Monday, November 14, 2016

In Memoriam

News of a few deaths sadly coming over the wires here in recent days. Doesn’t matter how much a person has done or how long that person has lived, always feels like things are unfinished when the end arrives -- for the individual and for those of us left behind.

Leonard Cohen’s passing on the eve of the election last Monday cast a pall over the past week for many (and added further to the pall caused by the election results for a decent percentage of that group).

Have to confess that I never quite connected with Cohen’s music although always appreciated his important place in the singer-songwriter story. I knew “Suzanne” and a few other tracks, and over this last week have been listening to more and realizing how huge the gaps are in my knowledge.

Unfairly I’d had Cohen lodged in a little-visited part of my memory occupied as well by Rod McKuen, another poet-slash-songwriter who achieved a similarly huge following although without the consistent critical acclaim of Cohen. Rolling Stone offers a decent overview of Cohen’s oeuvre and significance.

Leon Russell passed away yesterday, and like Cohen he had been mostly performing on the edges of my awareness previously. I suppose I knew him mostly through Joe Cocker (who covered both Russell and Cohen on his Joe Cocker! breakthrough), though that was obviously just the very tip of a vast catalogue.

“Tight Rope” is the Russell song permanently part of the classic rock rotation, although as a songwriter he’s a bigger part of our collective consciousness than most of us realize, penning an early version of the Stones’ “Shine a Light,” “Superstar” (made famous by the Carpenters), “This Masquerade” (a hit for George Benson), and dozens of other familiar titles. Check The New York Times obit for the full story.

Finally I was sorry to hear of the passing the poker writer and historian Johnny Hughes last week. I never interacted directly with Hughes, although certainly read with interest his many contributions to poker forums where he could be found sharing various poker-related tales and sometimes arguing with other posters over their veracity.

Hughes wrote both fiction and nonfiction. When working on my own “Poker & Pop Culture” series I’ve frequently encountered Hughes’s explorations of similar ground, in particular when dealing with the Old West and its colorful cast of characters, some of whom he covered in Famous Gamblers: Poker History, and Texas Stories.

My buddy Dr. Pauly knew Hughes much better, and he penned a thoughtful tribute for Club Poker over the weekend that’s worth a look.

Each of these three deserve better remembrances than I can provide, so follow those links for more.

(The photo up top is one of several so-so shots I took inside St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Malta a few weeks ago, which as an elaborate memorial to those who have passed seemed suitable to use here.)

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