When Toby Keith eased Merle Haggard’s burdens

Via the Unfinished Pyramid blog, I came across this touching story about the country singer Toby Keith and #AprilCountry outlaw fave Merle Haggard:

“It was Super Bowl weekend. Merle had already cancelled months of shows, but this particular booking was a big payday. Merle had to pay his band and crew, so there was no calling in sick for this gig.

Toby Keith was in town with his wife to watch some football and have some fun. Toby got word that Merle was in Vegas, so he went to see him… Merle was in bad shape. He needed to be in a hospital – not on a stage; but The Show Must Go On. Merle would not take charity from anyone, but he did turn to Toby and say, “How songs of mine do you know?”
“All of ’em” answered T.
“All of ’em?”
“Yep. And I won’t need a teleprompter.”
“Well, stay nearby.”

After four or five songs, Merle’s infected lungs were spent. He couldn’t draw enough air to sing any longer. “We’ve, uh, we’ve got a special guest here tonight…” Toby came out and sang the rest of the show. Merle gave his last concert. The Strangers got paid. And the audience, while not realizing it at the time, saw something special.

Never speak ill of Toby Keith to me; thanks to him, Merle exited the stage with his dignity intact.”

Want long life? Be Bond, sing about Bond, star with Julie Andrews, be Julie Andrews, appear with Ray Harryhausen

Roger Moore’s death was the first of a cinematic James Bond (well, excluding David Niven in the first Casino Royale) – Sean Connery, born 1930, is still with us, as is Lazenby (1939), Dalton and the rest. As far as I can  make out, Chris Cornell’s death in 2017 was only the second of a Bond theme singer after Matt Monro’s in 1985.

At 83 Julie Andrews is still with us, as are her co-stars from The Sound of Music (Christopher Plummer, born 1929) and Mary Poppins (Dick van Dyke, 1925)

Meanwhile, half of Badfinger died by suicide before their mid-40s, and another member died of a brain aneurysm in his mid-50s. Being a Beatle has had a fifty percent mortality rate, so far. None of the original the original Magnificent Seven  survive, though some at least had a good innings

Usually women live longer than men, but the male stars of the 1961 Ray Harryhausen monster movie Mysterious Island are still with us – Michael Craig aged 91 and Michael Callan aged 84 – while the female stars Joan Greenwood and Beth Rogan, the youthful sex interest of the movie, are dead, Beth Rogan dying in 2015 with home grown cannabis drying in the airing cupboard after a life of more off screen drama than on.

Sadly Todd Armstrong,  Jason in the 1963 Jason and the Argonauts , another Harryhausen feature,  also died by suicide, but the other stars have exhibited a reasonable degree of longevity – Honor Blackman (1925) (and also a Bond girl), Nancy Kovack (1935),  John Cairney (1930)Gary Raymond (1935)

What to make of all this? It is, I guess, statistically unremarkable. It would be tempting, but too much, to suggest that if you want a long life, play James Bond (or sing about him), or star with (or be) Julie Andrews, or play opposite a Ray Harryhausen beast (he himself died at 92)

And I haven’t even touched on Angela Lansbury’s survival of the astonishing murder rate of Cabot Cove.

The best, definitive version of “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” – from Scott Walker (beating off Sinatra, Streisand and even Shirley Bassey)

“You’re Gonna Hear From Me” is a song by the late André Previn  written with his then wife Dory,  from the movie Inside Daisy Clover .  Natalie Wood’s original vocals were dubbed for the movie, but YouTube features the rather touchingly strained Wood vocalisations:

Mark Steyn writes that for many Great American Songbook pieces (and those of that ilk) “there’s a definitive ballad treatment and a definitive up-tempo version and they’re both by Frank.” (this is in the course of  an article on Sinatra’s hilariously bad up-tempo version of Some Enchanted Evening) For me, the definitive treatment of “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” is Scott Walker’s.

Usually, “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” is done as a rather narcissistic, boastful song (of course, with a dramatic irony in the context of “Inside Daisy Clover”) – witness the versions of Frank:

And La Streisand:


And Shirley Bassey (though this is my favourite so far):

Scott Walker, however, brings a vulnerability, delicacy and yearning to the song. His version is entirely without narcissism or boastfulness, more of a sadly, gently defiant expression.


Scott;s obituaries focused on his transformation from teen pop idol to avant-garde experimentalist. Just how good he was as an interpreter of “mainstream” popular song  was obscured by this narrative. I like a good auld avant garde workout along the lines of Bish Bosch or Soused as much as the  next guy, but part of me suspects that these works may have less of a shelf life than some of the more conventional outings for Scott:



Great moments in stage names: from Angus Murdo McKenzie to Karl Denver

If ever a name sounded like a Hollywood Scotsman, it was Angus Murdo McKenzie. And if ever a name sounded like a Scottish fantasy of a Wild West cowboy, it was Karl Denver. Father of Mike, perhaps?

Angus and Karl were the same person. Glasgow-born, with a stint in the Norwegian merchant marine and an illegal immigrant in Nashville, Angus became Karl and had s string of European hits in the early 1960s. From his Wikipedia bio it seems he fathered eleven children before dying just before Christmas 1998.


Here he is with his biggest hit, a version of Wimoweh:



And here he is 28 years later popping up with the Happy Mondays in Lazyitis (One Armed Boxer):

#MarianMay – “Caoineadh Mhuire”, Sile Denvir

#MarianMay – “Caoineadh Mhuire”, Sile Denvir

From Sile Denvir’s 2016 album, Caithréim: Ceol agus Amhráin ó Dhrámaí an Phiarsaigh, (Music and Song from the Dramas of Patrick Pearse), here is “Caoineadh Mhuire”, (Mary’s Lament) – although it may sound similar to “Caoineadh Na Tri Mhuire” (The Lament of the Three Marys) , sung by Joe Heaney the lyrics are quite different adopting Mary’s perspective exclusively: