Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We're the Young Generation

Category:  News/Obituary

Musically speaking, there was nothing quite like the 60s.  Sure, there were the Beatles and the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, but there was also Aretha Franklin having a #1 hit not too long after Frank Sinatra hit the top spot.  The quiet folk of Simon and Garfunkel shared the airwaves with the more rock-dominated brand of folk music the Byrds provided.  Amid all of that magical mix came a made-for-TV band, the Monkees.

Monkees front man Davy Jones died today (2/29) of a heart attack.

Born in Manchester, England in 1945, Jones began his professional career as an actor, appearing in the legendary British soap opera Coronation Street in 1961.  He starred in a British production of Oliver!, which took him to New York to repeat the role at the ripe old age of sixteen.  His performance on Broadway earned him a Tony nomination.

Jones' manager Davy a contract with Screen Gems and a role on a new TV series.  That show was The Monkees.  Jones was paired with Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Mike Nesmith for the show that, to this day, defies description:  part sit-com, part SNL-like skit show, and heavily musical.  In the mid-80s MTV aired every episode of the series, crediting the show with starting the "video" era.

"The pre-fab four" (a take-off of the Beatles' nickname given the fact that the Monkees were basically put together for the show instead of the traditional means of band formation) may not have been solely responsible for starting the video era (one also has to consider 70s shows such as Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and Midnight Special as being part of the video revolution) but there is no question that show planted the seed.  The show was a hit and propelled the Monkees to superstardom.  By the end of 1966 the Monkees had scored two #1 songs -- "Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer" -- and posed a serious threat to the Beatles' reign on the charts.

As with so many other "overnight sensation" fads the series was over three years later, but not before netting two Emmy awards (the first music-based television series to ever win an Emmy) and six top ten hits.  The Monkees also made a movie, the cult favorite Head (which features a cameo by Frank Zappa, the first speaking role for Teri Garr and a script credit to Jack Nicholson).  By the early 70s the Monkees were no more, as first Peter Tork then Mike Nesmith left.

Jones and Dolenz teamed up with the Monkees' principal songwriting duo of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (who had scored their own hit in the 60s with "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight") to form Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart.  They toured together in the 70s.

After the revival brought new interest in the Monkees and a new generation of fans Dolenz, Jones and Tork toured frequently.  Nesmith only rarely appeared with the other three Monkees after the film, most recently at the early stages of a 1997 British tour.

Jones was an avid horseman.  He owned horses that ran at racetracks throughout Florida and held an amateur steeplechase jockey license in England.  In 1994 Jones, who in his youth had dreams of being a jockey, took a horse for part of its morning workout at Churchill Downs.  He told a reporter he would rather be a horse trainer than a singer.

The Monkees' theme song proclaimed, "We're the young generation and we've got something to say."  Jones' death is a reminder, as a friend on Facebook said, "we're not the 'young generation' anymore and haven't been for years."

Davy Jones was 66.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

They Called Him the Kid

Category:  Obituary/Tribute

He was "The Kid," not because he was necessarily the youngest player on the team but because he played baseball with the child-like enthusiasm that focused on the game first, not the money or the fame or the politics of being a major league baseball player.  More than that, he was a loving husband, father and friend.  He epitomized "teammate" in the truest since of the word.

Gary Carter, better known as "The Kid," died today (2/16) after a nine-month battle with brain cancer.

Carter played for the Montreal Expos for a dozen years before moving to the New York Mets.  While with the Mets he won his only World Series ring, in 1986, in a memorable seven-game series against the Boston Red Sox.  While Red Sox fans may remember (and cringe every time it's mentioned) Bill Buckner's error that enabled the Mets to win game six, it was Gary Carter's hit with two out in the bottom of the tenth inning that started the rally that enabled the Mets to erase a two-run deficit to deny the Red Sox the championship.

Gary Carter may not have had the superstar name recognition of contemporaries like Johnny Bench or Carlton Fisk but he was an equally capable catcher.  He had a superb .991 fielding percentage behind the plate, just one of the Hall of Fame stats he amassed during his 19 seasons on the field.  Carter also played the outfield, third base and first base during his career. He was voted to the All-Star team eleven times, twice winning the game MVP award.

Carter retired after the 1992 season, and it took until 2003 for his phone to ring informing him that he had been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In May 2011 Carter was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma.  Despite treatment tumors continued to be present on his brain, and by January 2012 he was labeled terminal when yet more tumors were discovered after Carter injured his arm in a fall.  

Carter's former teammater, pitcher Ron Darling, described The Kid earlier in the day:  "Gary Carter was everything you wanted in a sports hero:  a great talent, a great competitor, a great family man, and a great friend."

Gary "The Kid" Carter, gentleman sports hero, was 57.