sally,” and Paul McCartney’s singing on those tracks – and the Beatles’ own “I’m Down” – paid tribute to Little Richard’s shredded-throat style. His songs became part of the rock and roll canon, covered over the decades by everyone from the Everly Brothers, the Kinks, and Creedence Clearwater Revival to Elvis Costello and the Scorpions.

Little Richard’s stage persona – his pompadours, androgynous makeup and glass-bead shirts – also set the standard for rock and roll showmanship; Prince, to cite one obvious example, owed a sizable debt to the musician. “Prince is the Little Richard of his generation,” Richard told Joan Rivers in 1989 before looking at the camera and addressing Prince. “I was wearing purple before you was wearing it!”

Born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5th, 1932, in Macon, Georgia, he was one of 12 children and grew up around uncles who were preachers. “I was born in the slums. My daddy sold whiskey, bootleg whiskey,” he told Rolling Stone in 1970. Although he sang in a nearby church, his father Bud wasn’t supportive of his son’s music and accused him of being gay, resulting in Penniman leaving home at 13 and moving in with a white family in Macon. But music stayed with him: One of his boyhood friends was Otis Redding, and Penniman heard R&B, blues and country while working at a concession stand at the Macon City Auditorium.

After performing at the Tick Tock Club in Macon and winning a local talent show, Penniman landed his first record deal, with RCA, in 1951. (He became “Little Richard” when he about 15 years old, when the R&B and blues worlds were filled with acts like Little Esther and Little Milton; he had also grown tired with people mispronouncing his last name as “Penny-man.”) He learned his distinctive piano style from Esquerita, a South Carolina singer and pianist who also wore his hair in a high black pompadour.

For the next five years, Little Richard’s career advanced only fitfully; fairly tame, conventional singles he cut for RCA and other labels didn’t chart. “When I first came along, I never heard any rock & roll,” he told Rolling Stone in 1990. “When I started singing [rock & roll], I sang it a long time before I presented it to the public because I was afraid they wouldn’t like it. I never heard nobody do it, and I was scared.”

By 1956, he was washing dishes at the Greyhound bus station in Macon (a job he had first taken a few years earlier after his father was murdered and Little Richard had to support his family). By then, only one track he’d cut, “Little Richard’s Boogie,” hinted at the musical tornado to come. “I put that little thing in it,” he told Rolling Stone in 1970 of the way he tweaked with his gospel roots. “I always did have that thing, but I didn’t know what to do with the thing I had.”

During this low point, he sent a tape with a rough version of a bawdy novelty song called “Tutti Frutti” to Specialty Records in Chicago. He came up with the song’s famed chorus — “a wop bob alu bob a wop bam boom” — while bored washing dishes. (He also wrote “Long Tall Sally” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” while working that same job.)

By coincidence, label owner and producer Art Rupe was in search of a lead singer for some tracks he wanted to cut in New Orleans, and Penniman’s howling delivery fit the bill. In September 1955, the musician cut a lyrically cleaned-up version of “Tutti Frutti,” which became his first hit, peaking at 17 on the pop chart. “’Tutti Frutti really started the races being together,” he told Rolling Stone in 1990. “From the git-go, my music was accepted by whites.”

Its followup, “Long Tall Sally,” hit Number Six, becoming his the highest-placing hit of his career. For just over a year, the musician released one relentless and arresting smash after another. From “Long Tall Sally” to “Slippin’ and Slidin,’” Little Richard’s hits – a glorious mix of boogie, gospel, and jump blues, produced by Robert “Bumps” Blackwell — sounded like he never stood still. With his trademark pompadour and makeup (which he once said he started wearing so that he would be less “threatening” while playing white clubs), he was instantly on the level of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and other early rock icons, complete with rabid fans and mobbed concerts. “That’s what the kids in America were excited about,” he told Rolling Stone in 1970. “They don’t want the falsehood — they want the truth.”

As with Presley, Lewis and other contemporaries, Penniman also was cast in early rock and roll movies like Don’t Knock the Rock (1956) and The Girl Can’t Help It (1957). In a sign of how segregated the music business and radio were at the time, though, Pat Boone’s milquetoast covers of “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” both also released in 1956, charted as well if not higher than Richard’s own versions. (“Boone’s “Tutti Frutti” hit Number 12, surpassing Little Richard’s by nine slots.) Penniman later told Rolling Stone that he made sure to sing “Long Tall Sally” faster than “Tutti Frutti” so that Boone couldn’t copy him as much.

But then the hits stopped, by his own choice. After what he interpreted as signs – a plane engine that seemed to be on fire and a dream about the end of the world and his own damnation – Penniman gave up music in 1957 and began attending the Alabama Bible school Oakwood College, where he was eventually ordained a minister. When he finally cut another album, in 1959, the result was a gospel set called God Is Real.

His gospel music career floundering, Little Richard returned to secular rock in 1964. Although none of the albums and singles he cut over the next decade for a variety of labels sold well, he was welcomed back by a new generation of rockers like the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan (who used to play Little Richard songs on the piano when he was a kid). When Little Richard played the Star-Club in Hamburg in 1964, the opening act was none other than the Beatles. “We used to stand backstage at Hamburg’s Star-Club and watch Little Richard play,” John Lennon said later. “He used to read from the Bible backstage and just to hear him talk we’d sit around and listen. I still love him and he’s one of the greatest.”

By the 1970s, Little Richard was making a respectable living on the rock oldies circuit, immortalized in a searing, sweaty performance in the 1973 documentary Let the Good Times Roll. During this time, he also became addicted to marijuana and cocaine while, at the same time, returning to his gospel roots.

Little Richard also dismantled sexual stereotypes in rock & roll, even if he confused many of his fans along the way. During his teen years and into his early rock stardom, his stereotypical flamboyant personality made some speculate about his sexuality, even if he never publicly came out. But that flamboyance didn’t derail his career. In the 1984 biography The Life and Times of Little Richard (written with his cooperation), he denounced homosexuality as “contagious … It’s not something you’re born with.” (Eleven years later, he said in an interview with Penthouse that he had been “gay all my life.”)

Later in life, he described himself as “omnisexual,” attracted to both men and women. But during an interview with the Christian-tied Three Angels Broadcasting Group in 2017, he suddenly denounced gay and trans lifestyles: “God, Jesus, He made men, men, he made women, women, you know? And you’ve got to live the way God wants you to live. So much unnatural affection. So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God.”

Yet none of that seemed to damage his mystique or legend. In the 1980s, he appeared in movies like Down and Out in Beverly Hills and in TV shows like Full House and Miami Vice. In 1986, he was one of the 10 original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1993, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys. His last known recording was in 2010, when he cut a song for a tribute album to gospel singer Dottie Rambo.

In the years before his death, Little Richard, who was by then based in Nashville, still performed periodically. Onstage, though, the physicality of old was gone: Thanks to hip replacement surgery in 2009, he could only perform sitting down at his piano. But his rock and roll spirit never left him. “I’m sorry I can’t do it like it’s supposed to be done,” he told one audience in 2012. After the audience screamed back in encouragement, he said – with a very Little Richard squeal — “Oh, you gonna make me scream like a white girl!”

God Bless Little Richard! Rest in Peace.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Buy Phicklephilly THE BOOK now available on Amazon!

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly

Advertisements

More deaths in Pennsylvania, and New Jersey’s reopening plans move tentatively forward

The pandemic proved as relentless as the rain on Sunday, as the death count from the coronavirus continued to rise in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and larger plans for a safe reopening remained in flux.

An additional 4,800 cases were diagnosed in both states, and nearly a thousand people were being treated in Philadelphia hospitals.

Nationally, the one certainty remained uncertainty.

Americans should expect social-distancing measures to continue through the summer, White House Coronavirus Taskforce Coordinator Deborah Birx said, adding that the nation needs a “breakthrough” in testing to gauge the virus’ spread accurately. Top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said the United States must at least double its testing capacity before restarting the economy, up from the current 1.5 million to 2 million tests that are being conducted a week.

Governors in states where the numbers of new infections have been slowing are grappling with when to reopen, while health experts cautioned that the ability to test, trace, and isolate positive patients is crucial to managing the inevitable spike of infections that will follow.

“We’re going to move as one state,” Murphy said, “recognizing you’ve got density issues in the north that you just don’t have in the south.”

New Jersey needs additional money from federal lawmakers to recover, Murphy said, warning that while “we won’t go bankrupt” without it, the state will have to “gut the living daylights” out of essential jobs such as teachers and first responders.

An additional 3,730 New Jerseyans tested positive, officials announced Sunday, bring the total to 109,038. And 75 more deaths were reported, raising the toll to 5,938.

In New York state, officials announced 367 new deaths on Sunday, the lowest tally in almost a month, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke of a phased reopening that could start as soon as May 15.

The pandemic continued to produce odd, societal side effects:

This has already been the deadliest year for tornadoes since 2011, a major news story subsumed by the coronavirus. Gas prices have tumbled a dollar a gallon in Pennsylvania and 89 cents in New Jersey from a year ago, according to AAA, the result of people obeying government stay-at-home orders.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey casinos have lost millions in gaming revenues.

The Philadelphia Zoo, though closed by the pandemic, still picked a name for newly born sloth bear, “Keematee,” the Hindu word for “Precious,” selected by an on-line poll.

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flight teams plan to conduct a Tuesday flyover of New York City, Newark, Trenton, and Philadelphia to honor front-line COVID-19 workers, the Air Force and Navy announced, with the schedule to be released on Monday. People should stay home to watch, the military branches emphasized.

In Philadelphia, officials announced 237 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 12,566. Six more deaths were added, raising the city toll to 472. About half of those fatalities were in long-term care facilities.

Across Pennsylvania 1,116 more people tested positive for a total caseload of 41,165, and 1,550 people have died, state officials said. Deaths in nursing and personal-care homes account for 61% of the total, according to government data.

“As we see the number of new COVID-19 cases continuously change across the state, that does not mean we can stop practicing social distancing,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said. “We must continue to stay home to protect ourselves, our families and our community.”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Buy Phicklephilly THE BOOK now available on Amazon!

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly

Tales of Rock – 6 Musicians Who Predicted Their Own Death in Song

Everybody dies. That’s no secret. Even you, you’re going to die some day. Accept it. Once you accept it, write a bizarrely specific song that details how exactly you’re going to die, live up to your prediction and voila! You’ll be an entry in a Cracked article, just like these guys.

 

6

Richie Rich feat. Tupac – “Niggas Done Changed”

Let’s just get it out of the way: Nobody knows who the hell Richie Rich is. According to the lyrics of this song, he’s got a hand full of game. For all we know, that is still true. Maybe even a sack full of game by now. We don’t care. The real star of this tune, featured on the Seasoned Veteranalbum, is Tupac Shakur. His verse on “Niggas Done Changed” is the stuff that conspiracy theories are made of.

This probably isn’t the right one.

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“I been shot and murdered, can tell you how it happened word for word, But best believe niggas gon’ get what they deserve.”

What Happened Next:

Pac was shot and murdered, just like he said. The shooting happened on the strip in Vegas after a Mike Tyson fight. Obviously, at a time like that not many people were around, so nobody saw the shooter and the case remains unsolved. Unsolved for most people anyway. Some others are convinced they know exactly what happened. Tupac faked his own death! The logic went as follows: Since Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli advocated faking one’s own death, and Tupac used Makaveli as a stage name, then he must still be alive. That’s shaky reasoning, even before you take into account that the real Machiavelli didn’t actually say much of anything about faking your own death.

If he was dead, could he do this?

But when “Niggas Done Changed” was released less than two months following Tupac’s death, the “Pac’s Still Alive” movement was off and running, and it hasn’t let up since. Group psychology experts contacted by Cracked attribute the movement’s seeming refusal to die (sorry) to the fact that Tupac Shakur has released at least seventy-three studio albums since his death and also to the fact that he’s totally alive, y’all.

 

5

Lynyrd Skynyrd – “That Smell”

Have you ever put a curse on somebody? Like if you came home and found that your roommate ate your leftover Chinese food and you got pissed and told them you hoped it gave them explosive diarrhea and then it actually did and you felt really bad because you didn’t realize your own powers? Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That Smell” is kind of like that. Except substitute “diarrhea” with “horrible plane crash” (although with a title like “That Smell” it totally could have gone either way).

The song was written to express lead singer Ronnie Van Zant’s disappointment with the lifestyle lead and rhythm guitarist Gary Rossington was leading, as his drug and alcohol problems had started to negatively affect the band. After a verse poking fun at a recent alcohol-fueled car accident Rossington had, Van Zant starts pouring on the ominous.

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“Say you’ll be alright come tomorrow, but tomorrow might not be here for you.” “Angel of darkness upon you.” “The smell of death surrounds you.”

What Happened Next:

On October 20, 1977, just three days after the release of the now unfortunately titled Street Survivors, the plane Lynyrd Skynyrd was traveling in crashed in a forest near Gillsburg, Mississippi. The line “the smell of death surrounds you” took on a whole new ugly meaning after Rossington survived but three bandmates, including Van Zant, perished. As if the song and the album title weren’t enough, thanks to the plane crash, Street Survivors now had, quite possibly, the most inappropriate album cover ever.

Yes, that’s the band and, yes, they are on fire. In the wake of the plane crash, original copies of the album were recalled and replaced with a cover image of the band standing against the completely non-depressing black background. Of course, the fire cover was restored for the deluxe CD reissue of the album in 2008. Like almost every other crime, there is a statute of limitations on bad taste. Apparently, it’s 30 years.

 

4

Jeff Buckley – “Dream Brother”

Jeff Buckley’s “Dream Brother” is said to have been written about a friend who was about to leave his girlfriend and child. In the song, he warns of the sadness to be had by following in the footsteps of Buckley’s father, Tim Buckley. The elder Buckley was a promising young musician who had his career cut short by an accidental heroin overdose. He also walked out on Jeff and his mother shortly after Jeff was born. It’s that last part Buckley is singing about, but he probably should have considered penning a few lines to himself regarding the “musician gone too soon” part. Or, did he?

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“The dark angel he is shuffling in.” “Don’t be like the one who left behind his name.” “Asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over.”

What Happened Next:

We’ve never given relationship advice to a friend that involved any mention of a “dark angel shuffling in,” so we’re not sure how that first line would apply to a dude leaving his girlfriend, though we will concede that the second one fits. But the third? “Asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over,” well, that’s just pretty fucking creepy. Less than three years after the release of “Dream Brother” Buckley died. By drowning. This leads us to an obvious question: “Hey, Jeff Buckley, how about taking your own advice?” We’re guessing the reply would be something like, “Hey, leave me alone you assholes, I’m dead.”

3

Hank Williams – “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive”

Immediately, there’s nothing too shocking or particularly insightful about the title of this song. It’s obvious that everyone is going to die at some point. Most of those people, however, won’t crank out a comical tune about it right before they go. Released in 1952, “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” was the last single Hank Williams released in his lifetime. The lyrics are your standard down-on-your-luck type of stuff. Troublesome, sure, but nothing life threatening going on. But still, there’s that chorus…

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“No matter how I struggle and strive. I’ll never get out of this world alive.”

What Happened Next:

After reportedly struggling and striving, Hank Williams barely made it out of the rest of the year alive. On the morning of January 1st, 1953, just months after the song was released, he was pronounced dead at the Oak Hill Hospital emergency room.

“Doctor, hurry, he’s struggling. And striving! Oh no…”

There is a myth that the song was actually #1 on the Billboard charts at the time of his death, but “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” actually didn’t reach the top spot until shortly afterhis death. Today, Hank Williams is hailed as an innovator in the field of record promotion for being the first to employ the “Die Young and Sell a Ton of Records” technique.

 

2

John Lennon – “Borrowed Time”

You may not know this, but most posthumously released songs are indeed recorded before the artist dies. Although “Borrowed Time” wasn’t released until four years after the death of John Lennon, it was actually the first song he recorded following a five year exile from the music business. The unnervingly upbeat tune wraps lyrics about the frailty of life around the type of instrumentation you would expect to hear during dinner on a Carnival cruise ship. It was inspired by a Final Destination-like escape from death Lennon pulled off while sailing to Bermuda through an intense storm. An experience like that would probably just inspire us to shit our pants and stop showering. Lennon, on the other hand, was inspired to start rocking again.

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“Living on borrowed time, without a thought for tomorrow”

What Happened Next:

John Lennon was sometimes criticized for not practicing what he preached. Like how he sang about imaging no possessions but lived in a million dollar apartment. You could argue that he totally lived up to the lyrics of “Borrowed Time,” but you’d be a fucking prick for doing so. We only mention that criticism because it was Mark David Chapman’s main beef with John Lennon.

Speaking of beef, holy shit, right? Mooo, right?

Chapman delicately handled this beef by shooting Lennon to death, about six months after the song was written. Hopefully, Lennon practiced what he preached this time and genuinely didn’thave a “thought for tomorrow,” because, unless that thought was “be dead,” he was guaranteed to be pretty disappointed.

 

1

Jimi Hendrix – “The Ballad of Jimi”

In 1965, before most people even knew who he was, Jimi Hendrix entered a New York recording studio and probably weirded out everybody in the room by cutting a new tune about how some dude named Jimi was going to be dead in five years. “The Ballad of Jimi” starts with a declaration from Hendrix that the song is dedicated to the memory of his best friend. That the friend’s name is a guitar player named Jimi is apparently to be chalked up to coincidence.

Hendrix further confuses matters with the line “that is my story” before ratcheting the creepiness up considerably.

Unfortunate Lyrics:

“Many things he would try, For he knew soon he’d die.” “Now Jimi’s gone, he’s not alone. His memory still lives on.” “Five years, this he said. He’s not gone, he’s just dead.”

What Happened Next:

“I’m gonna go over there and die, now.”

Next, Jimi Hendrix suffocated in the most horrible way imaginable that doesn’t involve cock. He choked on his own vomit. Conveniently, for the purpose of this article, he died almost exactly five years after recording “The Ballad of Jimi.” “Five years, this he said. He’s not gone, he’s just dead.”

Disturbing as all fuck, isn’t it? Probably the only reason he didn’t get more specific than that was that nothing rhymes with “choked on vomit.”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Instagram: @phicklephilly    twitter: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly

Doris Day Dies Nearly 2 Months After Celebrating 97th Birthday

May 13, 2019 08:16 AM

Doris Day, the beautiful blonde whose sunny screen presence and silken singing voice guaranteed box-office and record-chart hits in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, has died, her rep confirms to PEOPLE. She was 97.

Day died at 1:00 A.M. on Monday at her home in California, the rep says.

The Associated Press was first to report the news, which comes nearly two months after the actress celebrated her birthday and shared a recent photo with PEOPLE.

RELATED: Inside Doris Day’s Long-Lasting Friendship with Rock Hudson and Final Goodbye

Although in 2012 she released a CD of songs she recorded years ago, since the early ’80s, the world’s favorite “girl next door” kept a low profile and lived on 11 acres in Carmel, California, where she devoted most of her time to her charitable organization.

RELATED: Doris Day Dies at 97: See Rare, Unearthed Photos of Hollywood Star in the Prime of Her Career

Courtesy Doris Day

RELATED: Doris Day’s Last Public Appearance Before Her Death at 97 Was Over 5 Years Ago

Despite her immense popularity — by the early ’60s, she was the No. 1 box-office star on the planet — Day was often greatly underrated, and, blaming her fear of flying, turned down several awards and accolades, including (it was discussed) an honorary Oscar and the Kennedy Center Honor. One prize she never lost: the unbridled love of an adoring public.

Music and movies

Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, the daughter of a Cincinnati music teacher and a homemaker, the crystal-voiced pop soprano changed her name to Day when, as a teen, she began singing on the radio. After appearances with the Big Bands of Barney Rapp and Bob Crosby, she joined Les Brown’s Band and had her first hit with “Sentimental Journey.”

Martin Mills/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

By the mid-’50s came better roles at other studios. This included what even she considered her best film, 1954’s Love Me or Leave Me, a dramatic, though highly fictionalized, biopic of ’20s singer Ruth Etting, who lived under the thumb of her short-tempered, controlling husband. (Day played down parallels between the movie’s plot and her own life.) In 1956, for Alfred Hitchcock, she co-starred with James Stewart in The Man Who Knew Too Much, in which she introduced the Oscar-winning song that became her signature, “Que Sera Sera.”

Two more vehicles with Hudson (and sidekick Tony Randall) followed, as did similar comedies in which Day — sometimes as a career woman, but always squeaky clean — costarred with Cary Grant, James Garner, and Rod Taylor.

Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Loved to laugh

For Day, as she told PEOPLE in 2011, her greatest loss in life was the 2004 death (from melanoma) of her son, music producer Terry Melcher.

“I had him when I was [18], so we were like sister and brother,” said Day, who found his passing “really hard. But I keep him with me.”

The profile also pointed out that humor had always been Day’s secret weapon. “I love to laugh,” said the star who made so many others laugh and sing. “It’s the only way to live. Enjoy each day — it’s not coming back again!”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Facebook: phicklephilly       Instagram: @phicklephilly       Twitter: @phicklephilly

Tales of Rock – Kurt Cobain Kills Himself Twice

“Like Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, he was 27 years old when he died.

And let us not forget Amy Winehouse who also died at age 27.”

Few musicians’ experiences with drug abuse have been as complex and intense as Kurt Cobain’s. For proof of this, see the index of Charles Cross’ 2001 Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven. If you check, “Cobain, Kurt Donald; drug use of…” you’ll basically be instructed to read the entire book. He started off heavily averse to heroin; during his formative years, a friend suggested they try it and he stopped hanging out with him in response. He eventually tried the drug; when asked how it was by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, he shrugged, “Oh, it was all right.” But his habit escalated.

By the time Nirvana appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1992, Cobain was so deep in heroin addiction that he was vomiting and barely able to stand right until the time came to perform. He somehow pulled it together long enough to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Territorial Pissings” on live television. In March 1994, Cobain attempted suicide for the first time by washing down a large dose of flunitrazepam with champagne while in Rome. He nearly died and ended up in a coma for a day (Novoselic claimed that, mentally, he was never the same after this).

Within weeks he was back in Seattle, crashing on his daughter’s junkie nanny’s girlfriend’s couch and popping out occasionally to purchase speedballs and burritos. Cross quotes the girlfriend as saying, “He’d sit in my living room with the hat with the ear coverings, and read magazines. People came and went; there was always a lot of activity going on. Nobody knew he was there or recognized him.” By the end of the month, Cobain was given an intervention and packed off to rehab in California. But he soon escaped the facility by scaling a six-foot wall and, improbably, found a seat on a flight back to Seattle next to Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan.

Despite beef between Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses, the two bonded, finding a great deal of common ground as famous musicians from the Pacific Northwest with heroin problems. Once back at his house, Cobain reattempted suicide and this time he meant business. He injected a lethal dose of heroin and then blasted himself in the head with a shotgun, effectively killing himself twice. Like Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, he was 27 years old when he died.

And let us not forget Amy Winehouse who also died at age 27.

Another sad rock and roll tragedy. Showbiz is the only industry that eats it’s young.

Check this out:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_Club

A footnote from phicklephilly: “I never understood suicide. You get one chance to be here, why leave early if you don’t have to? Suicide’s for quitters. I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression my whole life. I’ve beaten the shit out of them both (without drugs) and now we’re all on the same side. Suicide is always a long term solution to usually a temporary problem. I just don’t get it, Kurt. I was in a band when I was younger. It was an amazing experience. Kurt, you play music for a living. You’re in a famous genre inspiring band. You’re surrounded by a gaggle of moist women. Your bank account is full and your nuts are empty. WTF?”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly

Celebrity Sightings: ‘Superman’ Actress Margot Kidder’s Death Ruled a Suicide

The actress who soared to stardom as Lois Lane died from “self-inflicted drug and alcohol overdose,” according to a coroner statement.

Kidder found fame starring as Lois Lane in the “Superman” series of movies in the 1970s and 1980s that featured Reeve in the title role.

But she later suffered a very public nervous breakdown in 1996, revealing later that she had suffered from mental illness, including depression and bipolar disorder, for much of her life.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources. 

Was this helpful? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am & 12pm EST.

Instagram: @phicklephilly         Facebook: phicklephilly   Twitter: @phicklephilly

My Young Life: Innocence Lost

Early Grade School

I grew up on a street called Magee Street. It was a picturesque neighborhood of classic 50’s and 60’s lifestyle. All the dads kissed their wives goodbye in the morning and went off to work. All the wives stayed home and got the kids ready for school and then settled into housework and running errands. Most of the kids went to Lawndale school which was a public school and all of the Catholic kids went off to Presentation in nearby Lawncrest.

I remember being in the car with my dad one day and a kid named Mark Simpson was being pulled around in a wagon by his sister Linda. Only thing was, he had a cast on his leg.

“I always see that kid running out in the street all the time.”

“Well he’s not running now.”

“He got hit by a car. That’s why his leg is broken. He better watch out or he’ll get killed one day.”

I listened to my father’s words and watched in silence as Linda pulled her little brother down the street until they vanished from sight.

We lived in a time of basic rules. Say Thank you. Respect your elders. Stay off of other people’s property. Look both ways before you cross the street.

We also lived in a time of no bicycle helmets. No one wore seat belts. (Some cars didn’t even have them.) No sunscreen. No organized sports for everybody. Children ran free to go anywhere unsupervised. Just be home in time for dinner. I played by the railroad tracks. We’d ride our bikes miles from our homes. We had no cell phones. We developed keen senses of direction and distance. Everyday we thought of new ways to have fun by putting ourselves in some sort of isolated danger.

But we were fine. Young people live by the “I” words. They don’t know it, but they do. Immune. Indestructible. Impotent. When you’re young you think you’ll live forever.

Grade School

I think I was in 4th Grade when I became a Safety.  You wear a little white belt like the kid in the picture above. You also get a nice shiny silver badge to pin on it. (My sharpest memory of being a Safety was when I was doing poorly in school and my father said he should rip that belt off me and beat me with it. Fucking piece of shit thing to say to a child. But he was a rage machine back then.

Your job is to stand on your designated corner and put your arms out and block the little kids from crossing the street until it’s safe. I don’t even know how I became a Safety. Maybe someone just elects you. Maybe they didn’t have enough kids who wanted the job. But each morning and afternoon, you’d go to your assigned corner and protect the little kids.

I remember one time I was holding a soft pretzel in my hand and I put my hands out to stop the little kids. As I was waiting for the traffic to clear one little kid on my right took a bite out of the pretzel in my hand in front of his face. Too cute!

Mark Simpson and I worked the same corners. We weren’t really friends, but he lived up the street from me. I think my sister Janice maybe sometimes hung out with Linda, but I’m not sure. I think Mark may have been a grade behind me. On cold mornings his mother would whip up a few thermoses of hot chocolate for the Safetys. We’d finish up getting all of the kids to school and then all head into an office in the school and sip hot cocoa together. A little warm repose and reward for keeping the little ones safe on their way to and from school.

Fels Junior High

I was in 8th grade. I remember walking down the hallway early one morning. The school was oddly quiet. My friend Jimmy Hunsinger comes around the corner and says the following words:

“Did you hear? Mark Simpson was coming home from chess club, and ran out in the street around a bus and got hit by a car.”

“Oh my God. Is he okay?”

“He’s dead.”

‘What?”

I just stood there frozen. My face, a grimace of mute protest.

You cannot process that kind of information when you’re a 12-year-old boy. Your friends can’t die. Kids don’t die. There must be some kind of mistake. What kind of horrible lie is this?

But it was true. He ran out in the street around a stopped bus, and a car coming by the bus on the left side took him out. Apparently the trauma to his head was so forceful that he was hemorrhaging from his brain and he died on the way to the hospital.

Word quickly spread throughout the school and the neighborhood.

I remember my friend Michael and I went to his funeral service. (Closed casket) Everyone was dressed up in suits and ties and girls were in their Sunday best. This kid named Paul Berger was standing to my left in the pew, and he was playing with the zipper on his jacket because he was obviously bored. I told him to knock it off and be still out of respect to our fallen comrade.

After the service the family came to us and thanked us for coming. I just remember Mark’s sister’s face was almost unrecognizable to me because of how scrunched up it was from crying nonstop. Her face soaked with tears as she hugged us both. We here alive and had been through a few scrapes of our own but nothing compared to this nightmare.

Later we went to the Simpson’s home to pay our respects. This is some grown up shit here. Death puts everything into perspective. Especially when a child dies.

What Michael and I found odd was that nobody really looked broken or sad there. It was like a forced family reunion over grim circumstances. Everybody was eating and drinking. Mrs. Simpson asked us if we wanted to go up to Mark’s room. I had never been in Mark’s room let alone this house before. Like I said, we didn’t really hang out together.

He had a typical young boy’s room. It was neat and clean with all sort of boy memorabilia about the room. It felt weird to be looking at his stuff and touch his things. I picked up a little model car he had made. I thought they should give all of this stuff away to other kids because Mark will never come home again.

But of course I didn’t say anything about it.

As darkness fell over the neighborhood in those days, the clouds soon clear and people go on with their lives. Kids playing and going to school and just normal everyday events happen. Life goes on. The world continues to turn and some of us are not in it anymore. Some day that day will come for me and everyone I know. But we all hope it comes in old age and asleep in our beds when death comes to scatter our days. Not as a child.

I suppose the biggest ironies of this story are: My dad’s black prophecy about Mark getting hit and killed by a car. Him being a Safety and protecting other little kids from getting hit my cars, and then darting out into the street and taken by that very thing.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly

My Family – The Phoenix – Part 3

Tell My Mother, tell My Father, I’ve done the best I can.

I stood at the grave of my parents with my sisters and my daughter.

Yes. I have something to say.

I read the Eulogy I had written.

I knew my sister Janice thought I wouldn’t deliver based on my track record.

 

Hello all. Thank you for coming.

To quote an artist I love: “Your bodies may be gone but we’re going to carry you in. In our minds, and in our hearts, and our souls. And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll all meet again.”

Over the last few weeks our hearts and minds have been filled with visions of you both.

Although your vessels are gone, you are both so much alive in us all. In our thoughts, our words and our deeds. You’ve achieved immortality in your children… and their children.

And we all have the wonderful children to prove it.

Just like all of the home movies we still have. We can watch them anytime we want. I watched some the other night. You were both so alive that I could almost touch you both.

But only almost. And I won’t be able to anymore.

I want you both to know that every time we did anything, we saw you both in front of us. Your appreciation and love accompanied us every step down the road, and our lives were always shaped by your teachings and values.

Others greater than I will eulogize you both, but none of them will ever have the sweet pleasure that my sisters and I have had to feel the gentle touch of your hands in ours.

To merit your words and warm embrace that was reserved… only for us.

To see your smiles and hear your laughter, told us so much.

 

But those are no longer. Only in our memories.

There is so much to say about this wonderful family that has come to Earth through both of you. We will share our stories as long as we all can draw breath.

I once asked you both, “What was the key to a happy life?”

Mother you said, “Do everything in moderation. Moderation is the key to a happy life.”

I turned to my father and said, “Dad?”

He replied, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”

Well, we always went big, and our family is rich in history… and most of all… love.

Anyway, rather than go into every wonderful Christmas we ever had, or the summers at the shore, or how my mother was the greatest person I ever met, or how my Dad taught me how to ride a bicycle, or drive a car, or taught me how to read, or taught me how to catch a fish, or how to talk to girls, or art, or music or everything that is essential to living in this world and being a better person, and moving us all forward as a family.

You’ve both done all of that and so much more.

More than any words can ever describe.

Thank you.

 

I’m not done yet…

My sisters and I are left with no alternative.

Janice. April. Gabrielle.

And my only daughter… Lorelei.

We will say goodbye to you, Mother and Father. And we will ask that you rest in peace.

I know you will think about us all down here and miss us.

We will always love you both so very much, and we will never, ever forget you.

You both are all of us.

And we are you…

Until the white wings of death scatter our days.

 

I will leave you all with this:

“Life is fleeting and fragile.

Enjoy yourself.”

 

Thank you.

 

That’s it. That’s the eulogy I wrote for my parents.

I read that at their burial.

I always felt like I failed them both my entire life. But I always loved them.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish everyday.

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly   Twitter: @phicklephilly

My Family – The Phoenix – Part 2

The only person that could keep him here with us was him and he’d already purchased a ticket on the last train to nowhere.

My sister Janice called me and told me that dad was in really bad shape and that this could be the end. I called my friend Rob and asked if I could use his truck to go visit my dad at the hospital.  He was fine with it. I was going to run down there on Tuesday to see what was up.

 

I was at work when I got the call from my middle sister that Monday.

“Hey Chaz. It’s April. Dad died.”

I was carrying some proposals and some client files and they fell from my hands to the floor.

I stepped into my editor’s office and of course my horrible sales manager was in there bugging the shit our of her for some inane reason.

I told them what had happened and they said: “Go home”

I knew that wasn’t option for me. I knew my sisters had everything well under control. There was nothing I could do now. I knew for months this call was coming. He had checked out a long time ago, and there was no coming back to us or anyone else.

I worked out the day, and kept in touch with my sisters. I had to keep working and I had to tell my daughter Lorelei.

I couldn’t stay home and do nothing. There was nothing to do.

I spoke with my daughter about it and she was a little sad but she just knew her grandparents as really old people that she saw once a year at the holidays like I did growing up.

My sisters took care of everything. They were in Jersey and were close to it. I knew this day was coming. It wasn’t a matter of if… but when.

On the phone with dad in his final days I would get him talking about something fun and would tell him I knew his life was still in there. That he wasn’t finished.

But he was. The only person that could keep him here with us was him and he’d already purchased a ticket on the last train to nowhere.

Janice planned the funeral and picked the day they would put my parents into the ground. My mom could finally get off the dining room table and into the Earth.

I was at the office the Sunday night I was to drive down to Cold Springs, Cape May where they were to be buried next to my grandmother and grandfather.

At that moment I remember my father once saying he wished he would fall off the jetty down at 2nd street where he used to go fishing.

“I fall in and the fish have at me to get back at me for eating so many of them.”

It made me think back to when he taught me how to catch a fish. Fond memories from a dark time in my young life.

I was there working on a proposal when I got a text from my bank. Apparently someone had gotten a hold of my debit card information and had withdrawn $800 from my account over the weekend.

Talk about insult to injury. I called my bank and cancelled the card. I then packed up and went to my friend Robert and Laura’s house up in Fairmount. They weren’t home so I was standing outside for a while. They finally came home and I told them everything. Rob handed me the keys to his truck and they paid their respects. I took the truck and put it in a parking garage near my house.

The next morning I dressed in black and went straight to my bank the moment they opened.

I told the girl at the desk what had happened and that I had to bury my parents and didn’t have time to dawdle and she produced the proper affidavits and I signed them. She was so amazing.

I later wrote a letter to her manager praising her outstanding performance.

It was a tough drive to the shore. Because whenever you go to the shore it’s always happy.

It was February, but surprisingly it was a warm and mild day. Almost eerily warm.

I pull up and park.

There are many people gathered by the gravesite. I approach and there is the sad outpouring of grief and quiet sadness of loss.

The missing.

I see my co-worker Rocco came and it relieves me to see someone from the office there. I think he just wanted the day off but I’m grateful he came.

My friend Jim who I used to be in a band with that I’ve known since he was 14 was there.

Everybody was there.

I walk up to the site and join my sisters.

The sun is shining on a very dark and dismal day to dissipate our sadness.

I remember telling my ex-girlfriend Michelle many years before that I wanted to speak at my parent’s funerals. It was what I could bring to the family with my words. That’s really all I had left.

The priest begins and does his thing. I scan the crowd. I’m in bad shape. I feel unsteady so just like at my wedding I remember to put one foot forward to steady myself.

This is a bad day.

As I write this I’m listening to the band Steppenwolf for comfort. They were the first band I ever really fell in love with. My mom disapproved but later liked them when I got into a wilder band called Aerosmith. But that’s a different post. (A way happier one!)

I remember my mom always like Scottish bagpipes. I never understood that but her people were Scotch Irish and maybe that music was in her blood. She comes from a musical family and I believe that runs through me and Lorelei to this day.

The bagpipes were sad and beautiful as they played in the background.

Perfect.

Because my father served in the military they did the whole folding of the flag thing. That was very moving and respectful. I like how they handed the flag to Janice and not me, his only son. But what have I really been to him, Not much really. A disappointment for the most part.

But all is forgiven.

I know my sister Janice was worried about me saying that I would make a speech at our parents funeral because I wouldn’t follow through. I get it. Track record. I once was supposed to transfer all of the home movies from VHS onto DVD and never did it. My baby sister ended up doing it.

Another fail on my part about nonsense.

I’m sorry. I was busy surviving in Jersey City trying to hold it together in New York at the time. But I do love that there was fear that I would come up empty-handed in the final reel.

Janice read and it was good.

Really good. I’m sure there was so much else she felt and had been through with this that it was hard for her to express what she really felt, and you know what? Whatever that was, it’s probably not for this audience or this venue.

I was surprised when my middle sister April read. It was good to hear her words and interesting to see it from her perspective and what her experience was through all of this. I don’t think my baby sister read, because she was in bed for most of our family memories. (Kidding! Gabrielle you get the joke!)

It was my turn now. I looked at all of the friends and family that had gathered upon this sad but inevitable occasion.

I looked at the table before me. On it was the little wooden box with the pretty bird on it. That was mom in there.

Next to that was a Lionel toy train standard gauge train station. I remember my father telling me he wanted to be cremated and his ashes placed into that toy train station.

After he had passed, Janice was taking the station down from one of the train cabinets and found a note under it.

It said “Gang, It’s been a great ride, but it’s time for me to pull into the station for my final stop.” Dad

He loved his trains. Now it was time for him to rest at the station and be done with the life he had created for all of us kids.

The Priest turned to me.

“Would you like to say something, Charles?”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish everyday  at 8am EST.

Instagram: @phicklephilly                                  Facebook: phicklephilly

My Family – The Phoenix – Part 1

When I started writing this blog it was a bunch of crazy dates and series about past relationships. But I knew it would grow and evolve. Now that the dust has settled in my life I can get to the business of writing about what I really want to express. My life. (Don’t worry there will always be crazy dating stories!)

Last year my sisters and I buried our parents.

My mother had died the year before at 86. She was a wonderful woman who was a good wife and mother. She lived with RA (Rhematoid arthritis) for 40 years but never complained and put up with my father for 60 plus years.

She was in assisted living for the last year of her life. She was happy there and said she was never going home. She was with her peers and I know she was comfortable there in her final days.

She always said she wanted to go in her sleep. I think everybody wants that. Just go to bed one night and then just disappear peacefully and quietly. No fear. No pain. Just gone.

The day breaks tomorrow and the world does what it does and you’re just not in it anymore.

Your memory lives on with your loved ones for a while but after a generation, unless you’re famous you’re simply gone. It’s as if you never existed.

She went to bed one night in her pajamas, snuggled down in her bed and just went to Heaven. Just what she wanted. She deserved that.

My mother was a good woman who was really good at taking care of children and a house and animals that she almost seemed born to it. I don’t know if she ever wanted anything more, but my mother never even learned to drive. She didn’t need to and liked to be in her home, doing her thing and drinking her tea.

When she passed she was cremated and her remains were put in a lovely wooden box with a pretty bird carved into the top. My mother always loved birds.

Maybe she always felt like a caged bird. I don’t know.

My father kept the box on the dining room table after she died. I think that’s morbid, but maybe he just wanted some semblance of her there in the big old house with him.

Because now he was alone there. No one to listen to his stories, fears and ailments that didn’t exist or whatever.

My mother was the greatest listened I’ve ever met. The absolute apex of a good listener. I know this because my middle sister April can really talk a lot. So can my Dad. She was always sweet and genuinely interested in what you had to say. She kept her opinions to herself.

There was a surge of attention around my father when my mother died. My father loved attention. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very charming man and is absolutely great with people. He knows how to get it done in a unique and elegant way. Where do you think I learned all of my moves? I took the best of him, and have done my best to discard the worst.

Before my mother died I had conversations with my dad about how he was worried he would run out of money because the facility she was living in cost so much every month. He actually said, “I’m going to end up in the Veteran’s Home because I’ll be broke.” Healthcare in this country is a financial nightmare, but why would he think that?

Why would he say that?

Fear. But it seemed contrary to his character. I think she was living too long. “She’s very frail” he would say to me all the time. It’s like he needed her to go. I get that. I have a really firm grasp of what life is and what death is too.

I’ve been alarmingly close to them both and although one is priceless and precious, death can swoop in on its black wings and snatch the innocent away for no reason.

So dude… live for today.

Have you met your first-born daughter that you love and loves you more than you can even grasp?

My sister Janice.

You’re never going to end up in the Veteran’s Home, man. Not under Janice’s watch. You should rest easy and smile that you have the strongest person in the family looking out for you and Mom’s best interest.

Free of charge.

But my mom passed and it was sad, but she was ready to go. I’m grateful to all three of my sisters for being present through all of that because I was not. I was just living my life here in Philly doing my thing and popping into the occasional holiday party with one of my young girlfriends.

They did it all, especially Janice.

So once the surge of attention, mourning, adulation, cards, letters, love, and people faded as they always do. My dad decided to fold up his tent and go home.

Initially the loss of mom was sad but she was a really old lady, and we all loved her but we were all prepared for her to leave. You have to prepare yourself for that. Forgive me, but I don’t understand why I see people suffering so long after losing their parents. They lived their lives. You had them for so long but everybody has to leave. No one gets out of here alive.  You have to be ready for that.

The dead have a responsibility to the living and vice versa.

But there is a sense of relief that Mom is now at peace and not suffering with the pain of RA and old age. She was ready to go and she went in her chosen way.

I’d see Dad and he was happy and his usual jovial self. I’d talk with him on the phone and we’d be trading stories and it was amazing. He was finally telling me all of the wild stories from his past that I was never old enough to hear. It was great! I was even managing his Netflix because we both love film and that’s something we’ve alway been really close about.

 

But once the light completely went out on my mom and he was alone in that big house he started to want to get out of here himself. I still don’t full understand it but I think my sister Janice may because she was so much closer to the day-to-day grind of watching him plan his going from this world.

Something changed. He just gave up and got tired of playing onstage anymore. He just wanted to quit the band and work on his solo career in heaven.

It was like he was slowly trying to commit suicide. That’s not allowed in this country but I think if it were and he wanted to really go. I know my father well enough that if he wanted me to I would have been okay with him blowing his last breath in my face.

Because he put my sister Jan through hell that last year. No one will ever know how intense that was but I’ve heard from my sisters. It was as if he was this crazy tiger that kept all his powers, weaknesses, greatness and demons locked up in a den somewhere and then the old cat was left inside that den to suddenly deal with them. All of the things in himself that he had never been fixed came to the surface and cooked him alive.

I’ve lived with anxiety and depression my entire life. I turned it into art and sometimes turned to alcohol just to turn off the pain for a few hours. I like it, but I never let that shit own me. I have a strong sense of identity.

I know my father intimately. I understand his psyche. I forgave my parents for everything in my forties. You have to do that to move forward in your life.

 

Let go of the bars of your cell. Let them fall to the ground and take a step. Embrace who you are and how hard they tried to raise the four of you with not a lot of money. How they had challenges with each other in their marriage and how they should have gotten a divorce but didn’t to hold it together for you and your sisters.

How they became husband and wife and then parents to little new minds and did the very best they could with all they knew.

Much of it was so wrong but for the most of it was pretty darn right. My family is super normal and so are their children.

Even though I have felt much more of the scorn of both of my parents, I’ve managed to rise up from my own weaknesses and be a decent and wise father to my daughter, Lorelei.

I’m blessed with a lovely child that I barely deserve. She too has a strong identity and risen up from the flames of her upbringing with her mother to shine beautifully like the morning sun.

Tune in tomorrow.

I’m you about the day that my parents were really gone.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.

Instagram: @phicklephilly                         Facebook: phicklephilly