Despite the best efforts of Bobby G. to get me to do eulogies of some famous musicians and others who have passed away this year, I have been pretty silent on the subject this year. And I guess it's selfishness in a way. How dare these people die- the people who had an impact in MY life have no business dying before ME! But they do- and they are, in an ever increasing torrent.
I avoid funerals. I know my cousin wanted me to pall bear at my uncle's funeral, but I avoided her. I should have been there. He took me to my first hockey game, got me into the VFW bar as a kid. Let me borrow his truck when I was without both wheels and means to get them. Instead, I was sweeping the floor at the Vera Bradley distribution center for minimum wage. That was not quite three years ago.
But it isn't just family. A galaxy of stars from my childhood have already went beyond the pale this year. Leslie Gore. Donna Douglas- Ellie May Clampett. Leonard Nimoy. Jayne Meadows, who I watched on many an episode of I've Got A Secret. Suzanne Crough- Tracey Partridge, for pity's sake. Forever a child, forever too young to go.
Percy Sledge. BB King AND Ben E. King (God putting together a top notch blues band?). Anne Meara. Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, James Best, joining his "little fat buddy" Boss Hogg at last. The tearful tribute on ESPN for Stewart Scott.
And Thursday we added another one. I first ran into his name when he sang, "Every day is Dollar Day at the Dollar General Store..." Somewhere along that time, I was getting a music lyric mag that often had one of his country hits with duet partner Helen Cornelius. I can't say for true that I ever heard any of these hits. Nine country top tens, for the record.
But one day, I tumbled on to the fact that Jim Ed Brown was the male vocal on the Browns. And the Browns I knew well- not for their six country top tens, or the 16 top 40 crossovers, except for one...
Jim Ed and his sisters Bonnie and Maxine were the ones that sang this song, so dear to my mom. On Sundays while the roast or what-have-you was cooking, Mom would bring out the record player and play her favorite forty-fives, of which this was one. I was a know nothing kid back then, and as the years went by there were so few of her records that I would play, a thing I regret deeply now. Two of them stood out as her favorites, and both came to bad ends. I put a crack in this one- not bad enough you couldn't play it, if you could stand the telltale pop. And Ricky Nelson's Poor Little Fool, which in a way I still can't fathom managed to get a big warp in it, playable but unlistenable. Never did learn how that happened. What they were wasn't nearly as neat as where they were.
Here are online pics of what we had- an old Victrola with AM/FM radio. One speaker, but when it was working (which was dicier as the years went on) it is still the best sound I ever heard. No modern player, no ghetto blaster, ever had the soul, the love that came out of that one speaker. I can't think of why I don't still have that and not think of what a miserable failure my 20s and 30s were. I heard the last notes of Hotel California for the first time on that machine. Now by my day and age, the record player was not-so-good, so Mom would wheel out my sisters stereo to play her songs. But the 45s were all in there. How I envy them now.
But I'm losing my place here. I read the news about Jim Ed passing today, and tears far from proportional to my loss tried to fight their way out. I told Laurie it felt like my mom wanted to cry for him through me. But I fought them back, and in their place came the selfishness. How dare these people die? How dare Jim Ed not be a living person who once sang The Three Bells, how dare Leslie Gore not be a living person who once sang California Nights, How dare BB King be a dead guy who once played Lucille and sang, "I been downhearted baby, I been downhearted baby, ever since the day we met, ever
So why avoid the funerals? Avoiding the sorrow... or is it the responsibility inherent in still living... or is it shame for demanding them to be eternal? What was the line from Evita? "You were supposed to have been immortal... that's all they wanted... not much to ask for..."
So many questions, no answers to be had. In the end, Jim Ed gave his own best eulogy...
From the village, hidden deep in the valley,
One rainy morning dark and gray,
A soul winged it's way to heaven.
Jimmy Brown had passed away.
Just one lonely bell was ringing, in the little village town,
'Twas farewell that it was singing to our buddy Jimmy Brown.
And the little congregation prayed for guidance from above:
"Lead us not into temptation, may his soul find the salvation
Of thy great eternal love. "