This is the time of year when we look back at those we lost in the past year. 2020 was a terrible year when it came death. Covid made it one of the most deadliest years in American History. I am fortunate not to have lost anyone to Covid. But my prayers go out to the families and friends of the 300,000+ who have died.
Covid -19 also took the lives of two of my favorite musicians. Their genres of music couldn’t be more different. Adam Schlesinger, cofounder of the band Fountains of Wayne with Chris Collingwood, and John Prine hold a special place in my heart.
Now Fountains of Wayne is most famous for Stacey’s Mom, an ode to age inappropriate sexual attraction, which I did not care for. But I loved their other songs. Welcome Interstate Managers is one of my favorite albums of the aughts. Bright Future in Sales, Hackensack, Hey Julie, and Peace and Love have an upbeat tempo. They are songs about silent desperation, loneliness, and most of all hope. They are songs of America in the 2000’s and resonate today. These are sample lyrics:
I used to work in a record store
Now I work for my dad
Scraping the paint off the hardwood floors
The hours are pretty bad
Sometimes I wonder where you are
Probably in L.A.
That seems to be where
Everybody else ends up these days
From Hey Julie
Working all day for a mean little man
With a clip-on tie and a rub-on tan
He’s got me runnin around the office
Like a dog around a track
But when I get back home you’re always there to rub my back
You couldn’t get any more different than John Prine, a folk rocker whose music spanned from 1971 to this past year. I tended bar at my grandfather’s tavern in rural Wisconsin. We played mostly country and classic rock. One day, a customer came in with a John Prine CD. I fell in love with his sad melodic song, Sam Stone, a song about a veteran who had a drug problem. Come Back to Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard, Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone, and Angel From Montgomery all make me smile and make me think.
My favorite song of his is Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore. It is a song written about jingoism and hypocrisy in the wake of the Vietnam War. It is a great country folk protest song and unfortunately holds up way too well. It could be sung to many people living today who mix nationalism with Christianity.
https://youtu.be/l0EiV423j0M This YouTube link is a video of one of Prine’s last songs, When I Get To Heaven. Flag decals may not get you into Heaven but I like to think that bringing awareness to social ills does. RIP, John Prine.
I am also a big science fiction/fantasy/horror fan and we have lost three greats in 2020. Now Richard Herd is not a household name but to science fiction fans he is one of the best. He first broke out playing John, the alien supreme commander from V. He played him with just the right amount of earnest sincerity and smarm.
But for me, two roles in the same show made him one of my favorite science fiction actors. I love Quantum Leap. It is one of my favorite TV shows. It is about a time travel experiment that went a little caca. In the episode, Future Boy, Herd played Moe Stein. Stein was an actor who portrayed Captain Galaxy on a 1950’s time travel show. Moe Stein was so desperate to have been there for an estranged daughter that he tried to build a time machine of his own. He embued that role with charm and pathos. I have seen that episode a half dozen times and I cried every time. He also played Ziggy in Mirror Image, a miner who was a master of malapropism. He would always say, after being corrected, “Yes that too.” He also played Admiral Paris in four episodes of Star Trek Voyager.
Ian Holm has a long credit list, Alien, Chariots of Fire, Time Bandits, Brazil and many more. But there are two roles for which I will always remember him. The roles couldn’t be more different. His Sir William Gull in From Hell was a cunning surgeon who become Jack The Ripper. Holm’s transformation from genteel doctor to brutal killer was remarkable and terrifying. The other role was Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit that got the Fellowship in the Lord of the Rings saga started. It was a small yet powerful role. His look when he realized that he had to give up the Ring Of Power was filled with sadness, want, and determination.
John Saxon had 197 roles to his credit, he gained his fame in horror. He co-starred in Black Christmas, Tenenbrae, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was in Nightmare when I first saw him. As final girl Nancy Thompson’s police Lieutenant father, he was a human antagonist. He refused to believe what Nancy was telling him about Freddy Kruger. He could not come to terms with what his role in the vigilante slaying of Freddy And in trying to protect Nancy from a “human killer”, he made it easier for Freddy to commit his kills. In Nightmare 3, Saxon’s character had a redemptive arc in which estranged father told his daughter that he believed her and went to put Freddy down for good, being killed in the process.
Lt. Thompson could have been a thankless character. Most parents in slasher films are one note characters without any dimension. Saxon plays Lt. Thompson as someone who loves his daughter in his own way, but , due to pride and an inability to communicate dooms his daughter’s friends.
He also was in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, a meta-film-within-a-film plot. The scene where Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon meet in the park and start getting possessed by their characters from Nightmare 1 is absolutely spooky. https://youtu.be/rcQVYv9xmvQ
In my next blog, I will talk about the loss of three Bond girls, two Bond villains, and probably the greatest James Bond of all.
If you would like to share your Memories of these greats, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your memories.