Saturday, December 18, 2010

Paying My Respects: People I Admired, That We Lost in 2010

As 2010 winds down there will be more than everybody's fair share of best-of, worst-of, and retrospective pieces going around. I'm gearing up mine at this point; there's a good chance the music best-of/worst-of will be up later today. But, here's to hoping that I will not have to make any more additions to this list in the next 10 days.

Some times it seems a little redundant to revel in the passing of somebody, anybody, whether they're famous or not-so-famous. I have a hard time with funerals. I'd rather people were celebrated more in life and a little less so in death. But this is never the case. With people you know you would come off as overbearing or socially awkward if you were offering up praises on a daily basis. As for artists, well, we tend to take them down as often as we raise them up, so some times the best of the best get forgotten until they've shuffled off the mortal coil.

As for the people on this list, I have done nothing but sing their various praises as much as I can, particularly since they, to my mind, have either a) never gotten the recognition they deserved, or b) have spent most of their autumn years either making substandard work or no work at all.

Eyedea (aka Oliver Hart, real name Micheal Larsen)

While Rhymesayers as a whole has had nothing but critical success, so many of their artists seem to fall a distant second to label icons Atmosphere. But the real genius on the label was one Micheal Larsen, aka, Eyedea of Eyedea & Abilites. A consumate battle rapper, as well as a lyricist of incredible depth, Eyedea was one of the best live MCs to come up from the recent underground hip-hop boom. At the same time he, like many of his peers, was a relentless musical chameleon jumping back and forth between different aliases, different acts. His solo release "The Many Faces of Oliver Hart" is one of the most unsung slabs of intelligent hip-hop released in the last decade.

Satoshi Kon

You wanna know what's really gonna stink about this year's upcoming Oscar telecast? The fact that Satoshi Kon will be completely ignored in the memorial segment, even though his influence is all over "Inception" and "Black Swan", two films that are sure-fire Oscar contenders. Now, I'm no die-hard otaku; even I can recognize that a lot of anime is shit. But I'm a fan of film in general and there's a lot of shit film as well, period. To discount this medium, as so many have, is beyond me. It's bad enough that people still openly mock animation as a film medium, but anime seems to engender even greater scorn. Kon, like Miyazaki, some times gets a pass, but he deserves better, considering where a lot of modern directors might be without him. The video I linked below is doubly frustrating, considering it's one of the better things concerning Kon I found online and it's still pretty amateurish and is from outside the US.

Blake Edwards

Now, this is a guy who will most certainly be in the Oscar memorial segment. While he definitely falls into the category of once great director churning out substandard work, he made more greta films that he did terrible ones. Like his peer Billy Wilder, Edwards left an indelible mark on American comedy, while maintaining a very personal touch and an interest in darker, headier material. Though his segment will be chock o'block with Pink Panther and Breakfast at Tiffany's clips, his film Experiment in Terror will be roundly ignored, even though it is his best.

Captain Beefheart

The most recently deceased entry on this list. He'd probably like that distinction. Though he never made a follow-up to 1982's "Ice Cream for Crow", Beefheart remained vital over the following three decades, simply by virtue of the fact that his album "Trout Mask Replica" is scripture to many record nerds. While it isn't my favorite record (that distinction falls somewhere between his debut "Safe as Milk and his final record "Ice Cream for Crow") "Replica" will remain influential for years to come, due to its idiosyncratic, apoplectic sound. In honor of the man, I give you a track from none of the previously mentioned albums.

Robert Schimmel

I saw Rodney Dangerfield's "Nothin' Goes Right" video when I was 10. Because of that tape I became a fan of two of the most influential (to me) comics of all time; Bill Hicks and Robert Schimmel. While Hicks died even earlier and cemented his cult fame almost immediately, Schimmel was a workman comic, writing for others, doing the Vegas circuit, waiting for some one to give him a bigger break. The rise of Comedy Central really helped Schimmel, as did a string of hit albums, but he never became the name comic he deserved to be. In honor I put two videos up; one is the first thing I ever saw Schimmel do, the other is Schimmel's tribute to the passing of my favorite comic, George Carlin. It's a meta-eulogy.


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