There’s an odd tradition at the Pate house this time of year. The program, CBS Sunday Morning, does its annual hale and farewell to notable people who have passed away in the closing year. We (I) watch with rapt attention.
This kind of recollection is not uncommon. Many of the more popular awards shows do something similar, but I don’t have the kind of attachment to those programs as I do Sunday Morning. While I have watched the annual toll from recordings, if possible I want to see it “live.” I am in touch with the irony.
The year, 2012, was propitious for Charon, rowing the dead across the River Styx. The celebrity count alone likely gave him funds for a much nicer boat.
Even a brief listing makes me wonder who could fill the now vacant spotlight some have left behind. Ray Bradbury; Maurice Sendak; Nora Ephron; Jan Berenstain —- authors whose works made pages worth turning. Then there were actors. Ernest Borgnine, whose role in Marnie won him an Oscar, but whose outlandishness in McHale’s Navy won him our hearts. Then there was Jack Klugman, a serious actor of great talent, whose curmudgeonly Oscar Madison was itself the prize winner. Along with real astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride, we lost Maj. Anthony Nelson, brought to life by Larry Hagman. Some of my first TV memories are of these three men.
Then there was Andy Griffith. I never pinned on my badge without hoping to be more Andy and less Barney. He is the archetypal lawman to which all small town officers should aspire.
For me the losses this year are magnified with the passing of several legends of the music industry. White boy from the Delta that I am, I was fascinated by the world portrayed in Don Cornelius’ Soul Train. Then again, I had only slightly less in common with Soul Train guests than I did with those on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. They were both alien worlds upon which I was an arrhythmic voyeur.
In a similarly unpredictable vein, I was saddened when I learned that Adam Yauch (aka MCA) of the Beastie Boys had lost his battle with cancer. Here again, I had no reason for an affinity, even so, there was one. I prowled the gray streets of New York City only after acquiring a taste for what they served.
Swinging 180 degrees, I think what the world lost with the death of Bluegrass legend, Earl Scruggs. “Virtuoso” fails to capture what this Foggy Mountain Boy gave us. He elevated that odd African transplant to the most American of instruments. He didn’t play the banjo —- he transcended it.
Then there was my musical ton of bricks: Dave Brubeck. I wrote of this loss a few weeks ago. He was very old and his health had been failing. As the scripture goes, “to everything there is a season.” Rationally, I know this. Still, I am sorry his winter ended when it did. In 1991, he released a sentimental retrospective titled “Once, When I was Very Young.” Old as I get, his music will keep me young.
The foregoing is my list. It is personal and likely veered from your tastes and sensibilities. It probably paints me as an eccentric. So be it. As the man said —- There’s no accounting for tastes.
With that as groundwork, you know where I’ll be early Sunday morning. I won’t be happy about it, but I will be grateful.
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Matthew Pate, a Pine Bluff native who holds a doctoral degree in criminal justice, is a senior research fellow with the Violence Research Group at the University at Albany. He may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org