LOU REED, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL PIONEER
Lou Reed performing in New York City in 2009. More Photos »
By BEN RATLIFF
Published: October 27, 2013
- Lou Reed, the singer, songwriter and guitarist whose work with the Velvet Underground in the 1960s had an impact on generations of rock musicians, and who remained a powerful if polarizing force for the rest of his life, died on Sunday at his home in Southampton, N.Y., on Long Island. He was 71.
The cause was liver disease, said Dr. Charles Miller of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where Mr. Reed had liver transplant surgery earlier this year and was being treated again until a few days ago.
“I’ve always believed that there’s an amazing number of things you can do through a rock ‘n’ roll song,” Mr. Reed once told the journalist Kristine McKenna, “and that you can do serious writing in a rock song if you can somehow do it without losing the beat. The things I’ve written about wouldn’t be considered a big deal if they appeared in a book or movie.”
Mr. Reed played the sport of alienating listeners, defending the right to contradict himself in hostile interviews, to contradict his transgressive image by idealizing sweet or old-fashioned values in word or sound, or to present intuition as blunt logic. But his early work assured him a permanent audience.
The Velvet Underground, which was originally sponsored by Andy Warhol and showcased the songwriting of John Cale, as well as Mr. Reed, wrought gradual but profound impact on the high-I.Q., low-virtuosity stratum of alternative and underground rock around the world.
Joy Division, the Talking Heads, Patti Smith, R.E.M., the Strokes and numerous others were direct descendants. The composer Brian Eno, in an often-quoted interview from 1982, suggested that if the group’s first record sold only 30,000 records during its first five years — a figure probably lower than the reality — “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”
Many of the group’s themes — among them love, sexual deviance, alienation, addiction, joy and spiritual transfiguration — stayed in Mr. Reed’s work through his long run of solo recordings. Among the most noteworthy of those records were “Transformer” (1973), “Berlin” (1973) and “New York” (1992). The most notorious, without question, was “Metal Machine Music” (1975).
Beloved of Mr. Reed and not too many others, “Metal Machine Music” was four sides of electric-guitar feedback strobing between two amplifiers, with Mr. Reed altering the speed of the tape recorder; no singing, no drums, no stated key. At the time it was mostly understood, if at all, as a riddle about artistic intent. Was it his truest self, was it a joke, or was there no difference?
Mr. Reed wrote in the liner notes that “no one I know has listened to it all the way through, including myself,” but he also defended it as the next step after La Monte Young’s early minimalism. “There’s infinite ways of listening to it,” he told the critic Lester Bangs in 1976.
“I was serious about it,” Mr. Reed said of the album more than a decade later. “I was also really stoned.”
Not too long after his first recordings, made at 16 with a doo-wop band in Freeport, N.Y., Mr. Reed started singing outside of the song’s melody, as if he were giving a speech with a fluctuating monotone in his Brooklyn-Queens drawl. That sound, eventually heard with the Velvet Underground on songs like “Heroin,” “Sweet Jane” and in his post-Velvets songs “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Street Hassle” and others, eventually spread outward to become one of the most familiar frequencies in rock. He played lead guitar the same way, hitting against the wall of his limitations.
Mr. Reed is survived by his wife, the composer and performance artist Laurie Anderson.
Dr. Miller said Mr. Reed decided to return to New York after the doctors could no longer treat his end-stage liver disease.
“He died peacefully, with his loved ones around him,” Dr. Miller said. “We did everything we could,” added Dr. Miller, the director of the hospital’s liver transplant program. “He really wanted to be at home.”
Sober since the 1980s, Mr. Reed was a practitioner of Tai Chi. “Lou was fighting right up to the very end,” Dr. Miller said. “He was doing his Tai Chi exercises within an hour of his death, trying to keep strong and keep fighting.”
“I am a triumph of modern medicine, physics and chemistry,” Mr. Reed wrote in a public statement upon his release from the hospital. “I am bigger and stronger than ever.” Less than a month later, he wrote a review of Kanye West’s album “Yeezus” for the online publication The Talkhouse, celebrating its abrasiveness and returning once more to “Metal Machine Music” to explain an artist’s deepest motives.
“I have never thought of music as a challenge — you always figure the audience is at least as smart as you are,” he wrote. “You do this because you like it, you think what you’re making is beautiful. And if you think it’s beautiful, maybe they think it’s beautiful.”
Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.
MARCIA WALLACE, ‘SIMPSONS’ VOICE ACTOR
Published: October 26, 2013 at 4:30 PM ET
- (Reuters) – Marcia Wallace, the voice of Edna Krabappel on the Fox show “The Simpsons” and earlier Carol Kester, the receptionist on the 1970s sitcom “The Bob Newhart Show,” has died at 70.
“I was tremendously saddened to learn this morning of the passing of the brilliant and gracious Marcia Wallace,” said the show’s executive producer, Al Jean. “She was beloved by all at The Simpsons and we intend to retire her irreplaceable character.”
Ms. Wallace, who had survived breast cancer, died at her home, according to a Fox publicist, Antonia Coffman.
A fellow cast member and voice of Lisa Simpson, Yeardley Smith, wrote a farewell to Wallace on Twitter Saturday morning.
“Cheers to the hilarious, kind, fab Marcia Wallace, who has taken her leave of us. Heaven is now a much funnier place b/c of you, Marcia,” Ms. Smith tweeted.
Ms. Wallace won an Emmy for outstanding voice actress in 1992. Her long-running “Simpsons” character Edna Krabappel was Bart Simpson’s jaded, crabby fourth-grade teacher.
Earlier, Ms. Wallace played the chatty receptionist on “The Bob Newhart Show.” She also appeared on “The Merv Griffin Show” and game shows such as “Hollywood Squares” and “The $25,000 Pyramid.”
Mr. Jean had previously hinted about killing off one of the show’s characters.
“Earlier we had discussed a potential storyline in which a character passed away,” Mr. Jean said in a statement. “This was not Marcia’s Edna Krabappel. Marcia’s passing is unrelated and again, a terrible loss for all who had the pleasure of knowing her.”
Ms. Wallace published an autobiography “Don’t Look Back, We’re Not Going that Way,” in 2004. Her husband, Dennis Hawley, died in 1992. She had a son, Michael Hawley.
(Reporting By Noreen O’Donnell; editing by Gunna Dickson)
HAL NEEDHAM, STUNTMAN AND DIRECTOR OF ACTION FILMS
Hal Needham, left, with the actors Burt Reynolds, center, and Jerry Reed on the set of “Smokey and the Bandit” in 1977.
By RAVI SOMAIYA
Published: October 26, 2013
The death was confirmed by his manager, Laura Lizer, who declined further comment.
During the course of his career, Mr. Needham said in a speech at the Academy Awards in 2012, he broke 56 bones, including his back twice. He punctured a lung, had a shoulder replaced and knocked out several teeth. He invented several new stunt methods and devices — among them the introduction of air bags for breaking falls, prompted by watching pole-vaulters — as “a way to save myself some trips to the hospital,” he said.
“Hal Needham was a great stunt coordinator, director, and an icon,” Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote on Twitter on Friday. “I’m still grateful he took a chance with me in ‘The Villain,’ ” he said, of the 1979 film that Mr. Needham directed. “I’ll miss him.”
Mr. Needham was born in 1931 and, as he told it at the Academy Awards in 2012, raised “way back in the hills of Arkansas during the Great Depression.” His father was a sharecropper. As a boy, Mr. Needham fished and hunted squirrels with a rifle. He later moved with his family to St. Louis.
After his discharge in the 1950s from the United States Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, he began a career that spanned hundreds of movies and television shows across five decades.
In a 2011 interview on the NPR program “Fresh Air,” Mr. Needham said he moved to Southern California after being discharged and went back to pruning trees, what he had done before entering the service. He broke his ankle and, after he recuperated, a fellow former paratrooper got him a stunt job on a television show. His next assignment involved aerial stunts, some upside down, on “The Spirit of St. Louis,” which starred James Stewart.
At first he appeared primarily in television and movie westerns, including “Gunsmoke” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” leaping to and from galloping horses. On one occasion, he said later, he landed so hard on the roof of a stagecoach that he crashed through it. Mr. Needham was also involved in stunt work on “Little Big Man” and “Chinatown,” and he coordinated the stunts for “Have Gun — Will Travel,” starring Richard Boone.
In the 1970s, Mr. Needham turned his attention to car stunts, he said in the NPR interview in 2011, and collaborated often with Mr. Reynolds, whom he had met when they both worked in television. “Smokey and the Bandit” was Mr. Needham’s directorial debut in 1977. He went on to direct 19 other movies.
He won a scientific and engineering Oscar in 1986 for the development of a camera car. Later he was given a governor’s award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “You’re looking at the luckiest man alive,” Mr. Needham said in his acceptance speech.
His memoir, “Stuntman,” was published in 2011.
Information on survivors was not immediately available.
NOEL HARRISON, ACTOR AND SINGER OF ‘WINDMILLS’
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
Published: October 23, 2013
The cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Lori Chapman. He had been undergoing dialysis treatment for kidney problems for several years, she said.
Mr. Harrison was the son of the English actor Rex Harrison, a star of “My Fair Lady” and “Doctor Dolittle,” and the first of his father’s six wives, Collette Thomas. He initially resisted acting, he said, because he wanted to distance himself from his father’s reputation.
“I always regarded it with awe and trepidation,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 1968. “Because, I suppose, my father is a famous actor.”
Mr. Harrison focused instead on music and skiing, competing on England’s alpine ski teams at the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games and singing folk and calypso songs in nightclubs around Europe. He often performed at the Blue Angel in London, where he was encouraged by a young Paul McCartney.
Mainstream success eluded him, so he moved to the United States in the mid-1960s. His first hit was “A Young Girl,” an English version of Charles Aznavour’s French ballad; it reached No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965. He recorded albums that included Beatles and Bob Dylan songs and appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and other television shows.
He was also cast as Mark Slate, a secret-agent sidekick to April Dancer, played by Stefanie Powers, in “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.,” a spinoff of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” The show was canceled in 1967, but it raised Mr. Harrison’s profile. He went on to perform with the Beach Boys and Sonny and Cher and to appear on shows like “The Mod Squad” and “Mission: Impossible.”
He recorded “The Windmills of Your Mind,” composed by Michel Legrand with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, in 1968. Heard on the soundtrack of the film “The Thomas Crown Affair,” it won the 1968 Oscar for best original song.
The song did not initially make an impression on Mr. Harrison.
“I went to the studio one afternoon and sang it and pretty much forgot about it,” he wrote on his Web site. “I didn’t realize until later what a timeless, beautiful piece Michel Legrand and the Bergmans had written.” Mr. Harrison missed the chance to perform the song at the Academy Awards ceremony because he was in England filming “Take a Girl Like You,” a comedy based on a novel by Kingsley Amis. (José Feliciano sang in his place.)
He said he never tired of the song, and performed it in his final concert, in Black Dog, England, the Saturday night before he died.
Noel John Christopher Harrison was born in London on Jan. 29, 1934. His parents divorced in 1940, and he left school as a teenager to ski in the Swiss Alps.
He lived in Los Angeles during the peak of his career, but left in the early 1970s for a farm in Nova Scotia. While there he hosted “Take Time,” a music show for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
He returned to Los Angeles for the tour of his one-man show, “Adieu, Jacques … ,” about the singer Jacques Brel, before moving back to England. At his death he lived in Ashburton, in southwest England.
Mr. Harrison’s first two marriages, to the former Sara Tufnell and Margaret Harrison, ended in divorce.
In addition to Ms. Chapman, he is survived by two daughters, Cathryn Harrison-Laing and Harriet Harrison-Roger; a son, Simon; and a stepdaughter, Zoe Humphreys, from his first marriage. He is also survived by a son, Will, and a daughter, Chloe Harrison-Bayes, from his second marriage; two half-brothers, Carey Harrison and Richard Butler; and four grandchildren.
BOB GREENE, PIANIST AND JELLY ROLL MORTON DEVOTEE
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: October 24, 2013
- Bob Greene, a pianist who was so besotted by the controlled yet fevered jazz of Jelly Roll Morton that he abandoned a writing career to perform the Jelly Roll canon and spread the Jelly Roll gospel, died on Oct. 13 at his home in Amagansett, N.Y. He was 91.
The cause was lung cancer, said Diane Fehring Reynolds, a friend.
“If there were such a thing, Greene would hold the Jelly Roll Morton Chair of Music at an Ivy League college,” Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker’s longtime jazz critic, wrote in The Atlantic in 1998.
Such was Mr. Greene’s devotion to Morton, a swaggering, seminal figure in jazz — pianist, bandleader and “the first important jazz composer,” according to The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz — that he viewed his task as not simply to play Morton’s music but also to recreate it, performing and recording the music as Morton himself did.
“He gets inside Morton’s music,” Mr. Balliett wrote.
Morton was born in the late 19th century in New Orleans and grew up in the city’s distinctive musical atmosphere. In his playing and writing he drew from it, fusing ragtime, the blues, spirituals and Latin music from the Caribbean into songs that were contained by compositional form and yet exuded an earthy drive.
In the late 1920s he put together a band known as the Red Hot Peppers and recorded songs with them that melded composition and improvisation, with each of the brass, woodwind and rhythm players getting to show his stuff within the framework of Morton’s writing.
Through the 1970s and ’80s, Mr. Greene toured the country and the world as a Jelly Roll evangelist, bringing Morton’s music to France, Denmark, England and Japan, both as a solo pianist and as a bandleader. He can be heard playing Morton’s music on the soundtrack of Louis Malle’s 1978 film, “Pretty Baby,” about a girl — Brooke Shields in her first role — raised in a New Orleans brothel, circa 1917. “There’s such a vitality to his music,” Mr. Greene told the online arts magazine Joyzine. “Yet it’s not wild — it’s contained by the forms in which Jelly wrote: the limited harmonies, the very formal three-part structure of his songs, the fact that each song could only last about three minutes.” He added, “It can get very hot, yet it never explodes because it’s locked into these restrictions. Within these imposed boundaries, it’s almost Mozartean in its magnificence.”
Mr. Greene was introduced to Morton’s music in the 1940s — Morton died in 1941 — and though he was a serious, self-taught amateur musician, he never planned to be a professional. Rather, he made a living writing documentaries for radio and television. But as he told the story, his career pivoted in June 1968; he was about to join Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign for the presidency when Kennedy was assassinated.
“When Bobby got shot, I realized that the time had come for me to get into music full time,” he told Joyzine. “Certainly if he had lived I wouldn’t have devoted myself to Jelly the way that I have.”
By 1969 he was playing recitals of Morton’s music in New Orleans. In 1973 he introduced his own version of the Red Hot Peppers at Lincoln Center as part of the Newport Jazz Festival in New York. The next year the band returned to Lincoln Center, where, John S. Wilson wrote in The New York Times, it “not only played ‘those little black dots,’ as Mr. Morton always instructed his musicians, but projected the flavor of Mr. Morton’s music — the breaks, the slurs, the accents, the coloring.”
Robert Stern Greenstein was born on Sept. 4, 1922, to Oscar Greenstein, who ran a textile concern, and the former Elsa Stern, and grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. His father’s business foundered after the stock market crash in 1929, and the family’s circumstances were considerably reduced for a time, but Mr. Greenstein remade his fortune with a company that made name tags. The father changed the family name sometime after 1939, Ms. Reynolds said.
Mr. Greene graduated from Columbia in 1943 and began writing documentaries for radio and then television, winning Writers Guild awards in 1957 and 1962 for history-based radio scripts. In 1964, writing for Voice of America, the federal government’s broadcast network, he was nominated again. Mr. Greene taught from 1954 to 1962 in the dramatic arts department at Columbia, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in theater arts in 1958. He leaves no immediate survivors.
“If it was once done so perfectly, why do it again?” Mr. Greene once asked aloud, voicing perhaps the most obvious question about his devotion to Jelly Roll Morton. “I can only say: Because there’s beauty there, there’s excitement, there’s love. If that can be transmitted to a live audience, some of the aroma of the original happens again.”