Two notable deaths this weekend, neither of them tragedies — Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin. Of each, I can only say that they were appreciated at this end. I saw approximately one million tweets that mentioned he could play a guitar just like ringing a bell, but for my money, I’m partial to “Nadine.” Not his biggest hits or quite the rave-up, but it has some wonderful rhymes in the lyrics. (I’m a writer, I notice the lyrics.) My two faves:
I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back
And started walking toward a coffee colored Cadillac
I was pushing through the crowd to get to where she’s at
And I was campaign shouting like a southern diplomat
She move around like a wayward summer breeze,
Go, driver, go go on, catch her for me please
Moving through the traffic like a mounted cavalier
Leaning out the taxi window trying to make her hear
“Campaign shouting like a southern diplomat” — that’s a phrase we should hear more often.
And then there’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” can’t forget this one:
Milo Venus was a beautiful lass
She had the world in the palm of her hand
But she lost both her arms in a wrestling match
To get brown eyed handsome man
That made me laugh on many a bike ride when it came up on the iPod.
Berry was 90. Breslin was 88. Deaths at this age, after long and fruitful careers, aren’t tragedies. The tragedy is the decline in the newspaper business that makes it impossible for another Jimmy Breslin to emerge from its wreckage. Yes, there are wonderful new writers that we never would have found without the internet, but a moment of silence for what we’ve lost. Like this:
Here is how, in one of the columns that won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, he focused on a single man, David Camacho, to humanize the AIDS epidemic, which was widely misunderstood at the time:
“He had two good weeks in July and then the fever returned and he was back in the hospital for half of last August. He got out again and returned to Eighth Street. The date this time doesn’t count. By now, he measured nothing around him. Week, month, day, night, summer heat, fall chill, the color of the sky, the sound of the street, clothes, music, lights, wealth dwindled in meaning.”
That’s a good obit I linked to, up there. Dan Barry. Can’t go wrong with him, either.
Sorry I’m just noodling around here. Long weekend, good weekend. Finished “The Underground Railroad,” finally. Schvitzed. Hit the Eastern Market for the first time in weeks, where I saw this:
I think it’s a writing center. But not a bad motto. Since we’re talking about writers today.
Happy week ahead, all.